Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 4 - Public Information
Maria Ehrlich, HNTB Corporation

Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: The year 2006 marked the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System (IHS); a significant chapter in our nation’s history. HNTB has been a transportation pioneer since its founding in 1914. With more than 40 years of transportation experience when President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956, HNTB was already a valued resource to transportation agencies. Informal research through discussions with media, trade associations and clients verified that very few transportation engineering firms had formulated plans around this milestone. HNTB captured this opportunity to differentiate itself from other engineering firms and launched a comprehensive campaign.
The Message: HNTB was a key player in establishing the IHS in Florida and is now defining the future of transportation through innovation and thought leadership.
Target Audience: External - Clients: (Departments of transportation, toll authorities and municipalities), Mainstream Media and industry associations (national, local and trade), Public officials. Internal - Employees

Objectives: To effectively position HNTB as a leader in the development of the IHS in Florida, HNTB conducted a comprehensive campaign with the following objectives: 1) Heighten awareness of HNTB’s history, leadership and innovation in building the IHS through advertising and generating a minimum of five media exposures; 2) Differentiate HNTB’s point of view on the IHS anniversary from other industry organizations by focusing on the future of transportation through strategic media pitches and op-ed pieces in trade and mainstream media outlets 3) Instill pride in HNTB’s accomplishments and professional staff through internal communication tools and by creating a commemorate piece that would highlight the firms IHS history; 4) To participate in the Florida Department of Transportation’s IHS anniversary website and Florida Crossroads documentary.

Implementation: HNTB’s first step in the campaign was to demonstrate the firm’s leadership in creating, establishing and designing the IHS by partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Since the FDOT is one of HNTB’s largest clients, the firm wanted to support the FDOT’s efforts as well as increase the firm’s visibility as a valuable resource. This was accomplished through media pitches, phone calls, photos shoots, and video interviews between HNTB and the FDOT resulting in expert views from HNTB’s transportation leaders featured in the FDOT Florida Crossroads documentary titled “Roads Well Traveled: 50 years of Florida’s Interstate System. Photos of HNTB designed interstates in Florida were also featured on the FDOT’s anniversary website www.fl-interstate.com.
The second step of the campaign was to heighten awareness of HNTB’s history, leadership and innovation in building the IHS in the southeast division, as well as differentiate HNTB’s point of view on the IHS anniversary from other industry organizations by focusing on the future and advocating transportation funding/innovation/investment. This was accomplished through media pitches, guest columns, spokesperson key messages, and an article in HNTB’s Designer magazine.
The final phase of the campaign was to instill pride in HNTB’s accomplishments and professional staff. This was accomplished using multiple internal communication vehicles in the form of hardcopy newsletters, online newsletters, and the intranet. In addition, a commemorative color poster was created that featured the signs of all the interstates HNTB has designed over the past. The poster was distributed to all employees and clients.

Evaluation: The results of the campaign were very successful. In Florida, HNTB distributed 15 media pitches and generated seven articles that included HNTB bylined articles and quotes from HNTB leaders. More than 15,000 clients and media received the Designer magazine and smaller version of the commemorative poster. The FDOT Florida Crossroads documentary DVD was mailed to 1,000 engineering consultants, government officials and FDOT consultants throughout the state of Florida as well as viewed by thousands of Florida residents on the Public Broadcasting Station for six months beginning June 29, 2006. 200 commemorative posters of HNTB’s interstate work were mailed to clients, and 60 posters were mailed to HNTB offices and customized for internal use. More than 300 Florida employees were reached through internal communication efforts that took the form of hard copy, electronic newsletters, and the Intranet.

Budget: The Florida campaign was implemented using existing corporate resources, so no direct costs were associated with this campaign other than staff time (approximately 64 hours), printing and mailing of the commemorative poster ($6,500) and travel expense associated with the FDOT documentary ($520). Total budget: approximately $8,940 including staff time. Conclusion: The results of the campaign were effective in meeting the objectives and significant in nature considering the small investment made by HNTB.