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Section 3 - U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission Outreach Summary

Congress saw December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight, as an opportunity to educate the public about the Wright brothers' achievements and to use the story to inspire the next generation of innovators and inventors. In 1999, it created the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission to lead a national campaign. Carter Ryley Thomas Public Relations and Marketing was selected through a competitive Request for Procurement process to lead the outreach campaign, which was based on media relations, partnerships and special events.

In reporting the outcome of the centennial of flight outreach efforts, it is important to note that the success of the campaign can be directly correlated to the enormous amount of cooperation among the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission and its Partners. The celebration was a success largely because everyone worked together. These results could not have been achieved through the work of any one organization. Instead, it was the combined effort and tremendous dedication of Centennial Partners as well as various communities and organizations across the country and around the world that labored together to share the story of the Wright brothers.

In the research phase of the campaign, the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission sponsored a Yanklovich Partners national phone survey in November 1999. The results of this survey showed that many people knew of the Wright brothers, but 80 percent of Americans were unaware of the upcoming anniversary. In addition, one hundred reporters were interviewed, revealing little to no awareness of the anniversary among national media. And, interviews with aerospace industry leaders indicated no major initiative to do anything to commemorate the anniversary. Qualitative research revealed that no event was planned for a major market and that there was a lack of teamwork among various organizations planning celebration events. Secondary research into past media coverage indicated that similar commemorations of historic events such as Pearl Harbor Day received wide-spread coverage, but anniversaries of inventions did not.

The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commissioners approved a strategic plan that shifted away from pure media relations and allocated more budget into coalition building and creating major market events. The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission decided it would not sponsor individual events, but rather coordinate the national commemoration through communication with the public and the media through the Web site and a proactive media relations campaign. The first job was to re-energize the centennial team by showing what was possible. Existing regional events had to be complemented by major market celebrations that would reach the masses and build credibility, and they would have to be funded by other entities. The major market media needed a "wake up" call, and the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission needed to find a way to keep them interested the entire year. Budget did not exist to buy a spokesperson, but the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission team knew celebrities would capture the attention of national television. Creating an educational legacy for the campaign depended on convincing national educational material distributors to get involved. The goal was to build an efficient awareness campaign based on partnerships, special events and media relations that was spread over a 12-month period versus a single day.

The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission outreach campaign included five main objectives: A "trickle down" strategy was used to feed information to entities in categories that had the broadest reach: top 100 national media outlets, education/youth media, centennial event organizers, industry association leaders and government agency leaders (NASA, FAA, U.S. Air Force, National Park Service).

In order to meet the above mentioned objectives, the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission created the following strategies:
Create and Lead


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