Daniel and Mandy Watson, co-founders of The Restoration House, were nominated and selected as finalists for ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In preparation for the announcement of the winner, Carol Reeve (as board member and chairperson of the TRH Marketing committee) led a team including the Watsons, other staff, and volunteers through the development of objectives and a response plan in the event the Watsons were selected as the winners.
At the request of the Watson family, the focus of any attracted press would be to educate the public on the plight of low-income single-mother families and the services of The Restoration House. The Watsons felt strongly that we not use the occasion as a fundraising opportunity; instead, they wanted the focus of the message to be on education, then on gratitude for the community support.
The plan included official statements from the Watson family and the TRH board, modifications to the website scheduled to launch two hours after the public announcement (including new content and expanded bandwidth to account for a likely increase in traffic), the refining of a press list, the development of two print pieces (a brochure and a thank-you card from the Watson family for construction volunteers), crisis communications procedures to follow in the absence of the Executive Director, a social media execution plan, media messaging pointsinterview candidates (mothers in the program, mentors, staff, and board members), and other key elements.
On the morning of the “door knock,” the Watsons were cut off from communicating with anyone. A social media post from a neighbor alerted us to the news, which triggered the immediate implementation of the plan. The card and brochure were printed; the new web content was launched; statements were released to the press; and board members were coordinated to be on the site of the build to answer questions from the press.
Result 1 (Objective: Education and Awareness of TRH)
Within only a few hours of the “door knock,” multiple interviews had taken place with the press which would continue throughout the course of the build. Heavy media exposure was provided by all three local news networks, two of which had reporters and cameras on-site almost 24/7 for a week, with countless interviews. Local newspapers provided continuous coverage in print and on-line. National online and print publications also covered the build, the Watsons, and The Restoration House. The TRH website received an estimated 2 million hits during the 10-day build.
Result 2 (Objective: Land for The Village)
Around Day 4 of the build, the board, under the counsel of Girl on the Roof, made the decision to publicly announce the intentions of The Restoration House to build The Village (which was well along in its planning). The Village is a transitional housing development for low-income single-mother families which will expand the capacity of the organization’s programming from 5 families to 24. The primary objective of that announcement was to identify a location to build The Village, a process that had been underway but fruitless for nearly two years.
With the help of the media coverage and the hospitality of the ABC crew, sponsors, and TRH board, the critical piece of property that the organization had hoped for became available at below-market value. Today The Village is under construction, with Phase 1 due to be complete in the spring of 2015.
Result 3 (Objective: Express Gratitude)
Approximately 4500 volunteers participated in the Extreme Makeover build that resulted in a new home for the Watson family and an adjacent duplex for two TRH families. After the build was complete and the crew had wrapped, Girl on the Roof led the planning efforts (including the design of signage, keepsake thank-you cards, a photo slideshow of the build, etc.) for two events to which volunteers were invited to meet the Watsons, share their stories, learn more about TRH, and experience community with other volunteers. The events had tremendous turnout, and volunteers expressed their gratitude for being able to participate.