PR > Excellence: PR Craft

9/12 - THE UNTOLD STORY OF RECONNECTING NEW YORK

VERIZON, New York / VERIZON / 2022

Awards:

Gold Cannes Lions
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Overview

Credits

Overview

Why is this work relevant for PR?

On 9/11/2001, New York was left devastated and disconnected. Phone lines down, cell service disrupted, and Wall Street catastrophically offline. Verizon’s 140 West St. building—the central telecommunications hub for Lower Manhattan—was badly damaged. Its restoration became crucial for NYC’s comeback and for the nation.

On 9/12, thousands of Verizon employees mobilized, risking their lives to reconnect New York. These stories never made headlines, and were unknown to many at Verizon.

So, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we created an experience to share the untold stories of the 14,000 employees who ran toward a crisis.

Background

What happened on 9/11 is forever etched into our memories. Unknown to many is what happened the next day. Just one block from Ground Zero, thousands of Verizon employees risked their lives and ran toward a crisis to help reconnect New York.

Our brief was to understand the critical role Verizon played on 9/12 and to showcase how Verizon’s telecommunications headquarters and employees had a profound impact on the recovery and comeback of New York, as well as the nation.

Our objective was to create an original immersive experience for current Verizon employees that shared an important piece of the company history while honoring the 14,000 Verizon employees who were there in 2001.

Describe the creative idea

On 9/11, New York was left devastated. Phone lines, cell service and Wall Street were disconnected. Verizon’s 140 West Street building, the telecommunications hub for Lower NYC, was badly damaged at Ground Zero. Its restoration was crucial for the comeback of the city and nation, and Verizon employees mobilized, risking their lives to reconnect NYC. 20 years later, we honor them with an experience created for Verizon employees.

It’s a story that’s never been told in a format that's never been used before: text messages. In 2001 it was the latest way to communicate and in 2021, the most personal. The 1:1 nature of texting gave us a meaningful platform to share the emotional stories that emerged in the days after 9/11. Every text documents a moment, action or story, delivered at the time of day the events actually happened 20 years ago.

Describe the PR strategy

Celebrating the contribution of employees creates a culture where people feel more invested, valued and engaged. Unknown to many at Verizon was the critical role our employees played during 9/11. On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we created 9/12. The untold story of reconnecting New York, to honor the brave men and women from Verizon who were there in 2001. The experience was for current employees to learn about an important piece of our company’s history.

To participate, users could sign up via the website or use a textable link. Our corporate comms team promoted the experience through internal social, email, and executive communication..

On 9/12, new texts went out to users every hour, at the time of day the events actually happened twenty years ago, putting people in the shoes of the employees who were there.

Describe the PR execution

Up to Speed, our internal channel, and our intranet reach over 130,000 employees. This was a powerful tool to share meaningful stories featuring Verizon employees.

During the week leading up to the live virtual event, our corporate comms team promoted the experience, driving engagement and sign ups through internal social, email, and executive communication..

On 9/12, new text stories went out to users every hour, at the time of day the events actually happened 20 years ago. The event lasted 12 hours, from 8AM to 8PM, delivering over 300k text messages on launch day alone. The experience remained open for 1 week for those who missed.

The event had a 99.86% engagement rate and received accolades from internal leadership and a flood of appreciation from employees. While it was an employee-focused event, the link could be shared allowing anyone to participate.

List the results

We used our internal corporate communications to create a consistent cadence to drive awareness of this important and meaningful initiative. For one week prior to the event, we used our internal social channels, email, dotcom as well as executive leadership to help engage employees and encourage them to sign up for the experience. The live virtual event lasted 12 hours, with new stories and content texted from 8am until 8pm. The experience was open for one week post the event date.

For the first time ever, we used Twilio-driven SMS technology to create an interactive narrative, making careful tweaks throughout production to ensure content was delivered at the right time and in the right order to remain historically accurate. AR and WebGL were also used to create the 3D scenes and buildings for users to explore and to visualize the extent of the structural damage to the Verizon headquarters. The previously untold stories of Verizon’s employees were delivered to a vast and well-engaged audience.

Over 300,000 MMS messages were sent out on the launch day alone. Mobile messaging became a unique and powerful storytelling tool that connected to users on an intimate and personal level.

Due to the sensitivity of the content, we were careful to keep all comms internal. The event had a 99.86% engagement rate, and received accolades from internal leadership and a flood of appreciation from employees. While it was an employee focused event, anyone was welcome to participate.

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