MSNBC was the most popular cable news network among African-Americans, but it wasn’t going to rest on its laurels. Instead it decided to actively expand its dominance in that audience sector by tapping into the power of hope and the possibility of change—two major points of engagement for this market.
MSNBC and agency MKTG homed in on the southern part of the country, targeting four locations or events that traditionally attracted African-Americans: Texas State University, Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Springfest, Taste of Charlotte, and the Essence Festival. At each locale MSNBC set up a Growing Hope Community Garden. Visitors entered via a branded greenhouse to enroll in the program at msnbc.com via a custom app. They were then invited to digitally submit their hopes regarding community-relevant issues such as education, equality, and the economy. These were immediately printed out, and participants could sit at a workbench and attach the paper to an “issue petal” that they then fastened to a stake and planted outside in the garden among the Hope Tree that also served as a logo for the initiative.
While at the event, participants could meet MSNBC anchors, watch the live broadcast from the set, and pick up freebies. Sessions about current events and forums with guests such as Rev. Al Sharpton rounded out the program. Visitors could even bring home a free Arbor Day Foundation sapling to plant as their own “hope tree.” Videos shot at the events, in which visitors spoke of their hopes and efforts to effect change, were subsequently posted on msnbc.com and nbc.com.
Nearly 15,000 visitors enrolled in the promotion and became members of msnbc.com, enabling the network to continue to communicate with them after the event. The campaign also engaged more than 1 million people via social media and delivered more than 61 million media impressions.