A Veteran’s Last Flight Brightens a Labor Day News Cycle
For many professional communicators, using some kind of angle to tie your message to an upcoming holiday probably comes almost as easily as falling off a bar stool.
Sometimes, however, the story is so timeless that it will transcend the routine patter that often guides holiday-related earned media pitches.
A Case in Point
One of our national clients, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, has created a wonderful patient-focused program called “Gift of a Day.” The premise is fairly simple. A local social worker or volunteer coordinator asks a hospice patient what their idea of a perfect day would look like. Then they try to make it happen.
Late last summer, over Labor Day weekend, Crossroads staff working out of the eastern Kansas regional office (based in Lenexa), arranged for a very special Gift of a Day for a patient, a military veteran who had served his country through three wars.
The gift involved a 91-year-old local Crossroads patient from Ottawa, KS, who had served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II (where he also served on the USS Beatty), then another 23 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserves amidst the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Honoring a Beloved Veteran
His love of airplanes and flying had never ebbed. His last request – to take to the air one more time and have the chance to fly over Kansas’ colorful scenery and gaze down upon his beloved home state – would be a dream come true.
The staff at Crossroads was determined to make it happen. To help make it a reality, they reached out to the Commemorative Air Force, Heart of America Wing, which is based at the nearby New Center Airport of Olathe, KS (the old Olathe Naval Air Station).
It was a touching moment when the hospice patient was introduced to his special chariot for the day – an authentic vintage biplane, a PT-13 Kaydet, an iconic American training aircraft from World War II. In fact, it brought tears to his eyes.
But how would it play for the media? Remember, it was Labor Day weekend. Most stations were down to skeleton crews. And the overriding theme for the weekend would naturally be demonstrations, parades and other tributes to the American labor movement.
Family, Friends and Media
Not to worry. Even in suburban Kansas City, in the midst of rural fields about an hour away from local TV stations, the story of a final tribute to a proud veteran who had served his country through three wars was too alluring to resist.
The hospice patient’s daughter and family friends surrounded him as he was strapped into his seat. A local Fox4KC news crew captured the fun as the patient bantered with the pilot and talked about his memories serving in the Navy and Air Force before taking off into the blue Kansas skies.
The story and the visuals proved irresistible. Not only did the story make the local Kansas City evening news cast, it soon went national, and was picked up by Fox News national programming as well as CNN, Accu-Weather and a host of other news sites across the nation.
All told, this little “feel good” story out of suburban Kansas City was picked up by more than 70 media outlets across the U.S.and earned more than 63.8 million individual impressions.
Just because you’re timing happens to be attuned to a specific holiday, doesn’t mean you should bend over backwards to try to make some obscure connection. People enjoy stories that take them back to happier times.
Stories that honor veterans and patriotic service are almost always sure-fire ways for winning hearts, minds, and earned media.
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