Republican leadership a hit in Oklahoma

Successful PR campaign attracts Republican presidential candidates and media from around the world

Photo credit: Bryan Redding
Photo credit: Bryan Redding

Company: Southern Republican Leadership Conference
Agency: JonesPR
Campaign: Energizing America
Duration: May 21-23, 2015
Budget: $530,000

Every other year, the Republican National Committee (RNC) hosts four regional conferences across the US, providing grassroots activists and political enthusiasts the opportunity to connect with the Republican party's most influential leaders. This past May, Oklahoma City hosted the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC), a three-day event that included 14 Southern states and was the first of the four regional conferences.

The SRLC host committee selected Oklahoma-based JonesPR to help plan and coordinate the conference. The agency was also responsible for creative, marketing, media and social media services.

The event featured speeches from Republican presidential candidates including Dr. Ben Carson, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

The strategy of the SRLC revolved around a few major elements that would help translate planning efforts into a successful event.

To build anticipation for the event and draw in more attendees, the organizers wanted to quickly secure top-tier presidential candidates early.

The effort also promoted Oklahoma City and the event as an exciting destination for the Memorial Day weekend.

"We selected Energizing America as a theme with a dual benefit: it captured the hearts of activists, while reinforcing Oklahoma as an energy capital, combined with a sub theme, The Road to the White House." says Brenda Jones, president of JonesPR. "We worked with Madison Strategies, who had strong connections inside every presidential campaign, and designed a professional logo, branding, brochures, direct mail, website, and social media channels with national appeal."

The SRLC had the look and feel of a national convention. The event sought to become the unofficial launch point for major Republican presidential contenders in the race to the White House.

JonesPR set its sights on registering 2,000 attendees, raising $350,000 for the event and attracting 100 national media outlets on-site to cover the event.  In years past, SRLC events held in top-tier cities did not meet attendance and sponsorship expectations, so meeting these goals became a major consideration.

JonesPR kicked off its efforts in January, delivering SRLC gift bags filled with "Made in Oklahoma products" to all 50 GOP state chairs at their annual meeting.  The gift package featured an Oklahoma-shaped USB drive with a tourism video and welcome messages from the governor of Oklahoma and the mayor of Oklahoma City.

Organizers developed 31 sponsorship levels and early bird registration and varying price points for students, military and seniors made the SRLC affordable to anyone. 

A national news release was issued with every presidential candidate confirmation for the event. These announcements were flagged up on social media channels, targeting potential attendees based on demographics and geography. All 14 Republican presidential candidates in the race at the time participated in the conference.

To reinforce the Energizing America theme, JonesPR targeted energy companies nationwide for sponsorships, and hosted three energy panels featuring nationally recognized industry leaders who discussed the energy issues facing the U.S. 

The weekend event was accessible via livestream, thanks to a negotiated partnership with the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman.  This provided unedited global access to all the presidential candidates’ speeches at the conference.

The event attracted 2,212 attendees from 21 states.

In early May, Saturday Night Live’s opening monologue was a skit about SRLC that closed with: "The hottest event of the year.  Live from Oklahoma City."  That coverage helped the SRLC break through the clutter of general news.

The weekend conference was attended by 236 international and national media, more than doubling the media attendance goal.  Media coverage garnered 1,100 national and international broadcast and print stories; and live streaming totaled 2,265 hours of viewing from 5,800 unique viewers in the U.S. and 72 countries. 

The SRLC raised $533,000, exceeding financial goals.

"The value of hiring a public relations agency is proven in the results. It may be tempting to utilize staff, but an agency can make the difference for an event to be memorable, successful and financially profitable," explains Brenda Jones.

JonesPR is working on planning activities for the 2016 Republican National Convention, which is slated to be held in Cleveland, Ohio.

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