The Washington Monument Re-Opens to the Public after Three Years of Renovations and Tremendous Teamwork

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced your fair share of explaining what exactly it is that you do in public relations and why it’s important.

“No, it’s not the same as marketing and sales.”

“No, there’s no commission.”

“No, I don’t hang out with celebrities all day.”

I take great pride working in PR – and even greater pride in explaining it to those not in the industry – but this past week was a professional highlight by any measure. I had never experienced a project so satisfying on both a professional and personal level.

On May 12, 2014, our client, the Trust for the National Mall, partnered with the National Park Service to host the ceremony for the official re-opening of the Washington Monument (the Monument has been closed to the public since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused significant damage to the structure). After two and a half years of renovations where each of the nearly 20,000 stones that make up the exterior and interior of the Monument were inspected, the renewed Washington Monument was ready to be re-opened to the world.

The communications strategy for the event began over a year ago and ran through the re-opening. When I came onto this project it was clear that this event was significant to not only the client, but to the general public as well. In other words, this wasn’t just your typical, everyday PR event. It was an event that would go down in history – and we were tasked with amplifying its impact.

The refreshed Washington Monument after $15 million in repairs.

How did the event turn out? It was a smash! Rational worked with our client to generate significant regional, national and international media coverage that specifically highlighted the Trust for the National Mall’s efforts to reopen the Monument. Coverage included pieces by Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and many more. In addition to media coverage, our PR campaign also focused on building relationships and helping to grow support for the Trust’s efforts among prominent celebrities. Al Roker, the TODAY show’s weather anchor and author, and American Idol Season 12 winner Candice Glover – both had prominent roles in Monday’s ceremony (Mr. Roker was the event’s Master of Ceremonies and Ms. Glover sang “America the Beautiful”).

What was particularly exciting about this event was the tremendous teamwork that took place across a number of organizations – the Trust for the National Mall, the National Park Service, Department of the Interior and my colleagues at Rational 360.

Trust for the National Mall president, Caroline Cunningham, and superintendent of the National Mall, Bob Vogel, being interviewed on C-SPAN live before the re-opening event.

The event emcee, Al Roker, with the “official” mascot.

Now on a personal note…

The event was more than just a media campaign – to me. There were so many other moving parts that hit closer to home – the influencers, the fans who lined up at sunrise to wait in line for tickets, as well as the hundreds of supporters, volunteers and everyday people who just “wanted to be there.” I encountered a woman who told me she came into DC on a bus earlier that morning at the crack of dawn just to get in line to see the Monument. She had no other plans for the day. THIS was what she was doing.

That’s me working the phones on the day of the event and fueling up with Diet Coke.

Overall, the official re-opening of the Washington Monument was indeed a “monumental” moment in the time I’ve spent so far living in Washington, DC and working in public relations. History was made – and I had the honor of being a part of it.

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