Not Just Another Groundbreaking

Chris Floore (LinkedIn and Twitter) serves as Assistant to the County Manager for the consolidated Macon-Bibb County local government.

After so many years of working in public relations and communications, the events you put on to earn media coverage and celebrate the people that helped make a project happen…begin to become a bit rote. There’s only so many ways to throw a shovel of dirt or cut a ribbon, right?

It’s easy to get a little bored with them and start to just dial in the run of shows and press releases. Someone is an MC to welcome and make introductions. Everyone involved has to be offered the chance to speak. There’s a set of shovels in a line of dirt or a ribbon and obnoxiously large (and probably branded) scissors. Podium, microphone, speakers, questions, pats on the back…smiles. All the ingredients essentially remain the same.

Imagine what it’s like for the reporters covering these things. It’s every new business opening. It’s every government looking for a soundbite or “positive spin.” It’s every nonprofit that can use coverage as part of funding requests. The media has covered it all and from many different angles.

However, if you’re in this field and are bored with a seemingly endless string of the same event over and over, remember that it’s not about you. Remember that the people you’re putting them on for are not bored. That’s probably one of their big events of the year, and it’s a public recognition of what they did. They earned the cameras and the podium and that moment to say, “We did this, together.”

It’s up to you to find new ways to personalize the events so it’s special for the group and provides a more unique angle for the media. Give them the time and effort they deserve.

This past week, Macon-Bibb’s Office of Public Affairs hosted four separate events over three days, from concept to planning to logistics to communication…the whole package on each one. It would have been easy to dial each of them in because we knew the formula and could have plowed through to get to the other side of this gauntlet. Instead, we took a purposeful look at them to find something that would make it stand out…something that would make it different than the one we had just completed. Here are two of those four.

Restaurant Grand Opening

Right now, it’s not a long shot for new restaurants or businesses to our Downtown area. (That wasn’t the case a decade ago.) So when a new restaurant opened in the east part of our county (where new restaurants don’t open regularly), we jumped on the opportunity to make it a big deal. But for more reasons than just it was opening where others hadn’t. We had to make sure people saw it was a big story on several levels.

Francar’s Buffalo Wings was already a successful restaurant and we were announcing that it:

  1. Was opening at our golf course, and our golfers had long asked for a quality restaurant there;
  2. Was an expansion of a current successful business, and on its 23rd anniversary;
  3. Was made possible with the use of funds set aside for facility improvements, which we did by getting the advice of the restaurant owner; and
  4. Was part of a much larger improvement project at the course.

So we held it outside with the restaurant as the backdrop and the golf course in the other direction, strung up the ribbon between two golf carts, and offered a wing buffet. We then gave the press and visitors rides around the course to show them the other improvements that had been made.

Instead of just smiling and cutting a ribbon, we tried to show why this event was so important to so many people: the golfers getting what they asked for, a small business owner having a chance to expand, a neighborhood getting a quality restaurant, the departments that did the work, and the taxpayers seeing how funds are being well used.

Oh…and people getting free food and rides on a golf cart on a beautiful day.

Turning on Fountains

Macon-Bibb and several groups have spent the past year or more repairing and upgrading fountains, and even building new ones, in our Downtown area. While fountains can be expensive to run and maintain, people love having them in their parks and other urban areas, and there was a huge push to get them all working. (Several had not run properly in years.)

We wanted, after all the work that had gone into them, to draw attention to the fact that they were back on, had extra features, and some had been lighted. We could have just turned them on with a flip of the switch and let people notice them, but then people would not know exactly how special that flowing water actually was. But having an event for each of the fountains being turned on would not have garnered media coverage for each.

So we decided to turn them on at the same time on the same evening and make it a city-wide celebration. Each fountain was special on its own, but together, it painted a much larger picture about a community’s vision and effort. Different groups attached to each of the fountains (foundations that funded repairs, organizations that helped with planning, neighborhood groups that volunteered time, etc.) were invited to bring people out to each and say a few words before the switched was flipped.

Nine different fountains came on that evening, and we had media coverage from each of the outlets about the event. The social media response has been great as people have celebrated having them running again, rather than being silent pools of water clogged with leaves and other debris.

And we found a way to turn something mundane — the flipping of a switch — into a city-wide event that celebrated individual accomplishments and showcasing how that work fit into a much larger picture of a revitalizing Downtown.

Originally published at on March 21, 2016.

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