Last November, Bravo San Diego held its sixth annual fundraiser to benefit the local performing arts community.
However, negative media attention and questions about Bravo's financial dealings almost caused the gala to be disrupted.
After the 2003 event raised more than $200,000 for the San Diego Performing Arts League (PAL), then Bravo's only beneficiary, many began to wonder exactly how money was being allocated and just how much of it reached the actual local performing arts community.
When Bravo opted to end its relationship with PAL, the league responded by going to the press and publicly bashing Bravo. Several publications, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, ran negative articles on Bravo and its policies. Sponsors and key leaders within the community subsequently withdrew support for the company, leaving it in disarray.
Bravo set out to reclaim its position within the arts community by becoming incorporated as a California nonprofit, naming a new board of directors, and instituting new policies about how it would distribute funds and disclose financial information. To handle the PR side of this brand-new company, Bravo hired SZPR.
Bravo and SZPR set goals that were simple and focused. Mainly, the plan was to not harp on the negativity that had temporarily sidetracked the company, but rather to redirect the attention to the newly established Bravo San Diego.
"We wanted to tell a positive story for our beneficiaries, instead of engaging in any mud-slinging," says Ron DeHarte, executive director of Bravo.
Overall the important initiative was to correct the image of Bravo that had been lost. The team also wanted to implant an outreach effort to the media and the public at large to garner as much support and sponsorship for the 2004 event as possible.
SZPR's first step was researching all the negative publicity and media scrutiny that had befallen Bravo. The agency then took the time to contact every news organization that had previously criticized Bravo in order to discuss the changes within the company and to inform them of the upcoming event.
SZPR recruited print outlets reaching a more affluent audience within San Diego, as well as performing arts-specific publications and key business titles. Several television and radio spots were also secured, including local morning talk shows on which performers were able to showcase their talents. A pre-event also was arranged for select media representatives to build momentum for the gala.
"The key to reaching out to the media was the opportunity to disperse as much information as possible to the public," says Nicia Platt, AE at SZPR. "The actual facts were positive. [The main point] was giving insight into those facts and obtaining visual impact."
Bravo announced an agreement with 72 beneficiaries, including the California Ballet Company, the David Maldonado Quartet, and Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater.
The event itself was a success, with 1,200 people in attendance, including 95 media members. More than $77,000 was raised, and 97 grants were distributed among the 72 beneficiaries.
During the course of the campaign, SZPR generated more than 75 hits for Bravo San Diego in top media outlets, including the San Diego Union-Tribune and NBC's Today.
Although SZPR and Bravo are working together again for the 2005 Bravo San Diego festival, DeHarte speculates that the firm might be too small to handle Bravo's growth. However, for this year, SZPR will focus more on the importance of the company to the local economy and arts community.
PR team: Bravo San Diego and SZPR (San Diego)
Campaign: Bravo San Diego Performing Arts Festival 2004
Time frame: Summer to November 2004
Budget: Pro bono (work equivalent to $12,000)