PlanetSolar: Swiss Ingenuity Powers Global Ambassador for Solar Technology
Switzerland’s MS Tûranor PlanetSolar ̶ the World’s Largest Solar Boat ̶ Stops in New York City as part of its DeepWater exhibition to show the practical applications of solar
The Consulate General of Switzerland in New York partnered with Expedition PR to create excitement about the arrival of the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar boat, in New York, slated for Mid-June 2013. The task was to leverage the boat’s stop-over in New York, a city that boasts a growing tech community and promotes sustainability, to highlight Switzerland’s contributions to scientific research, technology innovation and sustainability. Onboard PlanetSolar was the DeepWater expedition, a team of scientists from the University of Geneva. The researchers were collecting data along the Gulf Stream to analyze changes in ocean currents and climate change. Due to tropical storm Andrea, the actual arrival date of PlanetSolar in New York was delayed and ultimately shortened the boat’s stay in NYC. The team worked together to maximize the crew’s limited time to meet with key influencers and increase the visibility for the PlanetSolar mission and Switzerland’s leadership position in innovation and sustainability.
Strategy & Program
Expedition PR executed a PR strategy that segmented the program in three phases:
Anticipate: Prior to the boat’s arrival in New York, the team started reaching out to reporters covering sustainability, innovation and transportation to alert them about PlanetSolar’s stop-overs in the United States as part of the DeepWater Expedition. The team used news announcements about setting the world speed record for transatlantic crossing by a solar vessel and the start of the DeepWater expedition in Miami to start the conversation about the Swiss boat’s mission for solar energy.
News about the boat’s itinerary were shared via social media, and media reports were reposted via Twitter and Facebook. Prior to the arrival the Swiss Consulate hosted a Solar Quiz on Facebook contest. Each week, the Consulate posted a question related to Switzerland’s solar industry and innovation; correct answers automatically entered a drawing for a ticket for the VIP reception.
As the exact date of the press conference could not be determined due to the bad weather conditions, the team alerted NYC-based news, local, business, sustainability and maritime media about an upcoming press event on the PlanetSolar boat ahead of time, keeping the final date fluid until it could be confirmed two days prior to the arrival. The exact boat’s docking time was communicated to TV stations and wires the day before the arrival.
Celebrate: During the PlanetSolar stop-over in New York, the team organized the following activities with key influencers:
VIP Reception: Shortly after the boat docked, the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York hosted a Welcome Reception for the PlanetSolar and DeepWater expedition team, attended by the diplomatic circle, academic institutions, analysts and representatives of the New York clean tech community. Some of them tweeted their pictures from the boat during and after the event, spreading the word about PlanetSolar’s stay in NYC to their followers.
Press Conference & Interviews: The next day, New York City’s Sustainability Officer welcomed the crew together with the Swiss Consulate at the press conference. 29 TV, print and wire reporters and foreign media correspondents attended the event and talked to the PlanetSolar crew and the scientists of the University of Geneva and – most importantly toured the boat with its impressive “sundeck” that features 2 tennis courts of solar panels. To extend the reach beyond New York, the team issued a news announcement entitled The Switzerland’s MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the World’s Largest Solar Boat, Arrives in New York City to a nationwide media list, which obtained more than 1,200 reads.
General public: The boat’s sheer presence at the marina created interest among passersby. Also, people who had read about the boat or seen it on Facebook took the opportunity to see it up close. As the boat was not available for tour, the Consulate General of Switzerland had prepared a brochure to educate the general public about Swiss solar projects, which was distributed together with a PlanetSolar flyer.
Insights – PlanetSolar Up Close: To get more in-depth coverage and features about the boat’s mission, the team scheduled one-on-one-meetings with print, radio and TV media after the official press event, including U.S. and foreign media. Especially TV and radio reporters, including Bloomberg TV, TechCrunch TV and WNBC The Takeaway, could take b-roll and sounds on and around the boat. Eight reporters from five publications were given the unique opportunity to take a Liberty Island Harbor cruise on the PlanetSolar before the boat departed to Boston. During the tour, they could interview the Captain and the research team on board, giving them unique footage for their reporting. Through a helicopter photo and video shoot, participants also obtained aerial pictures for their reporting following the tour.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar was greeted with fanfare and excitement by New Yorkers at the marina. Al Jazeera and NBC News covered the boat’s arrival. AFP pictures of PlanetSolar approaching New York with the Swiss flag on top of the boat were published in slideshows by newspapers around the world, including The Economic Times (India), The Hindu (India), The Guardian UK, Los Tiempos (Bolivia), The Wall Street Journal (US), Metro NYC (US), Arab World, and The Local (Switzerland). 40% of the articles published included a AFP picture; 28% of the articles included AFP content.
More than 44 reporters attended the media event and visited the boat for interviews. News coverage appeared in more than 88 publications worldwide, including The New York Times, National Geographic, Bloomberg TV, Huffington Post UK, International Business Times, The Boston Globe, WNYC, CleanTechnica, Mother Jones, Sustainable Mobility, Weather Channel, Huffington Post, Inhabitat, and Phys.Org; 53% of the coverage appeared in foreign media, i.e. NZZ, RTS, Le Temps, Die Welt (Germany), Le Figaro (France) and La Presse (Canada).
A media content analysis for the key message penetration showed that 73% of the coverage mentioned Switzerland; 88% of coverage had images of PlanetSolar, 60% of which visibly showed the Swiss flag; 23% had mention of the Swiss Consulate; 69% mentioned the University of Geneva.
The boat’s stay in New York received global attention on social outlets. Stories by reporters with large a social media following, i.e. Inhabitat and Verge, received numerous re-tweets. Media mentions led to an increase of about 7% in Twitter followers and Facebook likes.
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