For its debut, Experience Music Project (EMP), a new interactive American popular music museum in Seattle, wanted to generate international awareness of their opening and mission. Edelman Worldwide worked alongside the marketing team at EMP to set the stage and ensure media coverage in national and international markets. Pre-opening work began in September 1999 and continued through the Grand Opening in June 2000.  Edelman assembled an international team lead by the Seattle office and including New York, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Australia.  


EMP was created by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Patton, and designed by world-renowned architect Frank O. Gehry. The project grew from a Jimi Hendrix gallery into a 140,000-square-foot interactive museum dedicated to exploring creativity and innovation. Boasting a collection of more than 80,000 artifacts and seven galleries, EMP also includes an interactive gallery where guests can learn to play instruments, even if they have never before touched a guitar, keyboard, etc.


  • Lack of awareness outside of Seattle, particularly with regard to the technology and interactivity
  • Non existent knowledge of the artistic mission—perception that it would be another hall of fame
  • Strong misconception among those familiar with the project that it was a shrine to Jimi Hendrix
  • Lack of understanding that EMP would become a self-sufficient 501(c) 3 organization
  • Misconceptions and negative opinions of the building design
  • Co-founders availability was limited due to other business endeavors


To understand the level of awareness, Edelman conducted a phone survey of top tier media targets. Analysis of the research proved that the few journalists who were familiar with the project believed it to be a Jimi Hendrix museum and were unaware of the interactivity and technological aspects of the museum.  Additionally, there was a lack of understanding of how EMP would differ from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The Seattle media also had strong, and sometimes negative opinions regarding the building design.


  • Build brand awareness for EMP as a destination for a unique and extraordinary music experience
  • Foster understanding and shape positive perception of all aspects of EMP—programs, exhibits, interactivity, new technology, architecture
  • Differentiate EMP from other art/music/history organizations
  • Generate sensational international coverage of Grand Opening festivities
  • Drive pre-opening EMP memberships above10,000
  • Drive traffic to


  • Develop a multi-faceted international media relations program with heavy U.S. emphasis; coverage to begin in early 2000, culminating with the grand opening festivities
  • Position EMP as a unique, technologically-forward experience celebrating creativity and innovation in American popular music
  • Differentiate from the hall of fame concept by underscoring EMP’s emphasis on current and future music 
  • Reinforce EMP’s non-profit status and educational mission 
  • Extend and strengthen reach via the World Wide Web at
  • Maximize celebrity-heavy Grand Opening festivities 
  • Utilize co-founders for select few interviews and present them together as a team



  • Built public relations programs highlighting individual areas (Artist’s Journey, Sound Lab, design and construction) while explaining how each fit into the larger mission of exploring creativity and innovation
  • Created a News Bureau for local, national and international markets
  • Kept media attention focused with regularly scheduled announcements on the project status; reinforced key messages—creativity and innovation; membership; Website address
  • Wrote and distributed press kits, trained spokespeople, produced multiple b-roll and VNR packages
  • Created opportunities for local and out-of-town journalists to conduct interviews, site tours and hands-on artifact/exhibit/tech presentations while the museum was under construction
  • Facilitated one-on-one meetings with key media and opinion leaders at top tier outlets in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle
  • Aggressively targeted global media and proactively mined placement opportunities
  • Tracked and analyzed coverage, made adjustments as necessary
  • Included Website on all press materials with a call to action to seek additional information online


As part of the larger marketing plan, the public relations efforts focused on generating media coverage carrying the key messages of the museum.  Target media lists were created in the following areas:

  • Top 50 daily papers (technology, features, music and architecture writers)
  • Architecture
  • Men’s/women’s consumer
  • Entertainment/music
  • Travel/tourism
  • International (focused on Seattle’s top four tourism markets, UK, Germany, Japan and Australia)
  • Local Seattle-area and Washington state print and broadcast

Grand Opening

  • Managed media outreach and credentialing for all weekend activities
  • More than 500 local, national and international media attended
  • Provided on-site media management at all grand opening events and staffed an event press room
  • Planned and facilitated press previews and events in the week prior to grand opening that leveraged excitement and provided manageable situations to tour media and reinforce key messages
  • Produced and distributed EPK and VNRs on national satellite feeds
  • Booked interviews with national morning TV news programs
  • Facilitated media interviews with artists performing at Grand Opening including Filter, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, the Eurythmics, Beck, No Doubt, Alanis Morrisette


Over 1 billion media impressions beginning in April and continuing post opening

All feature coverage included primary key message of inspiring creativity and innovation

Majority of feature stories included information on various aspects of the museum including technology, Artist’s Journey, Sound Lab and referenced the museum’s nonprofit status

References to the “Jimi Hendrix” museum were seen in less than 10 percent of the coverage, unless noted as the original concept, which was accurate

Print and broadcast coverage in every major U.S. city, as well as national and international outlets, including: NY Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Age (Australia), Frankfurter Rundenschau (Germany), Time, Newsweek, People, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, In Style, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, Town and Country, British Airways Magazine, Hemispheres, Rolling Stone, Today Show, CBS Morning Show, E! News Daily, CNN, MSNBC, ZDTV, MTV, VH1, German TV, Austrian TV, Fashion Television and Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn

Monitored Membership Hotline calls—press announcements resulted in significant increases up to 45 percent

Grand opening memberships at EMP exceeded 15,000, well above the targeted 10,000
Monitored daily Web traffic—consistently spiked following pre-opening announcements; more than doubling at one point