HIAS Launches Its New Web Site with a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Posted on Tue, Nov 03, 2009 at 17:10 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, launched a new Web site last week (www.hias.org) by using the gold standard of online Web site launch strategies – a virtual scavenger hunt. Run as a series of questions about HIAS on the agency’s Twitter site, @HIASimmigration, the hunt encouraged players to search for the answers on the new Web site. The end result was that all those who played became familiar with the Web site and with the breadth of HIAS activities around the world.

The Web site PRtini.com, described the HIAS launch as “an incredibly creative way not only to get people to the site, but to get them checking out multiple pages and actually reading the content. Very, very smart.”'

The newly revamped, redeveloped HIAS Web site will better serve the needs of HIAS’ broad and varied audiences, from the general public to clients, members, board and staff users. It is graphically rich and technically robust, in keeping with the agency’s vibrancy and dynamism. Highly interactive, it includes a variety of Web 2.0 features and applications, like interfaces with Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Digg, plus event and advocacy registration, and the ability to donate on line. In addition, the Web site hosts myStory, a unique Russian-English social media site, where the more than 400,000 clients that HIAS assisted leave the former Soviet Union can come together to share their immigration stories, by reconnecting with old friends and making new ones through a shared immigration experience. The Web site was designed and developed by Purple, Rock, Scissors of Orlando, FL.

The Web launch fell between two major stories about HIAS in traditional top-tier publications. Two days before the hunt, The New York Times published a story about Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, who gave a $1 million gift to HIAS to thank the agency for helping his family resettle in the United States 30 years ago. As a result, more than 1,000 New York Times online readers clicked through the HIAS hyperlink imbedded in the first sentence of the story to check out HIAS and its new Web site.

Several days after the hunt, The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article on the American Jewish community’s operation to rescue endangered Jews in Yemen, driving additional traffic to the Web site.

During the two-day Twitter hunt, online activity was extremely high – from bloggers, including Sergey Brin , visiting the site to links on Twitter, Facebook and DIGG. A story that appeared in the publication TechCrunch was alone retweeted 308 times.

According to Roberta Elliott, VP for Media & Communications at HIAS: “HIAS is the oldest refugee agency in the United States. Our current communications goals include being one of the oldest organizations with one of the most cutting edge technology approaches. Web 2.0 strategies have changed the paradigm of how we in the communications business get the word out about our non-profit. I think it’s safe to say that because of the opportunities presented by social media, more people learned of HIAS’ work this week than during any other single week in the organization’s 128-year-history. “

Prizes for the virtual scavenger hunt were HIAS-branded pokens, an electronic social business card gaining in popularity in the United States. The hunt was designed and run by Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy in Elgin, Illinois.