The Mark Twain House & Museum was having a tough year and facing possible foreclosure. When Jon Clinch, author of Finn, a prequel to Twain's work, read this, he jumped at the chance to save the building.
Clinch called former colleague Maribeth Roman Schmidt, president of Vault Communications, and she offered PR services to help boost museum donations. He then called 11 authors and organized the Writers Reading for Twain event.
“We... didn't have very much time to do the pro-bono effort, and given the resources the [museum] had, we wanted to focus nationally, publicize the interesting event, and broaden its donating base,” says Ginette Meluso, account manager at Vault. She adds that the team hoped national coverage would trickle down to local TV. The team also contacted CBS Sunday Morning News since it was doing a special on historic American homes.
“We had the benefit of participation from so many well-known authors,” Schmidt adds, including Tasha Alexander, Philip Beard, and David Gates.
The team worked with the museum to create a detailed press release and sent it to various national publications, outlets that had covered Clinch, and literary blogs or bloggers who covered historic homes.
Additionally, Clinch contacted numerous reporters he knew, including a freelancer that was able to write a story for The Wall Street Journal, and performed radio interviews before and after the event, he says.
Because of the story in the Journal, The Annenberg Foundation donated a $500,000 grant to the museum, says Jeffrey Nichols, executive director at the museum. The story was also featured in The New York Times and the number-one radio broadcast in Connecticut.
The museum would like to continue fundraising efforts, and Clinch says he would be happy to help.
PR team: Mark Twain House & Museum (Hartford, CT) and Vault Communications (Plymouth Meeting, PA)
Campaign: Saving the Mark Twain House & Museum
Duration: August-November 12, 2008