Southern Illinois Experiences

Total Solar Eclipse

by Julie Sur & Marla Cichowski

On August 21, 2017, nearly 200,000 people traveled to Southern Illinois to experience total darkness in the middle of the day. It was the first solar eclipse in nearly 40 years, and NASA identified the Carbondale area and the village of Makanda as the best place to see it!

The Moon

Darkness In The Middle Of The Day

On August 21, 2017, nearly 200,000 people traveled to Southern Illinois to experience total darkness in the middle of the day. It was the first solar eclipse in nearly 40 years, and NASA identified the Carbondale area and the village of Makanda as the best place to see it!

Solar Eclipse

Media Strategy: Shining A Light On Illinois Made

We knew there’d be a lot of national media attention focused on such a rare event. So to capitalize on this and maximize media opportunities, our PR team developed a comprehensive, proactive solar eclipse media strategy.

Our team took it as an opportunity to encourage visitors to experience the best local flavors and hidden gems throughout the area. We developed a series of Solar Eclipse Illinois Made trip ideas, featuring Illinois Made wineries, craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and other artisans located within a two-hour drive of the eclipse ground zero.

We took these, and the many solar eclipse events happening throughout Southern Illinois, and packaged it in a press release for national, regional, and local media outlets. Three weeks before the eclipse, we got it out there under their noses.

Eclipse Pitching

But we wanted to make sure the outlets really heard what was going on, and really understood that Southern Illinois was the best place to experience the eclipse’s greatest duration.

So another element of our strategy involved proactive and targeted media pitching. Prior to the eclipse, we pitched our client, Illinois Office of Tourism director Cory Jobe for live television and radio interviews with Chicago, regional, and national media outlets.

It was a success. We secured more than 30 interviews, including national cable news network Fox Business, St. Louis Public Radio, KMOX Newsradio, WGN Radio, Quad Cities talk show Paula Sands Live, Fox 32 Good Day Chicago, and local TV affiliates in Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan.

Eclipse Mania: Carbondale or Bust

Eclipse Day was almost here. We traveled five hours to Carbondale, for an event at Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Football Stadium. NASA was hosting a spectacular event for a sell-out crowd of 15,000, many of whom were coming from all corners of the country for the unmissable experience.

Eclipse morning. Cory appeared live on Fox Business, talking to a nationwide audience about the economic impact from solar eclipse tourism. Media interviews continued on throughout the day with local and regional media outlets, right up until just minutes before the eclipse started. Backing these up, our social media team on the ground promoted the experience all-day long on our social channels, including Facebook Live coverage.

And then it happened.

And then it had happened.

Following the eclipse we distributed a media alert with video highlights from the event, and soundbites with Cory, and followed and tracked the coverage.

Amazing Moments

There is nothing quite like watching a solar eclipse, surrounded by 15,000 spectators (not to mention the record summer heat!). We met people from all over the Midwest, Canada, and the world who all wanted to experience the eclipse there in Southern Illinois and Carbondale. It was a thrill to see them come, and a thrill to see the area take center stage and the national spotlight.

Every national network was present there at Southern Illinois University. CBS News hosted its special live coverage from the campus. Hotels were sold out for miles, and traffic heading from Southern Illinois back to Chicago after the eclipse was bumper-to-bumper the entire way (yikes!).

The pure excitement for this phenomenon united people from all walks of life, who will always remember experiencing the solar eclipse in Southern Illinois. And maybe they’ll remember to come back and experience it again soon—the next total solar eclipse will cross this path again in April 2024.

people reached by broadcast interviews

40 Million

direct pitching earned

80 unique media stories

media value of broadcast interviews


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