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In his BlogWell Los Angeles presentation, Raytheon's Managing Editor, Digital Content, Chris Hawley, explains how they built a news operation to cover the Farnborough Airshow in real time.

He goes into detail about the challenges, the strategy, and the lessons learned from using social media to cover the event publicly.

Below is live coverage of this session by Melonie Gallegos:

— The air shows in Farnborough, UK and Paris (alternating years) are the most important trade shows of the aerospace and defencse industry. The assignment: Create a Farnborough Air Show microsite offering near real-time features, news, videos, and photos.

— Challenges included secrecy, PR approvals, and controversy. Their strategy:

-They started planning two months in advance.
-Most of the content was prepared before the show and topped off with breaking quotes and color as soon as approvals were secured.
-On-site PR folks secured approvals and a dedicated reporter.
-They clearly communicated the need for speed and journalistic standards.
-They wanted authenticity and candid photos.

— Microsite design philosophy: Clean design with a multi-media focus.

— Amplified the event with a tweetup which was out of the comfort zone for everyone. There can be a lot of controversy surrounding the topics and people involved, e.g. military, government officials. They were able to get it approved by showing it was a successful approach in the past.

— In 2012 they achieved more impact with less content (about half the content as 2011). A 53% increase of people staying on the site, reading at least two pages. They received more International visitors than previous years.

Lessons learned:

-Get all the stories written ahead of time, top off with fresh quotes as necessary
-Quality over quantity
-One-company stories and big-picture context
-Make sure photographers understand journalistic focus and don’t over-program them with assignments
-Plan for dumping photos and video
-Give your audience what they want


Q: How did you manage to reign in all of the stakeholders? For example, six divisions and one story.

A: Everyone has their project and wants their story to be the lead. They had a weekly meeting and stayed laser focused on the context and big picture. Once they saw the graph of stories to be produced they got it. They’ve been wary of microsites. This year they decided to do three stories: 1. tools for tighter quarters – about weapons, 2. tools for the nimbler army – about communications, 3. between victory and deadly mistakes – everything boils down to sensors to protect civilians these days. Choose a lead writer and allow them to find out everything they can and write it.

Q: How did you come up with ideas and brainstorm?

A: We asked each person what they were bringing to the show and tried to find common threads. They had stuff fall in their lap with real stories from real people on the front lines. They found opportunities to interview these people and make it a lead story. The challenge was getting them vetted and approved in time.

Q: Global content creation and targeting…

A: They tried to target trade journalists… that’s the old way… the new way is to take the story to constituents, families, aviation enthusiasts. The theory is: If I can reach one more person with my story. Defense doesn’t typically go after those types of people. Everything was in English. One story had an International focus and they did a wrap up.

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