Recently, five of us from Adfero Group flew to Madison, Wisconsin for the launch of StudyintheStates.dhs.gov—a new website from the Department of Homeland Security that provides information for international students on studying in the United States. This was a whirlwind project that soon gained the attention of the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, thus putting it on a whole new level visibility and setting off a series of events that brought us to our launch at the University of Wisconsin — Madison.
Along with delicious cheese curds, we took a lot of lessons home with us from this trip.
Strength in Numbers
Nine team members made the trip to Wisconsin, not including other team members working from D.C. or members of the Secretary’s staff. At first, some of our team questioned whether we needed this many people to travel. At one point, one of our extremely friendly cab drivers in Wisconsin remarked “It takes nine people just to launch a website?”
Well, it did.
Our team set up a “war room” in a campus building on Wednesday, where we remained until the Friday launch. From there, we worked as a team to draft press releases, design a presentation and other media related items. We obsessively polished content, scoured the site for problems, set up our social media presences, created a game-day plan, and did dry runs of the event. We worked with UW staff to meticulously set up all the technology that was needed to pull this off. Oh, and we ate more cheese curds.
Never Underestimate the Old Fashioned Way
We had very little time to plan for the event. The University of Wisconsin—Madison was extremely helpful but, due to sensitivities, we weren’t able to announce the Secretary’s speech until only a few days prior to the event.
We planned for a crowd of 300-400 people at the event, but with twenty minutes until go-time, a number of seats remained empty. Two of our team members took matters into their own hands and booked it to the student union, where students – who were unaware that the event was taking place – were milling around and studying. Who knows how they did it, but with five minutes to go, a flood of students entered the room and university staff had to bring in more chairs. This goes to show that the power of word-of-mouth and face-to-face interaction should not be forgotten!
Haters Gonna Hate
If it can go wrong, it will go wrong, and the Internet will let you know about your mistakes post-haste. Relatively speaking, our event and launch went off without a hitch. It was successful and exciting.
But immediately after the event, we shared a blog post recapping the launch, and somehow mistakenly linked back to our test site instead of the live site. Within a few hours, a popular blog was decrying our incompetence.
It was an easy fix to a small mistake. It would have been easy to get caught up in this one bit of bad press and negativity. But we choose to focus on the bulk of the responses that we got from social media and blogs —which was full-hearted praise. Remember to stay positive and take any criticism as constructive, using it to make you and your project better – even if it wasn’t intended that way.
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