Firestone’s operations in Liberia were under attack. The worst Ebola outbreak in history had infected Liberia and the Firestone community of 80,000 people was at risk. But there was good news: on the Firestone property, the company runs its own hospital which has been on the front line treating those infected by the disease. The hospital has had success in treating dozens of survivors and the company has integrated several strategies to decrease the spread of Ebola to its employees, their families and others who live in the surrounding community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited Firestone’s efforts to combat Ebola as an example of what has worked to help curb the deadly outbreak.
We knew that in the midst of this epidemic, there was a positive story to tell. Our goal was to raise the profile of Firestone and its efforts and secure media coverage for the tire company that is doing much more than making tires in Liberia – it’s saving lives. An important aspect of the media relations for this client was social listening. We needed to keep a close eye on social media conversation about Firestone and its efforts to combat Ebola so as to inform our media outreach strategy.
As a first step, we set up monitoring software to track key words and phrases so we could keep a handle on relevant social media conversation. The news coverage and chatter that we picked up informed our media outreach strategy and allowed us to be nimble in making changes as necessary.
Many major media outlets had people on the ground in Liberia, but often it was difficult to contact them because internet and phone connections were unreliable. Instead of relying on traditional methods of media contact, we relied heavily on Twitter and Facebook to determine whether or not a reporter was in-country and exactly what they were covering so we could tailor outreach accordingly.
The results are clear – we were able to help Firestone stand out as a shining example of a company doing good and saving lives. We secured numerous features on what Firestone is doing to fight Ebola including a front page piece in The Wall Street Journal, a radio story and online story with NPR, a feature in Fortune magazine, and numerous others in large part to the fact that we had carefully tracked coverage of Ebola via social media.