WINNER: Public Relations Society of America/New Orleans 2020 Fleurish Awards – Silver Anvil Award
SECOND PLACE: Press Club of New Orleans 2021 Excellence in Journalism Awards – Community Relations
The 2020 COVID-19 shutdowns created hardship for businesses around the world, with small, local businesses among the most volatile. In an effort to assist local restaurants during the pandemic, Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer posted a gift certificate challenge on Facebook, stating that the first citizen to call the restaurant in front of which he was standing on the following morning and say “The mayor wants to buy me breakfast” would receive a $25 gift certificate to that restaurant.
In the post’s comments, I issued a challenge: if the winner pledged to donate the certificate to feed a frontline worker, I would match it. When the winner, whose name was Jane, accepted that challenge, it presented an irresistible opportunity to have a bit of nostalgic fun. What resulted was the “Be Like Jane” grassroots fundraiser, with graphics reminiscent of the timeless “Dick and Jane” picture book series.
Embracing the opportunity for community outreach, I shared the graphic on the Facebook page of the relatively-new Northshore Collaborative small business network, challenging the community to match the $25 donations, with a goal of raising $1,000 via the Paypal link provided.
Media outreach netted generous coverage from WGNO-TV and WYLK radio, and the City of Slidell shared the post on its Facebook page. A local group of seamstresses pledged donations from their protective mask sales to boost the efforts. In all, the campaign quickly raised more than $3,000 in funding, supporting 11 local restaurants and providing lunch for the staffs of two hospitals, local police, sheriff and fire departments, the coroner’s office and caregivers at a local nonprofit.
The first “Be Like Jane” Facebook post documented reach in excess of 6,100, with 550 interactions. A follow up post sharing the WGNO news segment reached more than 7,100 and garnered 1,300 interactions. Additionally, photos of each lunch delivery were posted on The Northshore Collaborative’s Facebook page, tagging the restaurants and the agencies benefiting from the public’s generosity in each. For the restaurants, this provided a spotlight on their business and the good they are doing in the community. For the recipients, it was an opportunity to thank the public for their generous support. Each share provided an extended reach of The Northshore Collaborative’s efforts.
Inspired by the success of the “Be Like Jane” campaign, and wanting to support the local businesses that were still closed due to the pandemic shutdowns, I created a second promo for The Northshore Collaborative. “Be Like Mom” featured the same feel as the Dick and Jane series. Though the original graphic included a children’s storybook, I replaced it with a laptop computer, making note that gift certificates purchased from local businesses could be ordered online from the safety of home for future use when the businesses reopen.
Collectively, “Be Like Jane” and “Be Like Mom” provided a lighthearted way to evoke memories of the past while supporting local businesses and thanking pandemic workers for their service.