Ten at the Top, a non-profit entity focused on fostering partnerships amongst ten counties known collectively as the “Upstate,” has become a key player in enhancing the economic vitality and quality of life in the region. One major method Ten at the Top fulfills its mission is through the Upstate Regional Summit. Held once every five years, the Upstate Regional Summit serves a dual purpose of highlighting accomplishments in the Upstate and discussing next steps for regional growth, while also providing a forum for community leaders to network and collaborate to improve the Upstate. In 2014, Ten at the Top held its second Upstate Regional Summit – called “Rechecking Our Reality” – and brought on Flourish to handle the promotional campaign and event management.
RESEARCH: As a second time event, Flourish knew the value in analyzing the inaugural event in its research phase for the 2014 summit. Flourish spent extensive time meeting with the 2009 Board of Directors and event committee to understand the nature of the 2009 summit. These conversations, making up the bulk of our primary research effort, unearthed three major issues our integrated marketing campaign had to address: 1.) The 2009 Summit was a private, invitation-only event, so the 2014 Summit campaign had to open the event to the public and increase participation; 2.) The campaign had to reach the right audiences across 10 unique counties; and 3.) The campaign had to make use of sponsorships in order to properly fund the event. To delve deeper into what the ‘right’ audience for the event would be, Flourish drew from its prior knowledge of business and community leader audience.
Our research led to the creation of the following goals:
PLANNING: In order to address the three issues the research process unearthed, Flourish put together an integrated communications plan that would position the event as rare opportunity to network with key leaders from across the Upstate while charting the course for the future of the Upstate. The plan sought to utilize media partnerships to help offset the cost of broadcasting this event across 10 counties. It would also implement a creative approach to gain sponsorship dollars from companies already inundated with asks.
The plan would target the Upstate’s business and community leaders, government officials, and those who have invested interest in the future of the Upstate. It relied heavily on media-driven content, social and interactive touch points, and personalized sponsorship reaches. The day-of event management and logistics was conceptualized by Flourish’s in-house events team with the help of Ten at the Top’s staff and Board members.
The event’s initial budget was $35,000.
EXECUTION: Flourish’s team implemented the integrated campaign from April to September, and completed the following items.
One issue we ran up against was the sheer volume of registrants. Initially, we planned for 500 participants, and had to increase the number to 800 two months out; to meet the almost-doubled capacity, we worked with the venue to revise the set up and increased our budget to $50,000.
EVALUATION: The Upstate Regional Summit, held September 16, 2014, was a tremendous success – receiving positive, post-event survey feedback from nearly all of the Summit attendees. The campaign achieved the following highlights:
Thanks to the campaign, the Summit was able to achieve its three main goals within the adjusted $50,000 budget.
The Cliffs is a collection of seven premier private, luxury residential mountain and lake clubs located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the western Carolinas, between three of the nation’s top award-winning areas for quality of life – Greenville, South Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and Clemson, South Carolina. Through one club membership, members have access to The Cliffs’ suite of amenities including seven clubs, six wellness centers, 50 restaurants, meeting and private event venues, seven championship golf courses including two in America’s Top 100 rankings marinas, beach club, cycling, water sports, wakeboarding, tennis complexes, equestrian center, hiking trails, sporting clays, trap and skeet shooting, wine clubs, boat and luxury home rentals, an organic farm and more than 4,000 year-round activities to create timeless experiences. Homes at The Cliffs range in price from $500,000 to $4 million+; homesites from $150,000.
SITUATION: With the change of ownership in December 2013, The Cliffs was poised to emerge from The Great Recession a better, stronger and more viable company. Many great things were happening at The Cliffs – from a marked increase in sales to a steady hiring of talent. The time was ripe to re-start a public and media relations program.
RESEARCH: Having worked as the Director of Corporate Communications at The Cliffs from 2002 to 2009, Jamie Prince, Flourish’s founder/principal, took time to “see what had changed” since the onset of The Great Recession. A series of interviews with the new leadership of The Cliffs, followed by site visits, and conversations with staff and members, gave way to a framework for telling The Cliffs’ stories through multiple channels – a truer reflection of the diversity of news worthy happenings going on within their seven communities. It was determined that Flourish’s focus would be on strategic counsel and the execution of a local/regional public and media relations strategy in Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina.
PLANNING: As story angles were cultivated and organized, a PR Plan took shape quickly, spanning several different core areas of The Cliffs’ lifestyle: real estate, development and corporate news, and club-centered news around golf, health/wellness and recreation/adventure, and culinary (food and wine). Whereas in the past most public relations had only centered around golf, Flourish planned to seize the opportunity to showcase the many different aspects of what makes The Cliffs unique, thereby reaching greater audiences.
EXECUTION: Over the course of the first year, Flourish and The Cliffs developed a strong foundation to support public/media relations, including regular and transparent communications with members, robust press kits for all segments of The Cliffs’ lifestyle, new and active website, blog, and social media channels; and a strong and meaningful community partnerships. More than 30 news releases were generated, and media were invited to various on-property events. Reporters were invited up to meet “the new Cliffs”, and to get an update on the financial strength of the company.
EVALUATION: In a period of only six months, The Cliffs had received more than 100 news stories valued collectively at more than $125,000 and had achieved an ROI of more than 300% in its local/regional public relations program. In concert with a re-investment in marketing and public relations, and a dedicated ownership and management team pulling out all the stops to make their product the best on the market, The Cliffs’ sales have risen and are the strongest they have been since 2009.
Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant founded in 1982 in Austin, Texas, tapped Flourish to lead its public relations effort for Chuy’s first-ever South Carolina restaurant. Tasked with a four month timeframe, Flourish’s role was to introduce Chuy’s to Greenville and Greenville to Chuy’s with word-of-mouth marketing, media and public relations, and special events leading up to and including the restaurant’s grand opening. One such event was Chuy’s Red Fish Rally, a pre-grand opening parking lot party at the Chuy’s under construction site, to officially introduce the restaurant to a key group of community foodies as well as “exes from Texas” ambassadors to begin to build buzz. The Red Fish Rally would also be the launching point Chuy’s local charity partnership with the Meyer Center for Special Children.
The Red Fish Rally served as the Greenville community’s “first taste” of Chuy’s – both its authentic Tex-Mex food as well as its zany brand culture. Because up to this point, no one in Greenville really knew Chuy’s, it was critical to spread the word about Chuy’s incredible menu of fresh Tex-Mex in an authentic way in keeping with the company’s brand. Staying true to its love of public relations, Chuy’s relies solely on media relations leading up to each of its restaurants’ grand openings; the company does no paid advertising prior to the opening. Flourish knew that media attendance to the Red Fish Rally would be key to kicking off a grass-roots effort to build momentum for Chuy’s, but in a city where media personnel are bombarded with messages, finding a way to stand out effectively was a constant challenge. Flourish’s solution to getting Chuy’s attention became known as the “Lime Drop” – hand-delivered invitations to the Red Fish Rally with packaged fresh limes.
RESEARCH: In order to gain attention and promote the new restaurant, Flourish considered different options to spread the word to the media. Flourish brainstormed ways to deliver the message, and considered everything from media alerts to eBlast invitations. It was decided that an eBlast invitation would be sent to the media, and a follow-up surprise gift of packaged fresh limes with catchy and colorful messaging would be hand delivered to select media contacts across town, simultaneously on the same day, to remind and encourage the recipients to attend the Red Fish Rally.
To build Chuy’s media list, Flourish pulled from its previous, personally-built relationships and targeted media interested in new businesses, food and beverage and community activities. The team also researched additional media contacts through its media database – Cision. Then, Flourish reviewed the media list to identify key media contacts considered to be essential attendees.
PLANNING/EXECUTION: With the media list compiled during research, the team began to work on gathering supplies to create the themed packages, which were limes wrapped in cellophane and tied with red and white twine and a tag. Each lime carried a custom-made flag-topped toothpick with Chuy’s Red Fish mascot, as well as the message to trade this lime in for a free, fresh-squeezed margarita at the upcoming Red Fish Rally. Flourish created 35 packages, of which 28 were “dropped” to our selected group of key media contacts.
eVites were blasted out to Chuy’s entire media list two weeks prior to the May 22nd event. Then, during the week leading up to Red Fish Rally, the lime packages were hand delivered to the 28 media contacts by Flourish’s team.
EVALUATION: Thanks to the Red Fish Rally, the buzz for Chuy’s opening started in an impactful manner, and it continued to build leading up to the event. The Greenville Red Fish Rally had the largest event attendance of any Red Fish Rally, and the event raised a record amount in Chuy’s 30-year history for the local charity partner, the Meyer Center for Special Children.
One prominent broadcaster called the Lime Drop “the best press release” he’d ever seen to his more than 2,000 Facebook followers. Media contacts who could not attend had a tangible reminder of the restaurant’s opening. This reminder created a top-of-mind reference that ultimately led to more than 30 articles and media mentions in the following two months for Chuy’s grand opening in Greenville.
The Red Fish Rally was followed by a Grand Opening Week that topped the charts for Chuy’s nationally and propelled their restaurant’s start within Greenville, SC.
Blending her marketing background with her penchant for networking and community engagement, Virginia Hayes is a well-respected Realtor with a thriving book of business built almost exclusively on referrals. She has a knack for understanding clients’ needs and for providing personalized attention to each and every client, which has led her to becoming a top-producing agent company-wide for the last five years.
SITUATION: Virginia had reached a plateau with her current brokerage and was ready to take the next step in her real estate career. After reviewing her options, she decided to bring her business to one of Greenville’s oldest and most respected companies, Coldwell Banker Caine. But, in an effort to not lose the incredible brand she had built around her work, she needed a carefully laid transition plan to insure a smooth switch.
RESEARCH: As a longtime client of Flourish, Flourish was extremely knowledgeable about Virginia’s business and marketing strategy. The Flourish team drew upon this knowledge, as well as prior experience in business transitions, to put together a multi-faceted plan to work in tandem with Virginia’s transition timeline
PLANNING/EXECUTION: Utilizing communications and PR tactics, traditional marketing devices, and tried and true business development tools, Flourish and Virginia worked together to seamlessly execute a plan focused on:
The executed plan employed a number of tactics and required precise execution from all parties in order to achieve the intended results.
EVALUATION: More than a year after the initial transition, Virginia’s business continues to boom. She closed out her first year at Coldwell Banker Caine as the No. 3 Residential Producing Agent and qualified for the International President’s Circle Society, which is awarded to the the top six percent of all Coldwell Banker agents internationally.
The Hawkins Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed at advancing orthopaedic medicine and outcomes for patients through research and education. Working alongside the physicians of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, the Hawkins Foundation provides a unique set of resources and infrastructure for education and research in the world of orthopaedics.
SITUATION: A charity golf tournament like no other, the “Not a Traditional Golf Outing” was an exciting and lively day on the links benefiting the Hawkins Foundation. Hosting up to 30 teams, the tournament featured a unique format of events, a festive theme and the beginnings of a loyal following; however, the Hawkins Foundation wanted to increase the tournament’s (and the Foundation’s) exposure in the hopes of growing the event.
RESEARCH: Flourish worked with the Hawkins Foundation to understand the tournament’s value points and its areas of improvements. While the tournament had a loyal group of participants, it had reached a plateau in participation and in its fundraising efforts. It was decided that, over the course of the partnership, Flourish would implement a PR campaign aimed at growing community exposure of the tournament to achieve a sold-out crowd and to garner sponsorships with the ultimate goal of increasing proceeds for the Hawkins Foundation’s education and research initiatives.
PLANNING/EXECUTION: Over the course of three years, Flourish has utilized a variety of tactics to promote and manage the tournament, including:
In addition, our in-house events team (Flourish Events) has come alongside the Foundation to refine and improve its pre-, day-of and post-event management.
EVALUATION: Since the inception of our relationship with Hawkins F
oundation, the Not A Traditional Golf Outing has grown to a well-known golf tournament staple in the Upstate community, and campaign elements have won industry awards. In 2015, the tournament welcomed its first-ever headlining sponsor and sold out nearly two months in advance of the tournament.