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, 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?


Thoughts on social media for internal communications

So my good friend and client Lisa Van Riper from the University of Richmond asked me to give a talk to her strategic PR grad school class at VCU.  The topic?  The use of social media for internal communications.

While I have read and thought a great deal on this topic THP’s client are only beginning to scratch the surface in their use of social media tools for internal comm.  I am a big believer that the brand begins within an organization and that employees can be your best spokespeople and evangelists, so using social media tools to create this “community” is a logicial step.

 After doing some research on the topic I found that a couple of my Twitter friends, Amber Naslund of Radian6 and Justin Goldsborough of Fleishman-Hillard had presented recently on the topic.  Both of their presentations are available on Slideshare.  I am stea….I mean using them liberally in my presentation Saturday.  With permission of course.

After noodling it around in my brain and seeing some work that others have done here are some best practices.

– Blogs/videos:  Not always on the core business but on other topics they can all related to.

– Brainstorming:  Creating platforms or using existing intranet tools to get people from all over the organization to brainstorm ideas is a no brainer.

– Basic information/news:  Intranets and wikis to provide updated information about the company helping make sure all associates are on the same page

– Social networking sites:  Think Facebook or Twitter but only for employees to communicate to other employees to talk about things (or share picture or videos, etc.) related to their work.

– Recruiting/retention:  More Linkedin-ish, helping employees network within the organization to move up or to find out what internal positions are available.

– Online training:  Videos, presentations, live tutorials.

– Online events: Through Ustream or Skype or existing intranet everyone can see what the leadership is up to.

– The future: Mobile:  Texting, training videos, podcasts, all to keep execs and rank and file engaged.

All exciting, all useful.  Many big name companies like Best Buy, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dell, etc. are the one’s putting these tools to great use.  But there’s one thing that can hinder social media from becoming the norm in business.

Money.

All of these tools, especially if they are custom-made portals, will cost money to personalize and build out.  Sure there are platforms one can access for free like Yammer and Ning that can get you part of the way there but how can smaller companies take advantage of these approaches?

I’d love to hear you thoughts on how social media for internal communications can become available and affordable for all businesses, not just the big ones.  Thanks.

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