Manning Selvage and Lee (MS&L) was ‘recruited’ to work with the United States Army Recruiting Command in August 2000. The Army was preparing to launch a new advertising and public relations campaign, “An Army of One” to appeal to the changing attitudes and perceptions of Generation Y—the Army’s 17-21 year-old target audience. “An Army of One” would replace the successful 20 year “Be All You Can Be” campaign.
MS&L’s challenge was to clearly communicate the core brand messages of the “An Army of One” recruiting campaign to soldiers and to continue to leverage opportunities to speak to key influencers and prospective recruits. The low awareness of opportunities within the Army and the poor perception of the Army lifestyle hindered recruitment efforts. While advertising remained focused on the direct demographic target, MS&L focused on an assortment of influencer groups to:
· Increase awareness of the broad array of careers and educational opportunities available in the Army among influencers (e.g. parents, counselors, administrators, clergy, etc.) and high school students
· Communicate the message of a cutting edge Army transforming to meet new challenges with changing global threats
· Position the soldier as being a part of something bigger than one’s self and re-energize soldiers about the Army
· Internally communicate the campaign core brand messages and generate excitement in the ‘An Army of One” campaign
From the onset MS&L was faced with many challenges upon partnering with the Army. The Army was the “employer of last resort” and remained last “choice” among the four U.S. Armed Services, missing recruiting goals three out of the last five years. According to CARMA research, administered by MS&L, the Army retained thirty seven percent, the largest share of voice amongst the four U.S. Armed Services, although fifty five percent was unfavorable coverage. In addition, internal Army leadership questioned the replacement of the 20-year old highly regarded “Be All You Can Be” campaign.
Enlistment in the Army continued to be a difficult decision. Through a Milward Brown tracking study conducted in Q1’01, we learned that significantly fewer parents would choose the Army first for their child when compared to other services. The study confirmed that enlistment is a decision heavily influenced by many key groups: parents, teachers, peers and the media. For this reason, to successfully sell the Army to potential prospects we must ensure that the Army is understood, valued and respected by all influencers and receives its share of positive press.
First, to better grasp the life of a soldier MS&L staff participated in the Army immersion sessions with Leo Burnett and our minority agency partners throughout the development of the “An Army of One” campaign. This “greening” meant visiting Army installations to observe soldiers, study the culture and learn the Army language.
Together with our minority agency partners we then created “brand contacts” that consistently reinforce and build the bond between the brand and its current or potential believers. These brand contacts consist of advertising, direct marketing, Internet or public relations that target all the relevant audiences. The “An Army of One” campaign brings to the forefront the idea that Soldiers are the Army’s most important resource.
To drive the Army message directly to each influencer group, MS&L’s integrated PR plan includes a plethora of efforts. First and foremost, the team launched the “An Army of One” campaign in two separate waves. Throughout the year we carefully coordinated external media relations efforts to release topical waves of information to promote careers and opportunities in the Army (e.g. Digital Divide, Army hot jobs, etc). Our team produced an internal communications tool, the Briefing Book, to maintain consistent local messaging and bolster the efforts of Army Public Affairs Officers. Our team was also immersed in preparing full rounded documentaries, Band of Brothers, for continued internal communications.
Army Programs: Each of the following programs were developed in concert with our minority agencies.
Goarmy.com – “Basic Training: The Making of An Army of One” (See Tapes Two and Four)
The U.S. Army launched a new Internet effort in the second phase of ‘An Army of One’ advertising on goarmy.com – the official Website. The troops at MS&L were recruited to witness the transformation of six recruits from civilian to soldier as they prepared for and completed basic training over a 12-week period. Uncut, unfiltered and on the Web, “Basic Training: The Making of An Army of One” launched February 2, 2001 with reality-based TV commercials, directing viewers to www.goarmy.com which featured “Webisodes” unique to the site. Created in part by chemistri, Leo Burnett’s interactive and online subsidiary, the US Army’s second phase integrated off-line and online efforts to reach the current generation of media-savvy leaders.
MS&L’s mission was to put a face on today’s Army through real-life stories and direct influencer audience to goarmy.com to witness soldiers transform into ‘An Army of One’. The U.S. Army asked the MS&L troops along with our minority agencies to generate awareness of the Website to all influencer audiences.
Briefing Book - “Public Relations 101”
The U.S. Army’s new advertising campaign, “An Army of One,” has a dual message. It communicates the strength of the individual and the strength of one united group. MS&L was directed to assist in unifying the individual voices of more than 4,000 Army Public Affairs Officers (PAOs) into one, consistent voice. The first step was to provide PAOs with a tool they had not had before – a concrete explanation of the Army’s key messages, goals and programs as it related to public affairs. The result was the Army’s first-ever Public Relations Briefing Book – a 50-page print and Web-based resource covering basic public relations, community relations, partnerships, press material templates and external resources.
Band of Brothers – “An Original Army of One”
The premiere of HBO’s 10-part Band of Brothers (BOB) mini-series based on the best-selling book by historian Stephen Ambrose, presented an opportunity for Army to tell the “An Army of One” story in a unique and interesting manner. The U.S. Army recognized the benefit of synergistic PR activities that demonstrate how soldiers across generations share common values, beliefs and aspirations. We are also able to show how the Army of One core messages transcend both yesterday and today’s Army.
MS&L proposed to leverage the narrative of original Easy Company members and current 101st Airborne soldiers in an original documentary as they reflect on their lives before joining the Army and the benefit of choosing to do so. Ultimately, our efforts linked Easy Company’s pre-war youth and heroic service to the possibilities for present day soldiers and prospective recruits to be part of a larger purpose. BOB promised to be a high impact program targeted to prospective recruits, influencer audiences and used for inward marketing.
Original Programming: MS&L developed a documentary to cultivate understanding of the Army of One campaign using the Band of Brothers story. Easy Company members and current 101st Airborne Soldiers stories were highlighted presented in first-person style.
Interactive Web Component: MS&L worked with chemistri, Leo Burnett’s online subsidiary, to design a Web page with the look and feel of goarmy.com. The ‘mini-site’ provides a seamless link to the transformation elements of the campaign. The page is designed to reach the target recruit by leveraging the BOB and focuses on the parallel between yesterday and today’s Army of One.
Education outreach: MS&L brokered a partnership with HBO and TIME/AOL to develop an education kit about leadership development and personal transformation. The kit included a four-page teacher’s guide and eight-page inTIME student magazine insert about Band of Brothers that includes biographical profiles of Easy Company members and current 101st Airborne soldiers. The kit was disseminated to more than 3 million students and 30,000 teachers.
In September 2001, Army Secretary Thomas White credited Manning Selvage & Lee with helping reach key influencer groups with Army core messages and announced the Army had achieved 100 percent of its recruiting goals. Recent CARMA research indicates that prior to September 11th the negative coverage subsided and fifty three percent favorable coverage surfaced. To date MS&L has helped secure approximately 600 million-audience impressions from a variety of activities and projects.