Florida Today wins big with deep dive into local economic development initiative

When the biggest economic development in the United States’ southeast region’s of last five years takes place, it’s not something a reputable news organisation makes a mere casual mention of. Go big, or go home, as they say.

Break the news first. Dive deeply into the impact the announcement will have on the local economy — jobs created, homes purchased, retail stimulated, and more. Get the community and its business and civic leaders involved to not simply report what’s going on, but to ask the right questions and ignite true conversation.

“Project Magellan” is a code name for this economic development project in the Florida Today market, one which area state and county leaders worked diligently to win. With Project Magellan, aerospace company Northrop Grumman announced the creation of new, high-paying, technological jobs at a new facility at the local Melbourne International Airport.

Florida Today’s breaking editorial coverage of the project’s official announcement in May 2014 actively continued during the following months and culminated in a community event to facilitate conversation among residents, business owners, and state and local officials.

As a community leader, Florida Today’s objective with this public forum was to facilitate public conversation about the project’s significance and potential impact for business, economy, and more. The event was created with the goal of building the Florida news brand in the community by asking the right questions of the right people.

At the same time, the media organisation was forging impactful relationships with key businesses in the area for immediate and future revenue generation.

In front of an audience of approximately 300 attendees plus listeners via a live local radio feed, the event’s panel of experts – aerospace business leaders, an economist, and the local economic development commission (EDC) president – was moderated by Florida Today’s public interest editor.

Florida Today’s marketing department produced collateral pieces such as the event programme, promotions, and signage, which helped set the forum in a professional, polished light.

The results of the event surpassed expectations. Advertiser sponsorships generated US$21,500 in revenue plus in-kind contributions. This is in addition to the priceless relationships forged with officials of the three main sponsors — a local university, the local airport, and the Economic Development Committee— through the VIP reception immediately following the public forum.

With promotional and editorial support before, during, and after the event, Florida Today saw an increase of more than 4.5% week-over-week in single-copy sales the weekend before the event, and 2.6% the week following the event.

In all, Project Magellan news stories generate more than 57,000 page views and 6,780 video views on desktop and mobile platforms. When the Florida Today newsroom broke the news of the official Project Magellan announcement on Facebook, the Web site garnered huge numbers — a single-post reach of more than 134,000 people with 1,079 likes and 957 shares.

In what was truly a team effort, the event and surrounding coverage transcended the company’s news, marketing, advertising, and production departments coming together and became a true community effort. Florida Today joined forces with local leaders, residents, and businesses to discuss Project Magellan and every ripple that may come from it throughout Brevard County.

That’s what being a media organisation is all about.

About Stephanie Herndon

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