October 01, 2014
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May 7, 2010

Crooning Canines Sing Sweet Public Relations Music for Target-BJ Communications Campaign

By Jim Bucci

After two years of lackluster publicity and crowds, Target Music in the Park, a philanthropic effort put on by Target and the Phoenix Symphony to bring free outdoor music and arts to children and families in the area, needed a fresh approach to attracting advance publicity. Funded through a grant by Target, while the Phoenix Symphony produces and coordinates the daylong concert, they wanted to find a way to secure significant print and broadcast coverage to bring excitement for the event to a crescendo.

First, they moved the event from Tempe Town Lake to a more central city location, and then with BJ Communications, Inc., began brainstorming publicity stunts to draw attention to the event.

The Challenge: Turn Target Music in the Park from a small, regional event into one attended by Arizonians from throughout the Valley. In previous years, the event had received little advance publicity, a listing in the event calendar of local newspapers' Community Pages, the extent of marketing efforts. "We were contacted by the Phoenix Symphony, they had switched locations, needed more advance publicity and wanted to attract more of a diverse crowd, such as families and those not familiar with the symphony," explained BJ Communications vice president Liz Meyers. "They'd had low crowds the past few years and wanted to open the event to the entire Valley."

The Strategy: Create a new musical genre for the event lineup to provide a great visual media hook. After a brainstorming session, BJ Communications decided to introduce a singing family dog competition, the "Crooning Canine Contest," which made sense for the Target brand, because Target's celebrity mascot is Bullseye the Bulldog, who appears in many TV and billboard ads for the company. "We'd seen a bunch of videos for singing dogs the week before thinking about this campaign," said Meyers. "So we said, 'What about singing dogs?' Everybody loves dogs, especially families and since Target's mascot, Bullseye, would be at the event, it seemed to work." 

So, BJC began pitching calendar listings for the "Crooning Canine Contest" and sent out a media advisory announcing a call for auditions. Then they began screening the entries and selecting contestants. These contestants and their owners were in turn pitched for media interviews with Arizona's top-rated morning shows. They also announced that Bullseye the Bulldog would be the celebrity judge for the contest.

The Results: Local and national event coverage and a huge spike in attendance from around the state. The Arizona Republic and community newspapers throughout the state ran feature stories in advance of the event, and public service announcements were aired on ClearChannel radio stations in the area. Local FOX and ABC affiliates then picked up the story, the Associated Press jumped on it, and suddenly it was a national story, rebroadcast on more than 140 news stations around the U.S.

Says Meyers: "The campaign was a huge media success. We received national media coverage. It was a 'media stunt' that worked out beautifully."   

The coverage paid off. More than 2,500 people from all over the state attended Target Music in the Park to see the "Crooning Canine Contest." This was a huge increase in attendance over prior years. 

Secrets of success: Read on a Meyers offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Gold in "Best Arts and Entertainment Campaign" at the 2009 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations and Publicity.

  • Be bold and creative when brainstorming campaign ideas. "Don't be afraid to just starting throwing out ideas," says Meyers. "Initially, a lot of creativity is required. You need to be bold and open to just throwing out a lot of ideas."
  • Get out of the regional newspaper box by expanding your event reach. Meyers and her team at BJ Communications wanted to reach potential event goers not just in the Phoenix area, but throughout the Valley, from areas like Mesa and Gilbert. So, they made the event relevant to newspapers throughout the region by highlighting the fact that the "Crooning Canine Contest," included contestants from allover the area.
  • Find that hook to get behind. BJ Communications found their angle with the "Crooning Canine Contest," which they rallied around. "As a PR company, we always try to find that hook, so we're passionate about what we're doing," she explains. "We look for something to make it interesting and different." 

WINNER'S PROFILE: Based in Phoenix, Arizona, BJ Communications, Inc. represents a cross-section of business, industry and non-profit interests that are local, national and international in scope. Their clients consist of Arizona-based companies wishing to expand their presence as well as national companies who want to focus efforts within the southwest region.  

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