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TGIF: Atlantic City Bets on Miss America for Travel PR Win

Miss America contestant, Miss New York Nina Davuluri reacts with 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagan after being chosen winner of the 2014 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New JerseyThis year, the Miss America competition returned to Atlantic City (for whom we handle PR), after a six-year hiatus.  At a quick glance, its return to the city where it all started had the stuff that PR dreams are made of: pomp and pageantry, history, a dedicated following – and a storied event!

But as I wrote in Tuesday’s blog, garnering publicity for a travel campaign calls for more than swimsuits and celebrities!  With this kind of borrowed interest, we had to ensure that those covering Miss America would also wax enthusiastically about the revitalized Atlantic City location.

Like any other campaign, this travel PR program had to leverage the event at every turn to help tell the brand’s story in a meaningful way that would resonate with the “fun-seeking” audience AC wants.  Here’s how we borrowed the nation’s passion for pageants to create a strategic national PR campaign for Atlantic City.

We used fun props. Even if you aren’t a diehard fan, you can probably conjure an image of a former Miss America donning the iconic tiara and sash.  We capitalized on this strong visual and created customized sashes for broadcast anchors at each of the key stations.  A couple of on-camera personalities actually wore their personalized sash during a segment, and several others took to social media to show off their new accessory.

We leveraged the fan base.  Paying homage to a long-standing Miss America tradition linked to Atlantic City, we asked fans to show off their creative flair and their most fabulous, DIY shoe creations for the Show Us Your Shoes Parade, complete with a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to the festivities.  In addition to photos of shoes decked out in feathers, sequins, spikes and more, Atlantic City received national PR exposure from this social media initiative.

We turned the pageant into a fam trip.  Getting media to commit to the Miss America Competition was easy; while in town, we used this opportunity to expose them to Atlantic City, showing them new attractions, cultural offerings, and restaurants.

We were ready to use Miss America’s star power. While celebrities alone aren’t always enough to justify a PR campaign, this year’s Miss America was a hot property (and it didn’t hurt that she hailed from New York, giving her local appeal). We booked a New York media roadshow and took her to morning shows and print interviews where she effortlessly communicated Atlantic City key messages.

When borrowing interest, remember to have realistic expectations.  For example, when using a well-known personality, media likely will want to know about other aspects in that person’s life,and therefore, your client may not be front and center in every story.  In our case, some stories focused more on Miss America’s charity work and goals after her reign completes, rather than Atlantic City’s hosting of the event. Though we’d always love more of our client’s key messages included in feature placements, the link was forged: Miss America is sexy and desirable, and by association, Atlantic City became sexy and desirable as well.  What better PR is there than that?

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