How an Untold Story From WWII Became Front-page News

Posted by Michael Gallagher on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 @ 09:36 AM

Susan Davis International of Washington, D.C., USA, won a Stevie Award for Communications Campaign of the Year in the PR awards categories of the 2010 Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Here we look at how the communications firm brought widespread recognition to the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II.

Congressional Gold Medal

WASP RecognizedThe unsung heroines of World War II, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), were finally honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in a March 10, 2010 ceremony at the United States Capitol. The WASP—1,102 trailblazing civilian female pilots—were the first women to fly military aircraft. They were not granted military status until 1977, and today fewer than 300 survive.

Susan Davis International (SDI) worked on behalf of the Women In Military Service for America Memorial Foundation to tell the long-forgotten story of the WASP, their service, and their honor. The firm gained the WASP widespread international, national, and local media attention with a combined national and grassroots media strategy.

Media Campaign

To increase awareness of the WASP, SDI designed a media campaign to communicate the unique stories of each WASP as well as the broader story of their collective service. To create additional opportunities for the WASP and media to interact, SDI recommended, developed, executed, and managed two events including a Wreath Laying and Remembrance Ceremony and a Military Salute Reception on March 9, 2010.

Personal Stories

SDI researched personal WASP stories to build a comprehensive media
strategy for coverage in advance of, and during, the celebratory activities. SDI’s initial press release announced events the Foundation would host to honor
the WASP. Preview articles were secured in national and regional outlets
including U.S. News & World Report and the Los Angeles Times.

Grass Roots Strategy

In advance of the ceremony in Washington, D.C., SDI developed state-specific press releases for the ten states with the highest number of surviving WASP, which they strategically distributed to print, online, and broadcast media.

Media Interviews

As the sole connecting resource between the WASP and the media, SDI managed and coordinated hundreds of phone and in-person interviews in hometowns and in Washington, D.C. SDI also pitched and secured media interviews for Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, president of the Women in Military Service For America Foundation, and modern day aviator Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, who both contributed to the WASP story.

During the celebratory events, SDI worked closely with WASP and their military escorts to fulfill media requests. Immediately following the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, SDI worked with NBC and ABC pool cameras to facilitate on-camera interviews requested by affiliates around the country, most of which had been generated through SDI’s hometown outreach.

SDI also matched specific WASP with print journalists. The firm had interested ABC World News in following WASP Bernice “Bea” Haydu on her journey to Washington and connected the ABC pool camera with her for a conclusion to the story.

The Story is Finally Told

SDI’s strategy produced more than 925 print articles, 1,200 online articles, and
68 stories on national radio and television. Local radio and television affiliates aired more than 1,170 stories across the nation. More than half of earned media coverage told the individual stories of the WASP, with 174 of those stories on front pages from Alaska to Maine.

SDI’s efforts produced more than 200 million media impressions, including a CNN live interview in the Capitol Visitors Center the morning of the ceremony. The WASP story was told on PBS News Hour, CBS Evening News, CNN, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, and NPR.  It also earned front-page coverage in such publications as the Washington Post, Contra Costa Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Anchorage Daily News, and Denver Post.

The WASP story resonated in more than 180 markets across the nation, ensuring Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II their long-delayed and much-deserved recognition.

About Susan Davis:

Susan A. Davis, Chairman and Founder of Susan Davis International, is an internationally renowned communications strategist. For more than two decades, she has created and managed innovative, award-winning media and public affairs campaigns for domestic and international industry leaders, governments in the U.S. and abroad, non-profits, and NGOs. Ms. Davis is widely known for her expertise in strategic positioning, alliance and relationship building, government relations, and crisis communications. She has provided counsel to government and industry leaders throughout the United States, Europe, and Central America, and continues to counsel key public figures worldwide.

About Susan Davis International

Susan Davis International (SDI) is a full-service, woman owned/operated boutique public affairs/strategic communications firm with a 25-year history of producing award-winning campaigns and events. SDI, with more than 68 agency partners worldwide, services clients including multinationals, the U.S. and foreign governments, federal agencies, non-profit organizations, NGOs, and trade associations.  For more information go to

Topics: business awards, stevie awards, women awards, women in business awards, susan davis, world war II