With a major observance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington happening just around the beltway in the nation’s capital, garnering media attention for the unveiling of a memorial to the foot soldiers of the 1963 March on Washington in Annapolis, MD, was no easy task. But with careful research and planning that included amassing a database of local participants in the original March, Image Power Inc., an Annapolis-based public relations firm, succeeded in capturing the attention of local, regional and national press.
Image Power’s efforts were honored by the Maryland Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-MD) at its Best in Maryland Gala on December 4. The firm received Best in Maryland Awards in both the categories of Public Service and Pro Bono Public Relations, as well as an award of excellence in Community Relations for its work to promote the first permanent tribute to the participants of the 1963 March, dedicated Aug. 28, 2013, in Annapolis.
The Maryland Chapter of PRSA presents the Best in Maryland Awards annually to public relations practitioners who, in the judgment of their peers, have successfully addressed a communications challenge with exemplary professional skill, creativity and resourcefulness.
Image Power’s PR campaign was conducted on behalf of the MLK Jr. Committee, an Annapolis-based non-profit organization founded in 1988. The March on Washington Foot Soldiers Memorial — a three-panel granite memorial with names of hundreds of March participants —honors the ordinary folks who brought international attention the civil rights struggle for African Americans.
Image Power President Marc Apter, APR, is one of those foot soldiers. Apter is a public relations professional with experience that encompasses leading campaigns for a number of national and local civil rights projects, including the 20th and 30th Anniversary Marches on Washington. He initiated the MLK Jr. Prayer Breakfast at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and operated a series of race relations study circles that won awards from the International Association of Business Communicators. He is currently a member of the Anne Arundel County Public Library Diversity Advisory Board.
“My father, David Apter, ran the PR for 1963 March, also on a pro bono basis,” Apter said. “It was an honor to work on this campaign to promote a memorial to him and so many others who risked the threat of personal harm to stand up for a cause in which they believed so strongly.”
Image Power’s current clients include the National Philharmonic, the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage and classical pianist Brian Ganz.
Apter was assisted in the promotion of the foot solider memorial by associate Laurie Hayes. Hayes serves as the director of public relations and marketing for Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee County in Bradenton, FL and is a member of the Tampa, FL chapter of PRSA. She also works as a communications consultant and graphic designer for Image Power.
Hayes is the former manager of public relations and marketing for the Anne Arundel County Public Library and has led communication projects with Energy Publishing, the National Blood Clot Alliance and the American Diabetes Association, among other clients.
“I am so very proud to have been associated with the dedication of the monument,” said Hayes. “Located in a prominent location in downtown Annapolis, it will serve as a reminder to residents and visitors alike of the ongoing struggle for civil rights for all Americans.”
Aggressive media outreach was the centerpiece of Image Power’s PR campaign. This entailed a series of press releases and follow-up with reporters and editors, as well as the compilation of a list of March participants and the coordination of interviews in which they shared their compelling human-interest stories. These foot soldiers included Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), the only surviving speaker at the March, whose endorsement of the project resulted in additional media coverage. The timing of the dedication was also critical to the success of the campaign. The memorial was unveiled in the morning so as not to conflict with coverage of the Washington, DC observance of the anniversary.
These and other efforts resulted in significant local, state and national press advance and day-of coverage of the unveiling of the memorial by radio, television, social media and print outlets.
Image Power also assisted with fundraising for the commission of the memorial, designed and placed advertisements in local media, hosted outreach events, developed a social media presence for the Committee and designed commemorative items such as tee shirts and bumper stickers that were used as fund-raising tools. In addition, Apter and Hayes served as on-site liaisons with the media during the dedication ceremony.
“While I am proud of the attention that our efforts focused on the memorial, I am even more gratified by our contribution to educating a new generation about the collective impact that these ordinary people had on African American and U.S. history,” Apter said.
“Having a memorial to foot soldiers goes with Dr. King’s theme that anybody can be great because anybody can serve,” said Carl Snowden, chairman of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, who attended the December ceremony.
“We are grateful for the role that Image Power played both in promoting both the memorial and that message with both their words and their actions,” Snowden added.