Partners in Preservation: Saving Seattle Landmarks
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Partners in Preservation: Saving Seattle Landmarks

In 2006, AMEX and NTHP embarked on an ambitious and lauded program to commit $5.5 million toward protecting and preserving historic landmarks throughout the United States.

Holmes Report

In 2006, AMEX and NTHP embarked on an ambitious and lauded program to commit $5.5 million toward protecting and preserving historic landmarks throughout the United States. The program, entitled Partners in Preservation (PIP), targeted five metropolitan regions. In 2009, Seattle was selected to receive the final $1 million in grants to save critical and endearing parts of the city’s past. This innovative online community-building program encouraged local residents and people across the country to vote for their favorite of 25 historic places throughout the Seattle-Puget Sound area. Nyhus recommended a multi-phase, fully-integrated campaign (traditional media, broadcast, radio, online influencers & social media) targeting targeted editorial placement and earned media. Nyhus and NTHP implemented a comprehensive social media campaign to funnel the activities of various community groups into a manageable tool. This drove the general public to embrace the program and rally to support. As a result, Nyhus research and planning drove the strongest results of the previous markets and generated an unprecedented amount of coverage:
• The Seattle Times coverage alone combined for more than 6 million impressions
• More than twice the number of print articles as PiP Boston
• Highest number of media mentions of all five program cities

PIP Seattle faced challenges in bringing the program to a city without a NTHP regional office. To offset this, Nyhus focused on leveraging the dedicated support of local resources and recruited a strong, active advisory committee. Stakes were high as Seattle was the final city selected and was ultimately measured against four previous successful campaigns. In addition, Seattle had the smallest geographic area of any previous metropolitan regions (San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New Orleans) and needed to engage a higher percentage of the population than had been achieved in other cities.

In planning, Nyhus recommended PIP gain third-party validation through identification and recruitment of local leaders for the PIP Advisory Board. Nyhus examined a range of interest groups to determine the right balance, working closely with NTHP and AMEX, recruited local leaders.

Nyhus identified three primary audiences: elected officials, established preservation participants and the general public. Nyhus identified effective communication methods by examining traditional and non-traditional outlets and strategies. Nyhus reached elected officials through networking and local connections. Nyhus secured key program partners and third-party validation from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington Tourism and Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau. Established preservation participants and the general public were best reached through hyper-local community publications, traditional and online, and social media. Empowering each site’s fans drove the preservation message and established grassroots campaigns for each site to reach preservation participants and the general public.

Initial project goals:
• Drive attendance to the PIP launch event and campaign website – most important were Seattle city officials
• Create a viral component of the campaign through social media and online communities
• Encourage and secure user-generated content to create viral buzz around the campaign
• Engage local media to drive media attention to the campaign. Secure equivalent media coverage compared to past city’s campaigns

Nyhus recommended three overlapping phases of a comprehensive plan to drive initial success while creating longevity for the project and future sustained preservation. Initial launch included:
• Rally-style launch to showcase 25 finalists hosted at a local historic landmark
• Develop a proactive media strategy and media outreach
o Negotiated and secured a three-part feature series in The Seattle Times
o Secured numerous bloggers and additional print reporters to cover each program phase
o NPR radio segment announcing preservation sites
o A broadcast feature story with local NBC affiliate KING 5’s “Evening Magazine” show

The second phase developed communication tools to assist the various community groups and coordinated communities through social media outlets. These tools helped drive attendance to the sites’ open houses and continue community engagement throughout the program. Nearly every site used its website to promote PIP, and at least 10 sites actively blogged to encourage voting. Established preservation participants and the general public were best reached through hyper-local community publications, traditional and online and social media. Empowering fans of each site drove the preservation message and established grassroots campaigns for each site to reach preservation participants and the general public.

The final aspect of the program generated public longevity through continuing communications and support during the announcement for the winner and grant recipients. Nyhus secured additional media coverage to supplement articles about the program launch, which in turn helped generate additional publicity for American Express and NTHP.

Nyhus kicked off the program with a rally-style event at 1907-era Daniels Recital Hall. Formerly the First United Methodist Church, the venue was home to a nearly 25-year preservation effort ending in March 2008 when the church was finally saved from demolition. Nyhus selected Daniels Recital Hall for its role as a city landmark and thriving example of historic preservation.

To drive attention and attendance on the campaign launch day, Nyhus pitched and coordinated a drive-time radio campaign announcing the program and showcasing how Seattle residents can participate. Both American Express and NTHP were featured. Nyhus negotiated and placed a feature in The Seattle Times to hit the morning of the event to drive additional buzz and direct interested readers to the website to learn about the sites and vote for their favorite.

In addition to planning and executing the event and securing earned media placements, Nyhus secured and worked with key advisory committee members, including honorary co-chairs Washington Governor Chris Gregoire and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. The agency also supported recruitment and management of honorary co-chairs King County Executive Dow Constantine and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

More than 200 people attended the festive, combined media and community-focused launch event. Representatives from the 25 sites vying for preservation grants, as well as Mayor McGinn and King County Executive Constantine, attended the unveiling presentation. The public was asked to vote online daily at from April 15 – May 12, as well as post personal stories and share photos about their favorites.

Nyhus worked with The Seattle Times to secure two feature stories – one focused on Seattle being chosen as the final city and the other focused on the launch event, which resulted in a prominent, color story on the front page of the local section featuring eight large photos, a full site list and calls to action to participate in voting and open house events. This was followed by an early morning drive-time news program on the region’s leading talk radio station several minutes long and featuring multiple quotes from NTHP Executive Vice President David Brown.

The event drew active media attendance and coverage online and on the air on April 15 and in several print sources a day later. Media included:
• KOMO AM newsradio
• KOMO FM radio
• (leading regional online publication)

PiP became a dominant topic across a variety of media, with extensive penetration into the crucial online, hyper-local and social media channels to drive voting. Nyhus continued kick-off momentum with an Open House weekend designed to introduce or reacquaint the community with the 25 selected historic preservation sites. Nyhus drove attendance through social media support, event listings sections in regional papers showcasing the open houses and by individually pitching open house activities to weekend television news.

On May 14, American Express and NTHP announced the popular vote winner and runner-up after a close race between frontrunners: the Schooner Adventuress and Seattle’s Town Hall. After Adventuress was announced as the winner, NBC affiliate King5 brought a crew to film a segment for “Evening Magazine,” the region’s top local television feature program. The segment introduced and described the PiP program, included several shots of the Adventuress and featured an interview with the ship’s captain. The news announcement of the winner and the runner-up generated 34 additional pieces of coverage throughout Puget Sound regional publications (The Seattle Times,, Seattle Weekly, The News-Tribune of Tacoma, Daily Journal of Commerce). Other local broadcast stations revisited the story, and Nyhus drove coverage in Seattle NBC and NPR affiliate radio and television stations elsewhere.

Results and Evaluation of Success

Drive launch attendance (focus on state/Seattle city officials) Attendance goal: 180:

More than 200 people attended including: Site representatives, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Washington State First Gentleman Mike Gregoire

Drive traffic to the PiP website:

Media and community outreach drove more than 1 million page views; more than 38,000 registered users

Create viral component through social media and online communities:

Social media outreach from winner, the Schooner Adventuress, attracted more than 2,900 YouTube views and more than 1,600 Facebook followers

Encourage and secure user-generated content to create viral buzz:

2,400 user-generated memories and stories, 345 photos reminiscing about the historic sites

Engage local media, general public. Secure coverage equivalent to past campaigns:

102 print stories, 299 pieces of coverage in online publications and blogs, 26 broadcast stories

Total: 427 pieces of total coverage; 52 percent increase in number of stories over PiP Boston

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