Finland: See the Future, Experience Nature
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Holmes Report
CEO

Finland: See the Future, Experience Nature

Despite of the mostly negative tone that ruled the EXPO in both media and the public months before it started, the Finnish project achieved an overall positive feedback even before the start.

Paul Holmes

 

We developped and realised a very successful PR campaign for Finland's presentation at the world exhibition 2000 that took place from June to November 2000 in Hanover, Germany. The motto of the Finnish EXPO project was called "See the future – experience nature". We think our PR campaign for Finland at EXPO 2000 is worth a 2001 SABRE Award because our comprehensive and creative PR program that we started very early in advance was a massive contribution for Finland's huge success at the world exhibition. The awareness and the reputation of Finland's performance during the event was excellent. Finland was one of the few countries that was already in the focus of the media before the exhibition started and was steadily referred to as one of the highlights during the event. Finland was even voted as the best pavilion in several polls. The PR program was targeted to media as well as opinion leaders. It included the installation of a German press office for the Finnish EXPO project at our Shandwick office in Hamburg and the conception and the realisation of tailor-made and continuous PR activities and events that kept up a high level of attention.

THE CHALLENGE

We started the PR program at a very difficult time. The EXPO organisation had to face severe image problems before the world exhibition even started. A lot of media criticised the location and the motto "humankind – nature – technique" of being too vague. They feared an economic disaster for the region. Other media were difficult to reach as it took a long time until specific EXPO editors were installed within the editorial boards. Up to that point it was very unclear who of the editors would be responsible for EXPO-related topics. From the PR perspective, it was a difficult situation to do successful media relations for a part of an event that evoked either none or mainly negative publicity. The interest of the public in the exhibition was low which was shown in the visitor figures at the beginning of the event.

Furthermore, Finland as a relatively small country would not automatically arise a lot of interest and curiosity. Strong messages had to be developed and delivered to the media and the public to create awareness.  

RESEARCH / PLANNING PROCESS / OBJECTIVES

The PR concept was developed in 1998 and was carried out from June 1998 until the end of the world exhibition in November 2000. Additional PR topics were integrated during the whole time as they came up.

At the beginning of the planning process it was very important to get massive input from the client Finpro (Finnish Foreign Trade Association) about the background of the Finnish EXPO project as well as Finnish culture and lifestyle. Key messages needed to be developed as a basis for the PR work that reflected the most important characteristics of Finland and that were relevant for the EXPO. We supported the client in the development of a logo and created a motto for the Finnish EXPO project. We did qualitative as well as quantitative research for these tasks such as polls among certain target groups.
OBJECTIVES

  • to raise awareness and curiosity for Finland's EXPO performance among the media, opinion leaders and the public from the earliest stage possible  
  • to set Finland off the almost 180 participating countries
  • to penetrate the Finnish EXPO motto "See the future – experience nature" 
  • to position the Finnish EXPO project as an authentic EXPO performance that perfectly fits to the overall EXPO motto "humankind – nature – technique" 
  • to present Finland as a country that is one of the IT world leaders and at the same time very conscious of its nature 
  • to integrate the Finnish EXPO partners such as Nokia, Reima, Finlandia etc. into the communication strategy for Finland at EXPO  

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Finland was always ahead of the other countries in their preparations for the EXPO and the realisation. We used that important advantage in our communication approach and created the hook "Finland in pole position" (referring to the Finn Mika Häkkinen – former formula 1 world champion) for lots of PR activities especially in advance of the event. That also suited perfectly the positioning of Finland as being a leader in IT. We installed two cornerstones for our PR campaign which worked out successfully in the combination. Due to the length of the event and the pre-phase it was important to always maintain flexibility to adjust new topics. 

1. Installation of the German press office for Finland at EXPO 2000 from October 1998 to November 2000, located at Shandwick Hamburg: Our press office was responsible for a full PR service including continuous press work, daily contacts to the media, installation of a photo archive, media co-operations, press trips etc. but meant at the same time being a constant strategic communications consultancy

2. Creation and realisation of continuous event highlights before the world exhibition in Finland and Hanover and during the EXPO in the Finish pavilion and at the EXPO area that symbolized and visualized the motto of the Finish EXPO project „See the future – experience nature“ 

CAMPAIGN EXECUTION

Selected tactics from June 1998 – November 2000 in chronological order:

  • development of the slogan „See the future – experience nature“
  • support of  campaign logo development
  • planning and handling of several press trips to Finland as EXPO-previews 
  • creation of a Finnish EXPO-model in a pavilion costume symbolizing the „See the future – experience nature“ campaign, functioning as an eye-catcher before and during the EXPO
  • development of the Finnish EXPO ambassador concept: well-known Finnish personalities such as Erja Häkkinen (cosmopolitan and wife of formula one-world champion), Jorma Uotinen (head of Finnish national ballet), Sirkka Hämälainen (President of European Bank) represent the Finnish EXPO project 
  • development of a concept for the one and only virtual EXPO ambassador Mika in co-operation with an internet agency, including a press event with a live online chat on Mika’s own homepage
  • development and realization of PR events: e.g. pre- press conference including a presentation of the plan for the pavilion, the turn of the first sod, topping-out ceremony, "meet and greet" the Finnish EXPO-ambassadors (e.g. exclusive interviews with Erja Häkkinen in the Finnish consulate), press presentation of Mika – Finland's virtual EXPO ambassador, arrival of the birches press event especially for TV stations, celebration of Finland's national day at the EXPO on June 19, 1,111,111th visitor: event for surprise moment with congratulations from Erja Häkkinen
  • tailor-made media co-operations with different target media  
  • marketing-cooperations with partners of Finland: e.g. integration of regular Finland at EXPO2000 news in the German staff newsletter of the company Nokia  

RESULTS

Despite of the mostly negative tone that ruled the EXPO in both media and the public months before it started, the Finnish project achieved an overall positive feedback even before the start.

Already a few weeks after the EXPO, it proved that our strategic approach was successful - the EXPO started poor regarding the number of visitors, but the Finnish pavilion was crowded almost from the first day on.

In September, the internal goal of 1.5 million visitors in the Finnish pavilion was broken. The daily average in the “wind nest” was 18,516 visitors. At the end of the EXPO, the official result in the Finnish pavilion is 2,345,635 visitors – one of the most frequented pavilions of the more than 170 participating nations.

Through our proactive approach towards the media, the Finnish pavilion was pointed out as being among the top five EXPO highlights in almost every article. There was extensive print coverage by local, regional and national media before and during the EXPO.* 

Various national and international TV and radio teams visited the pavilion. We evaluated the coverage quantitatively through media observation services. Regarding the qualitative result: almost every important German media has reported about the Finnish participation, and in a positive way. The Finnish pavilion was e.g. voted by readers as most popular pavilion in the “EXPO Journal”, the most important daily EXPO newspaper.
* Quantitative overall figures cannot be given. Because of the massive coverage throughout two years, only selected clippings were archived.

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