Millisecond Publishing's Story
Proving How Great PR
Is More Valuable Than
This ePublishing enterprise owns the "Family Forest" and grows new "Hollywood" branches through the Power of Public Relations
by Clay Tanner II
Here's a tip: don't tell Bruce and Kristine Harrison that anything is impossible. They have proven that they can accomplish the difficult with ease and what seems to others to be impossible, really does happen. All it takes is time, unlimited desire and the brand-building power of a great public relations strategy.
During the past decade, the Harrison's conceived and created "the world's most interconnected family history resource." It has become an essential, uniquely useful tool for researching deep family histories. Today it is referred to as the Family Forest Project. Using a computer loaded with a CD ROM of its Leadership Edition, tens of millions of people alive today, can trace their lineage all the way back to biblical times - with all the published data sources precisely cited.
In each of the past 8 years they have released annual "Editions" which have been highly acclaimed by a number of professional genealogy product reviewers - including Richard Eastman. The Harrisons view their life's work as creating "the ultimate digital tour guide to the world's recorded history". They are delighted with the dual role of being the "tour conductors" - as well as the mapmakers charting known human migration.
The Family Forest is the perfect name for what they are doing - their work interconnects and expands hundreds of thousands of family trees, while adding snippets of factual information about the lives and major accomplishments of listed individuals. Scholarly footnotes refer history buffs and genealogists to hundreds of books, professional genealogy journals and other publications - nearly 500 at last count - for conducting follow-up research.
In 2003 their company, Millisecond Publishing Company, Inc., began electronically publishing two lines of eBooks based on their proprietary Family Forest database. Their "Ancestors of" line is self-descriptive and features extensive ancestral histories of well-known celebrities. Examples in this line include The Family Forest's Ancestor's of Walt Disney (this eBook details thousands of his ancestors going back 67 generations and fills 1,687 pages.) The Family Forest's Ancestors of Katharine Hepburn is even more impressive, going back 70 generations and yielding some truly amazing historical coincidences.* Both are available to download from their website for under $25. Millisecond also offers online downloading of the Family Forest's "Descendents of" series of eBooks covering hundreds of America's early settlers.
The Harrison's moved their research operation from the Maryland seashore to the Big Island of Hawaii over six years ago. The Kona coast provides the tranquil isolation conducive to the painstaking tasks of precision data entry. Hawaii also affords the year around convenience of being able to arrive within minutes at several of the world's best snorkeling beaches. Or, even closer, they may head out the door and walk after hours on one of Hawaii's most luxurious golf courses. This easy access to Hawaiian amenities has made a big difference, especially when the strain of their academic labor reaches the "time for a break" point. Their location strategy has no doubt helped them to work harder and longer over the years at the business of "growing the Family Forest". But, the key to success has not been their choice of a great work location, it springs directly from a highly effective, well thought out public relations strategy. It is so successful that they now get calls from White House speechwriters looking for information about presidential ancestors.
The ultimate success of the Harrison's unique publishing business was never a doubt in their minds, or in the minds of their friends and family who invested in their privately held company. They had to overcome the unusual entrepreneurs' dilemma of generating a positive cash flow, while pushing at the limits of computer technology. Their answer was to develop a long range public relations campaign strategy that would cost effectively establish and position their brand while pushing online sales. Meanwhile they kept their eye on larger, more difficult to penetrate targets - including Hollywood's motion picture industry.
It took a bit of trial and error to get a leg up on the learning curve, but the big breakthrough began in February of 2004. This was when they were first to announce to the world their finding that President Bush and Senator John F. Kerry were cousins. (Actually, at least 9th cousins.) Shortly after that press release was sent out, it was picked up by the AP, and some good things instantly began to happen. When the Drudge Report picked up AP story, the number of first time visitors to their website (www.familyforest.com) ballooned overnight, and their online sales shot right through the roof.
Within days David Paul Kuhn the gifted, chief political writer for CBS News.com picked up on their news release and in crafting his slant on the story, contacted someone Bruce Harrison's research showed to be a well-known cousin of both presidential contenders. That was when they knew their public relations strategy was really taking off. The person contacted by Kuhn and interviewed for his story, also happens to be one of Harrison's own distant cousins, as well someone with a similar entrepreneurial story to tell - and a skilled professional pr guy telling it(that's Bill Farley, ed.) This "cousin" is Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner. The story posted on the CBS News website cemented Millisecond Publishing as the leading media resource for deep genealogy research.
To see what an effective public relations campaign can do, visit the Family Forest website where links to recent online articles featuring their discoveries and product line can easily be found. For the convenience of the news media they have posted a page suggesting over twenty unique story lines they would love to help to tell. Making it easy for the media to get it right, is just one more element of Millisecond's winning pr strategy. Above: This computer-composed picture, featuring the likenesses of three famous 9th cousins, is how the CBS News graphic arts department wonderfully illustrates the feature story written by David Paul Kuhn. This story was the "tipping point" as far as positioning Millisecond Publishing as the media's leading authority for deep genealogy and family history data. The story posted on the CBS News website on March 4, 2004. Later in 2004, Bruce Harrison was contacted by the President's speechwriters looking for a special ancestral slant for important talks George W. Bush was to have during his most recent visit to Canada. This private request research came at a time when the Harrisons' were launching their proprietary "family connection service" - where, for a fee similar to what professional genealogists charge, they will digitally connect your family tree to the existing Family Forest database. This links your entire immediate family (as well as future generations) to the world's largest, fully-sourced and completely interconnected, family history resource. It begs the question, what better legacy can anyone provide? This highly personalized service was initially launched through an auction on Ebay and early takers got the deal of a lifetime. Today it runs $1500 for this enduring and unique, intergenerational linking service. However, that price is likely to triple by the end of this year. This is because the volume of requests now coming in from word of mouth being generated is putting an increasingly heavy demand on Harrison's precious time. That is valuable time diverted the ongoing effort to grow the Family Forest in directions that are already targeted. Meanwhile new Family Forest discoveries continue to be made - for example U.S. President elect Barack Obama is linked to presidents George Washington and Jimmy Carter. Will a motion picture perhaps depicting a historical event, one day include a module of the Family Forest on the DVD release? Yes, it will. That announcement could come at any time. Until then, the Harrison's continue "to grow" the Family Forest. For example, one of the well-known people to have their family tree incorporated into the upcoming Family Forest release is one of the world's wealthiest men, Microsoft's founder, Bill Gates. Gate's ancestry is extensive and fascinating. Bruce and Kristine Harrison have a very special interest in Gate's recent Family Forest addition - not just that Bruce and Bill are shown to be distant cousins. It's how the FamilyForest fills an important niche, and serves as a gateway, or portal to the past. It's been designed to harness technology that revolutionizes family history research. As Harrison puts it: "Today the Family Forest is a virgin system of digital links that can be uniquely utilized to perform amazing functions that are available nowhere else. One of these includes mapping out larger portions of the ancestral pathways of at least two billion people alive today - which can be seen no where else at any price." * Click here to read in his own words what Bruce Harrison discovered about Katharine Hepburn. (She was portraying one of her own distant great grandmothers in her Academy Award-winning performance in the original, 1967 version of "The Lion in Winter".)
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