Community Relations: Grassroots efforts build up interest for BGCH's new facility

The Asylum Hill neighborhood, known for being one of the poorest areas in Hartford, CT, was considered dangerously underserved by youth programs, according to the Hartford Department of Human Services.

The Asylum Hill neighborhood, known for being one of the poorest areas in Hartford, CT, was considered dangerously underserved by youth programs, according to the Hartford Department of Human Services.

Although several programs existed, none met frequently enough or had the space to accommodate the 2,000 school-age children in the area.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford (BGCH) saw the need to reach these at-risk adolescents and planned to open a 30,000-square-foot building to offer academic and recreation activities for more than 1,000 children. Due to the advertising relationship Keiler & Co. had with the BGCH, the firm agreed to assist the club's subcommittee, the Asylum Hill Boys & Girls Club Development Association, with PR efforts for this project.

Strategy

"We wanted to target the citizens in the area and make sure that families knew that this club would be opening up," says Sarah Melnitsky, an assistant account manager at Keiler. "We also wanted to let the media know that this was happening and get the word out because not all of the funding had been secured for this $7 million building." In order to achieve these goals, Keiler developed a plan to raise awareness for the necessity of this building, culminating with a groundbreaking event.

First, the firm decided to draw on statistics from the Hartford Department of Human Services in its literature to show the need for the program. Second, the firm decided that the attendance of local celebrities would bring credibility to the event, as well as increase interest among potential media outlets.

Tactics

Keiler advised the association by developing a list of invitees for the groundbreaking event, while making sure that the invitations prominently displayed the names of expected local celebrities, as well as honorary co-chairpeople Jim Calhoun, men's basketball coach at UConn, and the Honorable Denise Nappier, state treasurer. "They also made sure it wasn't just about the big names that were going to be the draw," says Matt Broderick, director of marketing and individual gifts for the BGCH. "They had one of the boys from the club talk as part of the formal presentation."

Keiler also organized all media coverage, sending invitations and information packets to local outlets two weeks before the event, then following up a week later by faxing media advisories and calling those who hadn't responded days before the event.

Results

Keiler's grassroots efforts paid off, as three of the state's four network news stations covered the groundbreaking. Articles also ran in The Hartford Courant. "Our biggest media hit came when local news station WFSB wanted to do its whole morning broadcast with a news reporter at the site and cut to a live interview with select BGCH representatives every half hour for three hours," says Melnitsky. The total media coverage of the event exceeded 1 million impressions.

"If you don't have the media there to tell the larger community, it's all for a very small audience." said Broderick. "Keiler enlarged our exposure significantly. That's the real value of what they brought to the table." This extensive coverage paid off, as more than $1 million in post-event donations was received.

Future

Keiler & Co. will continue to work with the BGCH, especially on upcoming initiatives and projects surrounding the building's opening, currently set for October. The firm will also assist with PR efforts for other programs, including the Dashaway Luncheon to support the club's Smart Girls program.

PR team: Keiler & Co. (Farmington, CT) and the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford, CT

Campaign: Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford's Asylum Hill Club Groundbreaking

Time frame: Fall 2003 to present

Budget: Keiler & Co. waived its fees as a public service, but approximately $250 was spent on promotional efforts

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