Category Archives: R-blog

A Smashing Success: PR Case Study

For the past year and a half, several of us at Riggs Partners have immersed ourselves in the “better burger” fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. Through our work with two separate franchise owners, we’ve helped to open the first three South Carolina locations of Smashburger, one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation. Smashburger’s corporate office in Denver places a strong emphasis on public relations with limited paid advertising supplementing the marketing effort.

Smashburger grand openings follow a formula established by their corporate marketing team. This tried and true plan has guided the company through more than 240 store openings in the US and several international markets. Our grand openings include four private events before the public opening: a “Friends and Family” preview event for the franchisees’ closest friends, associates and vendors; a media event for the “ceremonial first smash” with a local celebrity; a VIP event for local dignitaries; and an “Eat and Tweet” for local food bloggers and online influencers.

For each store opening, Smashburger’s franchise owners have partnered with a local charitable organization in their respective markets. In Columbia, the partner is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia. In Charleston, the partner is the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Children’s Hospital Fund. Our clients don’t just want to write a check; they want to have a long-term, ongoing relationship with these organizations that make a meaningful impact on the lives of children. For each of the first store openings in the Columbia and Charleston markets, the respective franchise owners agreed to donate $1 per Smashburger or Smashchicken sandwich sold during their grand opening month to their charitable partner, with a minimum commitment of $5,000.

One traditional component of a Smashburger grand opening is the “celebrity smasher.” For both Columbia and Charleston, the charitable angle opened the door to a wonderful tie-in for the celebrity smashers. In Columbia, we invited two pairs of “Bigs” and “Littles” with Big Brothers Big Sisters to be our smashers. A Big Brother/Little Brother pair and a Big Sister/Little Sister pair served as our smashers, which was the first time that children had served as celebrity smashers at any Smashburger. In Charleston, we invited a 13 year-old girl with a very rare disease who has been treated at MUSC throughout her life. She smashed burgers alongside the Mayor of Summerville, who just so happened to have worked as a short order cook one summer as a teenager. It was fun to see them in the kitchen smashing the store’s first official burgers together.

Hayden, age 13, smashes the Summerville store's first burger.

Hayden, age 13, smashes the Summerville store’s first burger as her mother Cindy looks on.

Each of the grand openings has been a “smashing” success with terrific media coverage and a smoothly executed series of events that brought hundreds of guests through each store during their preview events. The two Columbia stores combined have raised more than $10,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, while the Summerville store raised $8,147 for MUSC Children’s Hospital as a result of the overwhelming sales in its first month.

"Bigs" and "Littles" from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia teamed up to smash the Irmo store's first official burgers.

“Bigs” and “Littles” from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia teamed up to smash the Irmo store’s first official burgers.

Some of the lessons we’ve learned during these retail grand openings include:

  • Practice makes perfect. Have a “dress rehearsal” to iron out the kinks beforehand.
  • Get local. Find a charitable partner or some other community tie-in.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. Packing hundreds of guests into the restaurant may build curiosity from the outside, but we’d prefer that guests enjoy a leisurely paced meal and an overall great experience.
  • Make it fun. Be sure that guests aren’t just treated to free food, but also enjoy a festive atmosphere. We’ve hired balloon artists, ordered fun promotional items and given out coupons for repeat visits.
  • Build ambassadors. By pulling back the curtain into the store’s menu and operations, we’ve secured a great deal of goodwill for the restaurant and its owners.
  • Evaluate. Always take time to do a “post mortem” meeting during which you discuss what worked, what didn’t and how you can improve next time.

While Riggs Partners has developed a strong reputation through the years for our work in the nonprofit sector, we find just as much reward when we work with business owners who have a deeper sense of purpose – something that motivates them to develop and deliver upon a mission that may or may not be obvious to their customers. The next time you bite into that burger or slurp that shake, keep in mind that you just might be helping someone in need.

CASE STUDY: SC Farm Bureau Insurance Social Media Program

Client: Farm Bureau Insurance of South Carolina

Objective

In 2013, South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance faced the daunting challenge of establishing a social media presence online. The program needed to increase social media reach, be sustainable and manageable by internal staff, and build engagement over time. Results had to measurable, so analytics needed to be tracked and processed regularly for executive review. We took the bull by the horns and increased Facebook reach by over 146,000% and overall social media reach by more than 84,000%.

Strategy

Buyer Personas – Before any execution of work could begin, a discovery session was scheduled to allow in-depth exploration of the psychographic profiles and consumer behaviors of the target audience. Typically, it is during this process that audience segmentation begins to uncover pain points and hints at how a product or service might alleviate them. Most often,  areas of interest that intersect with those pains and potential solutions are also illuminated.

Content Categories – The results of buyer persona research provided insights into the four main topics that the social media content strategy should focus on.

  • Safe driving
  • Home improvement
  • Agricultural education
  • College sports

Keyword Research – To confirm our assumptions on the content strategy, basic keyword research was performed to identify specific topic areas around the content categories and monthly Google search volume associated with them.

Execution

  • Channel Development – The top six social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Youtube and Google+ were opened and optimized with custom branded graphics and keyword rich descriptions.
  • Content Resource Development – Trusted content resources and online influencers associated with the four content categories were followed in every network. At Riggs, we call this “getting down with OPC” (Other People’s Content).
  • Microblog Scheduling – Once the foundation of the content strategy was in place, the news feeds were full of interesting and relevant material. Facebook posts, tweets, Linkedin messages and Google+ posts were then scheduled days in advance and dripped into the news feeds through the social media management system, Hootsuite. Pinterest and Youtube were used primarily to find multi-media content to share in the other networks.
  • Live Engagement – It is important that news feeds not become over-automated with scheduled posts. Therefore, live engagement practices were adopted daily. The social media team used Facebook as a page daily to like, comment and share content from other content resources and online influencers. In Twitter, tweets were retweeted and favorited regularly.
  • Social Media Marketing Campaign – See CASE STUDY: Down and Dirty for details related to the Dueling Dirt campaign.

Results

Facebook

  • While starting at zero, the Facebook page converted 1,520 new followers.
  • 2,200 Facebook users liked, commented or shared content on the client’s page.
  • 216,000 Facebook accounts were reached.
  • 430,000 impressions were earned.
  • 6,800 clicks were recorded.

Twitter

  • 170 new Twitter followers were converted.
  • Up to 35,000 impressions were earned in one month at the peak of the campaign.
  • Limited social media metrics are available for ongoing measurement in Twitter.

Linkedin

  • 316 new company page followers were converted.
  • 15,000 impressions were earned.

All case study results were recorded from July through October 2013. 

CASE STUDY: Dueling Dirt Social Media Campaign

Client: Farm Bureau Insurance of South Carolina

Objective

In 2013, South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance developed a social media program to grow online reach and engagement for the brand. At the time, the company had very little social media presence with virtually zero followers in any network. We created a multimedia campaign to help SC Farm Bureau Insurance return to its roots and develop a groundswell of social engagement.

Dueling Dirt

Strategy

South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance has a wide target audience making it challenging to segment the audience for online promotions. The company wanted to return to its roots and focus on its agricultural heritage, so a strategy was developed to narrow the target audience based on educational programming related to agriculture. During a time when consumers were suffering from “contest fatigue,” the campaign strategy needed to break through the clutter of typical contests or sweepstakes. Dueling Dirt became a competition targeting South Carolina schools during the submission period and then parents, families and friends of the students during the voting. The classroom with the most votes won $500 toward a community garden project.

 Dueling Dirt Landing Tab

Execution

Campaign graphics and contest rules were installed to the SC Farm Bureau Insurance Facebook page complete with a cover image, app icon and landing tab. Graphics were repurposed in an Animoto video which can be watched on YouTube at http://bit.ly/1l4vD79. All campaign materials were promoted in each social media network, and promoted posts ran in Facebook and Twitter. Emails were sent to school districts during the voting period to encourage submissions, and follow-up emails were sent to all participants during the voting period to encourage competition and, as a result, sharing.

dueling dirt voting period

Results

The greatest growth in Facebook corresponded with the submission and voting periods totaling 393 new page likes in August and 791 in September. Engagement spiked in Facebook during campaign months with the voting period in September setting record highs in the following areas:

    • Talking About This – 1,171
    • Clicks – 3,300
    • Impressions – 176,316
Dueling Dirt Results
All case study results were recorded from June through October 2013.

 

CreateAthon Case Study: District 5 Foundation

When we concocted the idea of CreateAthon all those years ago, we were careful to identify the kinds of organizations we believed would be best suited for our 24-hour pro bono model. That list was pretty simple: a candidate had to be a private, 501© 3 organization, as opposed to a governmental agency, church or school. So when we got an application from the District Five Foundation last year, we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Wasn’t it a school district program? Wouldn’t that break the rules? Upon closer inspection, we learned the Foundation was indeed a private, nonprofit organization in good standing, comprised of parents who were dedicated to raising money for all manner of important educational initiatives that otherwise would not be publicly funded.

Color us intrigued.

We learned that in just a few short years, the group had raised upwards of $60,000 annually to deliver some really impressive programming, resources and experiences to District 5 faculty and students. Their goal was to up their game, reaching the $100,000 fundraising mark annually. 

The communications issue was two-fold: 

1. Nobody understands why a Foundation is necessary in the public school system (aka “I pay taxes, enough already”).

2. Nobody understands why a gap in public school funding is everyone’s issue, and what’s at stake if we don’t fill that gap (more well educated students yield a better workforce, better leaders, and a stronger community).

We understood the intellectual value of what these folks were trying to do, but we knew the message could be a real yawner. What absolutely set us on fire, however, was the passion of the parents who were in involved in this gig. So we got our 24-hour game on.

Here’s a quick look at how we addressed their objectives.

Nomenclature and identity: After the necessary research, we determined the organization needed to be called what it was. No time or budget for cutesy conceptual names.  The ever-magnificent Maria Fabrizio developed an identity that put FIVE front and center.

Brand strategy: We developed a comprehensive message platform based on the thesis that District Five Foundation is the only organization that can move beyond the confines of public education budgets and deliver the kinds of advanced learning experiences students and teachers deserve.  It’s all about getting past barriers and making things happen.

Website: Our fellow Weconians, truematter, rose to the challenge yet again and led the way toward a web site that distinguishes the Foundation’s work and makes it imminently clear how people can get involved. 

Development strategy: We helped the Foundation diversify its development plan by developing engagement opportunities for four different giving audiences. We also outlined tiered giving levels, with engagement opportunities for specific audiences and initiatives.

Social media: Keely Saye and team worked their digital marketing magic, delivering a buyer persona study, content strategy, keyword research and editorial calendar to fuel social media growth and web site traffic/engagement.

A year later, we’re told the CreateAthon work has significantly helped the organization raise its profile within the community and attract new levels of support. Specifically, the Foundation is on track to exceed its fundraising performance from last year, which will allow it to bring more, different, and better educational opportunities to students and faculty.

We think that deserves a high Five. 

Whitt’s End

I’m full of shit.

I realize this every few days or so. It’s unclear how many rationalizations, hyperboles and humble-brags have to bounce around my skull before the hogwash tipping point is reached. But when I come to the end of my rope, I know it. A faint spark of contempt jumps from gut to spine to cerebral cortex and flickers just long enough to set my eyes rolling.

“You gotta be kidding me,” I’ll grumble. Because this is, of course, exactly what I’ve been doing — kidding myself. That the colleagues “liking” the new commercial my company posted are doing so free of quid pro quo obligations. That Brussels sprouts, no matter how artisanally roasted, have photojournalistic significance. That people read blog posts over 350 words.

The thing is, I have a suspicion that you’re full of shit too. That we all are, in fact, and that it’s not really our fault. To want to be perceived  as an accomplished, productive, well-intentioned member of society: that’s human nature. So should it really be surprising that our inner spin doctor is on call 24/7? Facebook profiles and Instagram feeds have certainly amplified this tendency. But even before the age of  “personal branding,” I’m willing to bet humans scorched many a retina scanning horizons for the most “favorable light” to cast upon their lives.

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In my particular case (and likely yours if you’re reading this via professional channels) the promotional realm in which I work sprinkles kerosene on the aforementioned sparks and leads this blaze into my office on a daily basis. On the one hand, the job is to court positive attention for a client’s brand. On the other, said courting must be done in an industry so notorious for manipulation that a trust deficit is inevitable from the get go.

Fortunately, this is where knowing you’re full of shit can be a saving grace. As it turns out, recognizing the pretense we’re all capable of is the best safeguard against it crossing your lips, clearing your outbox, or making its way into the client presentation/PR strategy/TV spot etc.

Are there times when that kind of second-guessing gets in the way? Absolutely. In the short term, concepts die. Strategies are rebuilt. But it’s also what keeps you and the brands you work for credible over the long haul. Moreover, it helps you fully appreciate when someone else has taken the unadorned highroad and ridden it to a truly exceptional creative destination.

That’s what this post was supposed to be about — saluting brands that have dropped the Stepford act, resisted Madison Avenue’s default conceits and allowed themselves to be exactly what they are: well-meaning, imperfect, contradictory, temperamental human experiments. In other words, mirror images of the customers they hope to attract. Dove’s flipping the cosmetic category script with it’s Real Beauty Sketches is old news, but that doesn’t make it any less of a triumph. New Castle’s No Bollocks campaign calls out the usual beverage marketing B.S. to hilarious and substantive effect. And despite a slightly-over-scripted-and-rehearsed-one-too-many-times-to-sound-authentic voiceover, Mass Mutual deserves kudos for embracing genuine struggle and vulnerability  (especially at the 35 and 52 second marks) in its “Mother” commercial. Any one of these examples might have been dissected into a perfectly adequate case study in the brand benefits of letting down appearances. But then something came across my desk that, for multiple reasons, put “adequate” to shame.

Obituaries don’t grant their authors a second chance. So when Buzzy Whitt died early this year, his daughter Alisa knew she had only 12 hours to write a memoriam and make the local paper’s deadline. What she crafted in that time is a clinic in unvarnished tributing. With humor, tenderness and plain spoken poignancy, Alisa spreads out the puzzle of a life whose pieces don’t all snap together the way they’re expected to. Her style flirts with the bizarre in a way that perfectly befits the life it honors. Most importantly, she holds enough respect for the man her father really was not to spin him into a saint or scholar. Her summation of Buzzy’s journey treats us to uncommon, irreverent insights on a host of life’s fundamentals:

On Finding One’s Niche: “He built a garage in his backyard and did work for all sorts of men, young and old, souping up their cars with Chevrolet big block V8 engines. He put a 427 into more than one SuperSport. He put a 427 into a Porsche. He put a 427  into a Camaro. He was, apparently, the go-to-guy if you wanted a 427 engine in your anything.”

On Transformations: “With the police in pursuit, Buzzy stepped on an iron rake that smacked down those two teeth into a position where they would stay for most of the rest of his life.”

On Perseverance: “Since Buzzy had lost his right arm to a bush hog in 1997, he developed a habit of using his mouth for things most use their other hand to accomplish. That’s hard duty on teeth, and he continued to use them as tools [until] one of them finally gave up the fight and exited the scene.”

On Friendship: “…If anyone knows what happened to the monkey, it would be Bill Macy, Buzzy’s oldest friend. Bill is the only person who could manage to stay on speaking terms with Buzzy for seventy years. For that we remain ever grateful, since Buzzy got pickier and pickier about the company he kept.”

On Family: “Lakin Barnes, Rhonda’s son with her ex-husband Mark Barnes, is the closest Buzzy [had] to a grandchild. Lakin looks enough like Buzzy…and Buzzy was closer to Lakin than any child, so there is that.”

And, finally, On Priorities: “In lieu of flowers the family respectfully requests that memorial contributions be directed to the Pulaski County Humane Society…Buzzy had some varied opinions about people, but he loved animals. And Chevrolet.

Alisa and her father "Buzzy" Whitt via the Roanoke Times

Please enjoy Alisa’s work in its entirety, and try not to rush to conclusions. Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to come across something so unique, we don’t know what to make of it. And at first blush, the piece can seem like a joke. In the end, however, there’s no doubt Buzzy and his obituary were as real as they come.

Perhaps this is the challenge Alisa has unintentionally issued us all. On behalf of ourselves and our brands, what if we spoke freely? What if we messaged as if there were nothing left to prove? What if every assignment were treated like an obituary?

In lieu of closing your browser, the writer respectfully requests that you “Like,” share, or comment on this post—Michael was full of shit, and he knew better than to claim otherwise.

 

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