Thinking “Outside” the box to leverage RVA’s recent PR success

A belated congrats to everyone who contributed to the recent Outside Magazine story that declared Richmond as the Best River Town in America.

This story has been literally years in the making and is tied into a broader strategy first embraced by groups like the Sports Backers and Venture Richmond.  That strategy is to promote Richmond as a participatory sports town focusing on events like the Marathon and Riverrock and as a vibrant river community with events like the Folk Festival.

The story is great, but our collective job as region and its ambassadors is only half complete.

As PR pros we know that any big story like is great but only if as many people as possible are exposed to it.  As soon as we get a “big hit” for any client we first celebrate with them and then ask them specifically, “what can we all do to leverage the story to your target audience?”

Without arming your sales force or evangelists with the story, the job is half done.  That’s PR 101.

So as we all bask in the afterglow of this great cover story, I will ask the question “what are we doing to leverage the story to everyone we know?”

The collective community came through in a big way the last time the city was on center stage.  When VCU and the University of Richmond made the NCAA basketball “Sweet 16” and then VCU made the Final Four we had rallies, tweaked Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas, and greeted all the visiting media with a wave and a smile.

But remember that story came to us.  That media coverage while fantastic was sort of “baked” into the event.

This Outside opportunity is different.  Instead of the media coming to us, we need to push the story out to a much broader audience than the readership of the magazine.

How do we do that?  There are many ways but I have a suggestion that everyone with an email account can sign up for.

Just include the link to the article and a little explanation in your email signature.  We all do it for ourselves and our companies, why not do it to promote our region.

We have a great story, it has now been told in a spectacular way.  The pressure for us to tell it is off.  All we have to do now is spread the word.

Will you sign up?  I did.  Check the next email I send you.

#RVA Sweet 16 kudos

So of course I picked the worst two days in recent memory to be out of town on business (although the business partner and I did have plenty of bonding time listening to classic rock.  My rendition of “Carry On, My Wayward Son” was especially poignant).

Congrats go out to the folks at Venture Richmond including Jack Berry, Lisa Simms and Lucy Meade for seizing the day and quickly organizing the Turning Basin rally last night.  This is exactly what we needed and was the point of my Sunday night blog post.

Also a public tip of the hat to our good friend Greg Burton from ESPN 950, those cool t-Shirts handed out at the rally were his idea.  Rick Whiteman of Pixel-Works designed them, great stuff Rick.

This is a prime example of cool, smart people jumping on quickly and taking advantage of a one-in-a-generation event.

Congrats to all, and to all who helped them make it happen.

Oh and by the way, Dickie V, “Eat Crow, baby!”

#RVA, two teams. Our one shining moment.

So there I was about half way through the second half last night, with most of this blog post already written in my head and my wife’s uncle, a huge college basketball fan, sent me this email.

Jon, can Richmond handle two teams in the Sweet 16???   A lot of hype and PR for a small city?

Well, can we?

Given our lack of success in the professional sports arena, there will perhaps be no other time in modern history that the mainstream sports world will focus its eyes on Richmond, VA.

Usually, just one Cinderella in the Sweet 16 would make this glare close to unbearable, but two?

Elite Eight matchup?

This is our time Richmond, let’s make the most of it.

Let’s celebrate our diversity.  A diversity exemplified by the school themselves.  One, a small liberal arts school on one of the most beautiful small campuses in the country.  The other, a prime example of how a large state school can lead the redevelopment of a once-blighted downtown area.

Let’s celebrate our creativity.  Let’s use the media spotlight to promote our neighborhoods, our restaurants, our tourism attractions, our museums.

Let’s speak in one voice.  The welcoming voice of possibilities, the voice of our future with a nod to our past.

Let’s urge our politicians and leaders to be aggressive in seeking this spotlight and for once be on the same page.

Let’s for once agree.  Let’s root for each other (at least until the two schools meet in the Elite Eight),  and put aside out differences at least till next weekend.  It’s time for a moratorium on mean.

Yes, Uncle BK, it is a lot of PR hype for a small city.

This is our ultimate PR opportunity, it is Richmond’s true and rare “One Shining Moment.”

The eyes are on all of us, will we seize it?

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