The Save-A-Landmark campaign by Hampton, designed to restore national roadside landmarks, is an exemplary model to analyze in order to gain insight on how to properly plan and execute a successful public relations campaign. The 2008 “Landmark Legends” restoration of the National Civil Rights Museum to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. generated over $6 million in advertising equivalency for Hampton, millions of gross media impressions, and gained Hampton national recognition and awards for its preservation efforts. The historical relevance and timing of the Landmark Legends campaign made it a noteworthy publicity event.
Hampton, restore, Dr. King, campaign
The Hampton Hotel Save-a-Landmark campaign began in 2000, and was established by the Hilton owned franchise to restore national roadside landmarks. In 2008, Hampton chose to restore the National Civil Rights Museum. This decision was made after careful research done by Hilton through a survey to determine which historical figure in modern history American’s found to be the most prominent. The respondents deemed Martin Luther King Jr. as the most legendary figure in modern history. The aptly name “Landmark Legends” themed campaign that honored the prolific civil rights leader earned Hilton 394,233,117 gross impressions and over $6,000,000 in advertising equivalency (Hendrix, 2012). Since its inception, it has provided $2.5 million to restoration efforts and hundreds of volunteer hours.
Hampton created the Save-a-Landmark campaign to address the physical and aesthetic decline or dilapidation of our nation’s historical landmarks, specifically roadside landmarks, and to garner positive publicity as a patriotic organization. They wanted to reinforce the Hampton customer base that Hampton is committed to restoring the landmarks that are in proximity to Hampton hotels since those would be most relevant to pre-existing guests, and could attract new potential guests.
Hampton chose to restore the National Civil Rights Museum for the campaigns 9th year. The museum, formerly the Lorraine Motel, was chosen first and foremost because of its connection to Dr. King. In a survey done by Hampton, Dr. King was deemed the most prominent figure in modern American history, and his I Have A Dream speech was considered by over 1/3 of respondents to be the most legendary phrase of all time (Hendrix, 2012). The need for refurbishment and proximity to Hampton facilities that could donate employees and resources for the restoration also contributed to the decision. The fact that Dr. King was assassinated at the hotel made the project into a story of national interest, especially since the completion of the restoration was timed for early April, which marked the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.
The final decision was made after doing a careful SWOT analysis of the campaigns strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the organization. Strengths included careful research to ensure relevance with target audience, the participation of actor Samuel L. Jackson, and the convenience of choosing a restoration project that was near Hampton facilities that could lend the volunteers easily. The timing of the campaign was also a strength since it would ensure maximum attention from the media. Weaknesses for the campaign included the lack of prior knowledge of the Save-a-Landmark campaign in the target audience, and that the size of the Hampton Hotel chain is not a size that would typically garner national media attention over other brands.
There were however, many opportunities for this campaign. Making a positive impact in the Memphis community, increasing positive relationships between Hampton and their stakeholders, and gaining positive brand image were the most important. Additionally, the restorations could make travelers more inclined to travel by car to see the landmarks, and therefore increase the likelihood that travelers would then stay at the nearby Hampton facility. Several threats for the short and long term success of the campaign were also identified. For long-term consideration, there may not be enough roadside landmarks of interest to the public that would garner positive attention from a restoration effort. A possible shortage of volunteers, supplies, or monetary funds necessary to complete the project was also a threat. However, with careful research and planning these weaknesses and threats were addressed to give way to the strengths and opportunities that were analyzed.
Hampton used both primary and secondary research in planning for the Save-a-Landmark efforts. They evaluated a survey done by the Travel Industry Association that said that 80% of U.S. adults who traveled in the past year were historical or cultural travelers, meaning that they were interested in visiting historically and culturally significant landmarks in their travels. Hampton also created and conducted a survey about the attitudes of their target audience before launching the campaign. The survey showed that 90% of their over 1,000 respondents wanted to preserve the countries national landmarks and that 83% of respondents felt a personal sense of responsibility in preserving the landmarks (Hendrix, 2012).
For the specific Landmark Legends campaign, Hampton conducted their own survey as previously stated in order to determine which landmarks and modern historical figures were the most prominent or of the most interest to the public. Hampton also performed logistical research for their public relations team when choosing the landmark options to put on the survey. They chose landmarks that were in close proximity to Hampton facilities that could lend volunteers to the refurbishment efforts, and evaluated the refurbishment cost before selecting the landmark (Hendrix, 2012).
The audience for this campaign is for U.S. adults who travel by car on vacations who are interested in historical landmarks, which is 80% of American travelling adults. The key message that Hampton wanted to express to their audience through this campaign was that they are devoted to the ongoing care of roadside landmarks.
Media relations played a large part in the execution of the campaign. Hampton strategically planned the restoration of the National Civil Rights Museum was planned to be executed on March 25, 2008, to coincide with Dr. King’s assassination which took place at the motel on April 4, 1968. The public relations team sent media releases and advisories to local and national news outlets. This met several of Hampton’s objectives, including generating national and regional coverage for the Save-A-Landmark efforts, and increasing awareness of the restoration efforts for Hampton guests and other U.S. travelers (Hendrix, 2012). The media relations team created outlet specific promotional materials, where the topics ranged from the national historical significance of the project to the human interest of making an impact in the Memphis community.
In the evaluation of the success of the campaign, the impact made was obvious. CNN, USA Today, and Entertainment Tonight all reported on the restoration, and local news affiliates reported on the story a total of 25 times throughout the restoration. Actor Samuel L. Jackson, an attendee at Dr. King’s funeral, was on site at the restoration and helped to garner even more media attention (Hendrix, 2012).
The Landmark Legends campaign garnered the most media attention and advertising equivalency of any Save-a-Landmark campaign, making it successful in meeting its objectives. The impact of the campaign was so great that George W. Bush presented the program with the Preserve America Presidential Award for its efforts to preserve a cultural and historical asset (Hendrix, 2012). This demonstrates that the objective of raising awareness for the campaign was certainly met.
The public relations team for the Save-a-Landmark campaign did a great job of successfully applying the systems theory of communications to their campaign. The systems theory of communications states that a public relations professional should evaluate their organization as part of the larger community in which it resides and make decisions based on the needs and interests of the community as well as the organization. Hampton obviously considered how its stakeholders, target audience, and media would perceive the campaign before launching it. These entities are all interconnected and will have a large impact on the success of the campaign (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976). Hampton clearly took this into account when developing their objectives of increasing recognition of their Save-a-Landmark campaign and in making an impact in the Memphis community. The benefits of Hampton using their money and resources on a campaign that was not direct advertising and rather one that’s goal was to make an impact in the community were two-fold. Firstly, they achieved their intended result of restoring the National History Museum, and they garnered millions of media impressions and millions of dollars in free advertising.
Further, this campaign also took advantage of the self-correcting feedback loop that is a critical part of systems theory. Prior to the Landmark Legends campaign, Hampton did not survey their audience about which roadside landmarks they felt were the most important to restore. The previously restored landmarks were selected based on proximity to Hampton facilities that could lend volunteers and the cost of the restoration (Hendrix, 2012). These previous campaigns were successful in meeting their respective objectives, but the Landmark Legends campaign was by far the most publicized Save-a-Landmark project and earned Hampton a national award for their service in the community. They took the self-correcting feedback loop full circle to improve their already successful campaign.
The positive results of the particular Landmark Legends campaign helped Hampton to learn that researching what the target audience felt was most important was a critical step in planning a campaign.
I think that this campaign was incredibly well planned and executed. The timing of completion of the project coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination at the place of his untimely death was an incredibly savvy public relations strategy to gain maximum media coverage of the event.
The Landmark Legends campaign can be compared to other campaigns that are community service based. For example, in an effort to reinvigorate their brand in the community, Maxwell house and Hunter Public Relations created the “Drops of Good” campaign (Bucci, 2012). This campaign had Maxwell House partner with community centers across the nation to provide relief to struggling families in their respective areas by donating money and other resources to the centers. Their strategy addressed both aspects of the systems theory of communications head on. They fully understood that by partnering with local community centers they would indeed be helping the community, but they would also be positioning their brand favorably in the public eye as one that cares about doing good for others (Bucci, 2012).
These types of campaigns all fall in line with the systems theory of communications. When companies consider their organization as a part of the community with responsibility to that community, it can greatly improve the reputation of the organization as one that is socially responsible which in turn makes the target audience view the organization more favorably.
Since the Landmark Legends campaign, Hampton has continued restoring national landmarks. Their most recent restoration was of the Kīlauea Lighthouse in Hawaii in 2012, when they were able to achieve their goal of restoring a landmark in every U.S. state. After fulfilling this objective, Hampton created a new volunteer program for its employees to participate in simply called Hampton Helps, which targets a wide range of charities throughout the United States (Walls, 2012). The Landmark Legends restoration truly put the Save-a-Landmark campaign on the map, and thrust Hampton into the spotlight as a company who makes corporate social responsibility a priority.
Ball-Rokeach, S., & DeFleur, M. (1976). A Dependency Model of Mass-Media Effects. Community Research,3(1), 3-21. Retrieved February 5, 2016, from http://crx.sagepub.com/content/3/1/3
Bucci, J. (2012, December 3). Maxwell House Revives Consumers with “Drops of Good” PR Campaign by Leveraging its History of Community Service. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from https://www.bulldogreporter.com/maxwell-house-revives-consumers-with-drops-of-good-pr-campaign-by-leveraging-its-hi/
Hendrix, J. A. (2012). Public relations cases. S.l.: Wadsworth.
Walls, J. (2012, October 02). Hampton Hotels Reaches Goal to Help a Landmark in Every U.S. State. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.hiltonworldwideglobalmediacenter.com/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/22154