Massive PR coverage doesn’t come from simply sending out cleverly written press releases. It takes a Strategic Vision and tremendous follow-through to come together successfully. One of the most successful national programs Emerson developed for American Forests joined forces with the Office of the Adjutant General with the VFW, and the Administrator of Corporate and Foundation Development for the VFW Foundation, and giant Wal-Mart as the national corporate sponsor.
His overall strategy of this massive campaign was to create a program which ultimately generated over 3000 media events in a single weekend nationwide, as VFW posts nationwide engaged in Memorial Day “Freedom Tree” planting ceremonies, honoring veterans of World War II.
The concept was an elegant “Win-Win-Win”: WalMart paid American Forests for thousands of historic Elm seedlings (grown from seeds collected from Eisenhower’s home). Each store provided their local VFW posts with a complementary tree for their Memorial Day ceremony, and WalMart was able to sell the additional trees to cover their costs for the program. American Forests won, WalMart won, and most importantly our veterans won the honor and recognition they deserved.
Hundreds of posts signed up at Emerson’s very first presentation at the VFW National Convention. Appearances at regional conferences as well as a second VFW National Convention added an additional 1672 VFW posts nationwide, bringing the total number to over 2500.
We then created an entire package for each of the post commanders which included presentation scripts, venue setup, media contact guides, local press releases and every other component needed to ensure a successful launch with over 3000 media events covered. This media “frenzy” included local, state and national newspapers, radio and television coverage. When ABC Nightly News with Peter Jennings reported on the “unprecedented” nationwide Memorial Day events, the resulting surge resulted in over 10,000 site visitors within a 15-minute period, shutting down American Forests’ shopping cart. Considered the most successful and unified launch in the VFW’s and American Forests’ history, every post was honored and recognized and the resulting media coverage generated tens of thousands of dollars in new sales and thousands of new leads for American Forests.
Expanding The Program
Building on the success of the VFW Freedom Trees Launch, Emerson expanded the concept, partnering with Bankers Advertising for a national “Liberty Trees” program using seed kits instead of seedlings. He provided a keynote for Bankers national sales convention, equipping their over 500 salespeople nationwide with tools to promote through their thousands of retail business clients. He wrote several entire campaigns based on the concept for different business and corporate partners, for example, Liberty Trees was renamed Tribute Trees for online, with Earthshare as one of the largest online affiliate partners nationwide. .