Opening the New San Diego Central Library

Challenge:

With the old library dating back to 1954, and built to serve a population half its current size, San Diegans were eager to experience the newly constructed, high-tech facility. With much anticipation surrounding the Central Library’s opening events, NST had clear objectives from its client, the San Diego Public Library Foundation (SDPLF): 1) Drive attendees to the Celebration and Sneak Peek event and to the library’s first day of business; 2) Educate the public on potential capacity and parking restrictions at opening festivities; 3) Secure media coverage of the library’s opening with strong name recognition of high profile donors who contributed seven- or eight-figure gifts to the SDPLF capital campaign.

Working closely with the City of San Diego Public Library System, the Central Library opening event plan, based on conversations with relevant stakeholders and trend research that enhanced messaging, was developed around three key audience sectors and was tiered to build momentum. NST drove development of the public relations plan and took the lead on all communication efforts. Key audiences were the San Diego media to create advocates of the project in order to serve as a conduit of information and generate public interest; all 3,000 private donors to the SDPLF’s capital campaign, with special recognition for the 18 individuals and eight corporations who had named library areas; and residents of San Diego County as the new Central Library would be a public resource available to all.

The three-tired strategy was timed to provide the public with multiple touch points about how to best experience the facility. Events were scheduled to spread out attendance opportunities to mitigate overcrowding and create positive experiences. The private media tour day was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 (a middle-of-the-week, traditionally slow media day), followed three days later by the public Celebration and Sneak Peek street festival and dedication event on Saturday, Sept. 28, and concluded two days later with Central Library’s first official day of business on Monday, Sept. 30. This blend of media relations and community outreach proved to be a winning combination.

Results:

43 broadcast television hits within two days of the official sneak peek media day

Standalone section within U-T San Diego, San Diego’s major daily newspaper, to tell the extended story of the San Diego Central Library including a detailed floor-by-floor map and project highlights, which could be removed from the paper and used as a guide on opening day

Approximately 12,000 people attended the San Diego Central Library Celebration and Sneak Peek with 7,000 touring first floor areas

Estimated 8,000 individuals used Central Library on its first official day of business, without any negative overcrowding or transportation issues to report

More than 161 million estimated U.S. media impressions secured in print, broadcast and online media outlets