The US Agency for International Development created the U.S. Global Development Lab to find and scale promising new ideas to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, from healthcare to agriculture to education. Often these promising ideas from around the globe are underfunded as investors tend to be more risk averse in developing countries. The Lab set out identify, test and finance such ideas in a way that resembled more of a venture capitalism model than traditional government funding. The strategy hinged on helping these innovators secure early stage investment from USAID in order to leverage private investment and bring their ideas to scale.
In addition to capital infusions, USAID offered a suite of technical services essential to growth, including strategic communications and media relations provided by Melwood Global. The Lab tasked Melwood Global with crafting and executing highly targeted strategic communications plans for dozens of innovators across dozens of countries, reaching key audiences that would help them scale their businesses.
As a firm founded by former journalists and international development professionals, Melwood Global was extremely well suited for this type of work. Melwood worked with the Lab to develop a plan that focused on the innovator stories that had the potential to move and inspire new audiences. International development stories so often remain on the outskirts of mainstream media, relegated to relevant trade and insider industry publications. In order to draw this fascinating but under-reported topic out of the shadows, Melwood began by conducting interviews with innovators to extract the best story ideas and angles, be they about personal success, cutting edge technological innovations or relevant to a current news hook playing in the media. Melwood ran every possible pitch through its rigorous “newsroom” approach in which colleagues present their story ideas to team members to identify the strongest angles. Once approved, the team pitched media contacts across the globe, from major US broadcast outlets to niche science publications to in-country media developing markets from Asia to Africa.
Melwood secured over 200 separate placements in strategic American and international outlets such as National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International, BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Guardian, Fast Company, Wired, CNBC, Forbes Woman Africa, Quartz Africa, Voice of America, Al Jazeera America, and more. These placements yielded over 1.3 billion in circulation with over 280,000 shares as measured publicly by these outlets. Coverage attracted millions of dollars worth of investment, an exponential return on the cost of strategic communications through Melwood. In one case in particular, a media story secured by Melwood about an innovator attracted the attention of a private funder, who then made a Series A investment worth over $3 million.