CAMPAIGNS: Interactive effort helps community treasure its assets

PR Team: WestMarc (Phoenix) and CKPR (Phoenix) Campaign: West Valley Treasures Time Frame: Summer 2003-ongoing Budget: About $25,000

PR Team: WestMarc (Phoenix) and CKPR (Phoenix) Campaign: West Valley Treasures Time Frame: Summer 2003-ongoing Budget: About $25,000

Western Maricopa County has been growing at a phenomenal rate over the past few years, with new residents moving into new housing communities as fast as they can be built. Local media, however, felt the growth was irresponsible. Community newspapers were concerned there were too few public schools, recreational areas, or shopping centers to support the rising population. The town itself wasn't planning to take action until a PR firm came calling with ideas. Strategy "We'd been working with a developer in West Valley, and we'd seen the media's complaints about a lack of amenities in the area," says Lisa Noble, VP and director of PR at Phoenix-based CKPR. She felt the media reports were inaccurate and were ignoring the many perks to living there. "So we went to the area's mayors and city managers with an idea for how we could get the residents themselves to uncover the landmarks in the area." Tactics "West Valley Treasures" was devised as an interactive campaign to raise awareness of the area's greatest assets and sources of pride. The initiative would lead with a "people's choice" survey, where residents would be asked to identify their favorite local cultural attractions, entertainment venues, educational facilities, and scenic parks. That would be followed with "West Valley Week," when poll results would be announced and celebrated. CKPR and WestMarc, a civic development group consisting of local mayors, business leaders, and concerned citizens, partnered with the region's largest newspaper, The Arizona Republic, to conduct the poll. Together they recruited other local businesses to sponsor the effort, and came up with a list of nominees for favorite local attractions. Consumer polling took place between July 15 and August 15 through hard copy and online surveys on a West Valley Treasures website created by The Arizona Republic. CKPR had set a goal of 5,000 respondents. Results "The results were phenomenal," boasts Noble. "Fifteen thousand people voted in 30 days - three times what we expected." The poll earned more than 11 million consumer media impressions. Not only did the media change its tune about life in Western Maricopa County, but many of the winning "treasures" have seen a significant increase in sales and consumer traffic. The news coverage translated into more than $100,000 in value (four times the program's cost), and included $30,000 from the in-kind partnership negotiated with The Arizona Republic and nearly $71,000 from news stories. Many of the winning businesses have since built programs around the campaign. Wigwam Resort is using West Valley Treasures maps as placemats in its restaurants; Arizona State University West and Challenger Learning Center both hung a banner announcing their designation as a Treasure; and Duncan Family Farms - a Treasure that was shut down due to traffic from Luke Air Force Base - was given land to build a new farm in a nearby community due largely to the extensive publicity about it following the campaign. Future A dedicated WestMarc committee will continue the West Valley Treasures campaign, determining when and how to vote in new amenities and establishing annual events to celebrate the existing ones. One idea already underway is a "Tour de Treasures" bike race for casual and serious riders alike that would take them throughout the West Valley.

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