Challenge: It all began with one man – Samuel Moss Solomon. He was the father of Emmanuel and Vaiben Solomon, brothers who were transported to Australia after being charged with stealing some clothes.
Fast forward 194 years and the Solomons have left a significant mark on this country. A classic story of a ‘convict made good’, Emmanuel Solomon was a member of parliament, a philanthropist and benefactor to the arts. His descendants have also had a strong impact on the history of Australia, with one nephew holding the record for the shortest stint (one week) as Premier of South Australia and then going on to become one of the founding fathers of Darwin. Another descendant helped write the Australian constitution, five fought in Gallipoli, and one perished on the Titanic.
On March 10-12, 2012, a reunion of the Solomons and associated families took place in Melbourne. The organisers credited Ancestry.com.au for helping them to build their extensive family tree and the reason they were able to find and contact so many family members. Brad Argent, content director, Ancestry.com.au was invited to speak at the reunion.
Strategy: The Howorth team wanted to share the Solomon’s story and build mainstream interest family history category in general. Given that Monday was a public holiday in Melbourne, and there was the potential for media interest to be light, the team pre-pitched the story as an exclusive to Channel 7’s Sunrise and followed up with a media alert which was issued to local Melbourne media.
Results: In total, 108 pieces of TV, radio, print and online coverage were achieved from this campaign with a reach of over 1.7M impressions.
- Brad Argent, Ancestry was interviewed on Sunrise along with other members of the Solomon family. The piece was also re-played nationally on Channel 7’s 4:30pm News
- Brad was also interviewed by Channel 7’s 6pm News who also attended and covered the reunion
- The Age came to the reunion and spoke with family members
- The event organiser, Jenny Cowen, was also interviewed on Radio National Breakfast the morning of the event.
Challenge: To capitalise on the interest and broad media attention surrounding the 2010 Australian Federal Election, Ancestry.com.au set Ogilvy PR’s business and technology public relations agency, Howorth, the challenge to find an opportunity to get the family history website into the debate.
Idea: Research the family history of the two main candidates to discover their family pedigree and to investigate if there was anything in their family history that may have formed the basis for their political ideologies. This would create an interesting news angle, with human interest, and quite different from the traditional election coverage.
Insight: Research undertaken by Ancestry.com.au unveiled that for the first time in over 87 years, Australia’s elected Prime Minister would not be Australian born, with both Gillard and Abbott both from the UK.
Campaign: Working closely with Ancestry.com.au to research and pitch this unique insight to the media, Howorth negotiated an exclusive opportunity with Channel Nine’s Today Show. This was followed by both print and radio outreach, with many interviews conducted under embargo.
Results: The media outreach resulted in more than 44 ‘on message’ stories, including radio, television, print and online. Highlights included a five minute live-to-air TV interview on Australia’s highest rating morning show, the Today Show. The team also secured a full page feature article in The Daily Telegraph and an 18 minute interview with 2GB radio in Sydney.
In total the public relations campaign reached more than 3.4 million Australians, highlighting the value of taking a topical news issue and finding a related new insight.
Issue: As the generation gap widens and the population ages rapidly, Australia is in the midst of an identity crisis. Traditionally, family history has been passed down by our grandparents, however, as they pass away, so does their knowledge and many adults now know surprisingly little about their family history. To assist in closing the gap, Ancestry.com.au has worked over the last four years collating the Australian, Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes.
For the first time ever online, the records of those who were born, married or died in Australia from 1788 through to 1985 have been assembled into one fully searchable database.
Challenge: Researching a family tree has typically been a difficult process, involving long hours poring over microfiche in libraries and requiring a significant financial investment to obtain the necessary records. Additionally, this has traditionally been the activity of older generations. The launch of this collection makes it easier to research your family tree, and because of the depth of information included, generates mainstream appeal.
Insight: Through research it became clear that Australians did have a passion to discover where they came from and who their ancestors were. However many did not know much, if anything, about their family tree past their grandparents.
Creative Idea: With the information available in the collection and results from the research, the public relations campaign idea focused on asking Australians to rediscover “who they really are”, in order to drive a renewed interest in genealogy.
To bring this theme to life, Ogilvy PR’s business and technology public relations agency, Howorth, dug through the collection to uncover multiple human interest stories which would resonate with modern day Australians. The allure of ‘celebrity names’ was used to help Australians understand the depth and breadth of the type of records available.
By asking ‘who you really are’, it encouraged speculation of famous connections, including the Murdoch Family (Head of News Corp), Sir Donald Bradman (Famous Cricketer), Henry Lawson (Poet) & Edmund Barton (Australia’s First Prime Minister).
Campaign: The public relations campaign featured a strong overall communications programme which included a digital and online strategy, backed by strong radio and print coverage to help drive discussion about family history and to set the news agenda on launch day.
Under embargo, Howorth negotiated a series of radio, print, online, TV and newswire exclusives with Australia’s most prominent and influential journalists. Additionally, Ancestry.com.au actively used Twitter and Facebook to promote where and when you could hear Ancestry.com.au speaking about family history – either at events or on radio. This included posting coverage and links of details of live radio interviews.
Outcome: Overall, the public relations campaign generated over 70 pieces of coverage (including 15 radio interviews) and reached over 5 million Australians during the two week campaign.
The collection launch resulted in Ancestry.com.au receiving its highest number of unique browsers to the site in one day. After the campaign, the website continued to receive a high volume of browsers and registrations – with registrations for the free trial membership increasing by 348 per cent from the previous year, and paid membership by 246 per cent.
The campaign has firmly placed family history back at the forefront of conversations and at the same time established Ancestry.com.au as the leading authority for family history.
Do you have a convict ancestor? If you did, would you know? In its first project for Australia’s leading family history website, Ancestry.com.au, public relations agency Howorth led a PR campaign to launch two new convict-based historical record collections to the public. These records (the Convict Registers of Conditional and Absolute Pardons, 1791-1846 and the New South Wales Certificates of Freedom, 1827-1867) complete the journey from arrest to release of almost one third of all convicts transported to Australia.
With more than 2.3 million criminal and convict records now available online, Ancestry.com.au made the entirety of its 15-part Australian Convicts Collection accessible for free for eight days in January 2010. With the door to the past wide open, Howorth had to convince the public to come knocking.
Howorth constructed a public relations campaign, tied into Australia Day, to get consumers thinking about how their families originally made it to the Lucky Country, before encouraging them to dig down into their own pasts.
Creative idea, relentless execution
Howorth knew it needed a high-profile partner for the campaign launch, so secured a national News Limited exclusive for Australia Day itself, which resulted in coverage in all news.com.au sites across Australia. Metropolitan radio talk back programs were also targeted with embargoed material so they could incorporate the story into the weekly plan. Following this initial coverage burst, the release was then issued to all other media.
The response locally for the convict collection was overwhelming, with more than 200 pieces of coverage, including breaking news online across Fairfax and news.com.au, and radio news bulletins. 20 radio interviews were conducted across commercial, AM and community radio, from the ABC to 2GB, with some stations syndicating the interviews across their networks and regions to raise coverage levels even further. Print coverage included major pieces in the Hobart Mercury, Canberra Times and Sunday Territorian. Through social media engagement, public relations agency Howorth also generated 21 ‘Tweets’ on the open Convict Collection indexes, with some of the influential Twitter users having over 1000 followers.
As a result of the PR campaign, Ancestry.com.au received their highest ever unique visitors for a single day on Australia Day (25th January 2010 ).
Gratifyingly, the client was thrilled with the results; “The Howorth team achieved results well beyond our expectations. This is a great start to our relationship,” said Debra Chesterton, Managing Director, Ancestry.com.au.