Introduced by Governor Roy Barnes in 1999, Yamacraw* is an economic development initiative aimed at making Georgia a world leader in the design of broadband (high-speed) communications. To achieve this leadership, Yamacraw focuses on recruiting broadband communications design companies to Georgia, creating high-paying jobs that will increase the state’s tax revenue base and providing greater opportunities for its citizens. Yamacraw sought the help of Manning, Selvage & Lee / Atlanta (MS&L) to introduce technology companies to opportunities in Georgia through a media outreach program targeting business communities within the state and technology businesses across the country.
The competition to recruit broadband technology companies is stiff across the country, with many states implementing economic development programs aimed at creating world-class centers of technology. To successfully support Yamacraw’s recruiting efforts, MS&L was challenged with creating “break-through” communications that not only resonated with technology audiences and made them more receptive to messages about Yamacraw, but also moved them to seek more information on joining the Yamacraw consortium.
To insure communications messages were more meaningful to target audiences versus those from other states, MS&L analyzed the marketing communications efforts and messages from technology initiatives in Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. A media audit was also conducted to gauge the awareness levels of technology media, as well as to learn if key messages from other states were deemed credible. Lastly, MS&L conducted an industry audit of targeted broadband technology companies to determine their interests, needs and preferences for receiving information.
Based on research, MS&L determined that an innovative approach was needed to differentiate Yamacraw from initiatives in other states. Yamacraw needed to be positioned as a more vital initiative that represented credible expertise in technical research and development, and could convey a perception of business acumen that was lacking in the initiatives of other states. MS&L recommended building a communications program around a credible, charismatic spokesperson with credentials in the broadband technology research area, but who could also be presented as a business equal among the CEOs of the country’s top technology companies and with business leaders in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia.
MS&L developed a spokesperson campaign to create credibility and a preference for Georgia as a hotbed of broadband technology. The spokesperson campaign focused on building awareness of Yamacraw and of investment opportunities in Georgia among state and national audiences, as well as among companies that could potentially join the Yamacraw initiative. First, MS&L conducted media training to ensure successful media interviews that clearly communicated key message points and consistent, clear and concise information. Training encompassed interview strategies, interview styles and mock interviews with a variety of reporters representing diverse publications and radio and TV stations.
Technology industry analyst and influencer focus: To initiate a word-of-mouth campaign among influencers, establish credibility for the program, and because the media look to technology industry analysts as credible, third-party sources of information on new technologies, products and promising research, MS&L arranged for the Yamacraw spokesperson to brief industry analysts that cover broadband technologies.
National media focus: MS&L set up technology media tours to introduce key influencers and TV, radio and print media to Yamacraw, resulting in increased coverage. Technology trade shows also provided opportunities to speak to interested audiences and appropriate media and analysts who attended these events.
Technology company focus: Once companies began joining the Yamacraw initiative, MS&L targeted communications to focus on the member companies, generating interest in the activity happening in Georgia’s broadband industry and reinforcing the growing preeminence of Georgia as a broadband center. A focus on companies’ research and commercialization efforts helped to better define the activity and momentum.
Internal focus: For instate audiences, communications focused on the benefits of growing this technology industry in Georgia. Bylined articles from Yamacraw staff were distributed to weekly newspapers and Chamber of Commerce newsletters across the state. An instate speaker’s bureau was also established and Yamacraw representatives visited towns throughout rural and urban Georgia to let business leaders know what Yamacraw was doing and how their individual companies and communities would benefit.
In the first year of the program, the MS&L team managed announcements of more than ten broadband technology companies that joined the Yamacraw initiative, including industry leaders such as Nortel Networks, Broadcom Corp. and National Semiconductor. Many of the announcements were coordinated with the governor’s office. More than 720 million print and online impressions among key audiences were generated, including significant coverage in regional media such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Wall Street Journal - Southeast Edition and Georgia Trend; as well as national trade press such as Red Herring, EE Times, and Electronic News.
MS&L also generated media coverage through interviews set up at key trade shows around the country. Yamacraw’s spokesperson was highlighted locally in several publications as a leader in the technology business industry. Additionally, ongoing relationships were built with key media, especially with the two local major publications, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, resulting in continuing regular coverage of Yamacraw.
* The name “Yamacraw” links Georgia’s new high-tech broadband and computing initiative to General James Edward Oglethorpe’s 1733 landing on Yamacraw Bluff – site of the state’s first settlement in what is now Savannah.