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Case Studies

Veterans Cannabis Project: Legislative Support Services & Media Relations

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Client: Veterans Cannabis Project

Tactics: Legislative Support Services, Media Relations

Strategy: Highlighted the importance of medical cannabis to reduce effects of a multitude of symptoms being experienced by veterans

Outcomes: 25 media placements, halting of legislative emails servers for 8 hours due to public response

A bipartisan bill on medical cannabis was up for a vote in January 2020 and the Veterans Cannabis Project (VCP) knew that this bill was integral to further treatment for veterans in the Commonwealth. VCP hired our team to garner media awareness about the bill and help activate the community to reach out to their legislators to support the bill. The result far exceeded our objective – in fact so many people emailed their legislators that the email servers crashed from the outreach on medical cannabis alone, which ultimately led to the passage of the bill.

With a Goal of garnering media awareness of integral medical cannabis legislation to help veterans, our Objective was to increase local news mentions of VCP’s lobby day to a total of five placements over the course of one week. We leveraged the Strategy of highlighting the importance of medical cannabis to reduce effects of a multitude of symptoms. Our targeted Audience were regional and local media outlets, local community, and legislators.

Our firm worked with the VCP team to plan a media day to share information on how this bill would impact veterans. We created media advisories, press releases and pitches for the event, with a focus on engaging the community to contact their legislators. We arranged interviews, pitched individual outlets and fostered personal connections with editors and reporters. Our individualized media pitches helped generate excitement and positive sentiment.

We far exceeded our objective securing more than 25 individual media placements. Every story we pitched received media coverage.

We also evaluated our efforts by the response from the community. Due to media awareness VCP garnered 15,000 Virginians signing a letter to the Governor and over 25,000 emails – halting the legislative email servers for eight hours.

Video Production: Celebrating 40 Years in Two Minutes

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Client: River Ridge Mall – Lynchburg, VA

Tactics: Video Production, Creative Tactics, Social Engagement

Strategy: Leveraged video on social media to garner excitement for River Ridge Mall’s 40th Anniversary

Outcomes: Reached a total of 63.1k people, over 80k impressions, 13.6k engagements on the video post

 

River Ridge Mall in Lynchburg, Virginia, wanted to find a unique way to celebrate its 40th anniversary with the community. One tactic we recommended was a video to be posted to social media and their website. This video would feature retailers who could discuss not only the history and nostalgia of the property over the last 40 years, but also look ahead to its future. Since River Ridge has been going through a significant revitalization, we wanted to not only celebrate the mall’s 40 years in the community so far, but also look ahead to many more years to come.

With a goal of celebrating River Ridge’s 40th anniversary while recognizing the mall’s history in the community and looking ahead to its future, our objective was to generate engagement through a video. We leveraged the strategy of featuring well known River Ridge retailers. Our targeted Audiences were River Ridge customers, River Ridge retailers, and the Lynchburg community at large.

Our firm planned a production day at the mall where we interviewed retailers and shot b-roll Following the video shoot, we edited the video to align with River Ridge’s overall key messages. We made sure to feature retailers that would be able to share unique perspectives, including those that were there from the beginning and those who had joined during the property’s revitalization. Once the video was final and approved by leadership, we shared across social channels, within mall video boards, and with reporters who covered the revitalization.

Our goals and objectives were not only met but exceeded for our client.

  • Social engagement – reached a total of 63.1k people (note Lynchburg, Va. has a population of only 80k), over 80k impressions, 13.6k engagements on the video post!
  • Client feedback – the client was thrilled with the video and the outpouring of positive comments from leadership, shoppers, and the community.

This video was also picked up by the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority, shared in their newsletter and website – showcasing just how much of an impact this video made in the greater community.

“Dogs of Sea Tow” Campaign Brings in Big Numbers

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Client: Sea Tow

Tactics: Media Relations, Creative Tactics

Strategy: Developed a creative media relations campaign involving a Sea Tow co-captain, Charlie Brown the dog.

Outcomes: 1,500 Facebook shares, 2 million impressions, an online audience of nearly 200,000 readers and an uptick in membership in the weeks following the news coverage.

 

 

When our client Sea Tow, which provides on-the-water assistance to boaters 24-hours a day, reached out to us to share a story about a co-captain we weren’t expecting a 100-pound chocolate lab named Charlie Brown. Charlie had gained the esteemed title of co-captain after Sea Tow Wrightsville Beach franchise owner, Captain Scott Collins frequently brought his four-legged friend along for the ride while assisting members and the community on the water.

Primary research was gathered through interviews with the Sea Tow Wrightsville Beach franchise and several of its captains. During one of these interviews, we learned about Charlie Brown, a chocolate lab owned by Captain Scott Collins that helps out as co-captain of his Sea Tow boat. This discovery quickly led to our first-ever “Dogs of Sea Tow” media relations campaign. Secondary research consisted of conducting searches to find reporters that could tell Charlie’s story.

At this point, we decided to target the franchise’s largest local newspaper, The Wilmington Star-News, and use the placement and buzz to generate additional media coverage with local television outlets. After identifying a targeted reporter, our team crafted a phone pitch and email that included photographs of Charlie and his story.

On July 27, our team reached out via a phone call to the features editor and sent our email pitch. Shortly thereafter, the editor agreed to tell Charlie’s story. During this time, our team was in constant contact with the client, where we provided media coaching and any other necessary support.

Charlie Brown’s story was published on August 11. As planned, we used the story to persuade other media in the market meet Charlie Brown, resulting in TV interviews and other placements. Activities resulted in more than 1,500 Facebook shares of media placements, 2 million impressions and an online audience of nearly 200,000 readers.

We evaluated our efforts through several phone and email conversations with the franchisee, where he told us he was thrilled with the publicity they received through the campaign. Captain Collins said people recognize Charlie Brown all over Wilmington now. They also told us they saw an uptick in memberships in the weeks immediately following the news coverage.

The success of our localized “Dogs of Sea Tow” led to the campaign being adopted as an integral part of Sea Tow’s 2018 public relations plan. We plan to feature as many of our franchise’s as possible in the campaign.

Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome Makes College Basketball Debut

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Client: Travelocity

Tactics: Media Relations

Strategy: Established a creative media pitch involving an opportunity to interview Travelocity’s iconic “Roaming Gnome” mascot

Outcomes: Over a dozen media placements and nearly 1 million impressions

 

It may sound strange – pitching Travelocity’s de facto mascot the Gnome for TV, radio and newspaper interviews. He can’t even talk, but we made it work! Travelocity, the nationally-known online travel agency, utilized its sponsorship of ESPN GameDay to send the Gnome to locations where the sports network was covering marquee college basketball games. With a program called “The Roaming Gnome,” Travelocity sent its iconic Gnome to Charlottesville for the highly-publicized matchup between the University of Virginia and inter-conference rival Duke. Media relations was used to secure interviews with, and news stories about, the Gnome – heightening awareness of Travelocity and Charlottesville through a fun and interesting technique.

Primary research was gathered through conference calls with Travelocity’s PR team. This helped determine what had worked in other markets when pitching the Gnome, as well as the company’s key messaging to be communicated.

Secondary research was conducted via Internet searches to find out how the Gnome was covered in other markets, studying how other markets positioned the Gnome with the media. We found that the uniqueness and recognizable traits of the Gnome were strong enough assets to secure interviews. We also discovered that the Gnome highlighting the city he was visiting created another focus for the media to cover.

Armed with the goal of using media relations to generate as much publicity and attention for Travelocity as possible, we decided to leverage the strategy of utilizing the uniqueness of the Gnome visiting Charlottesville and University of Virginia’s most iconic landmarks to secure interviews.

The result was the development of a media pitch that focused on eight to ten landmarks, as well as the direct offer for the Gnome to be interviewed. Travelocity provided a template media advisory that we utilized with our custom pitch. We were challenged with making sure reporters understood how an interview with a ceramic gnome would work. The solution was personal phone calls to reporters and assignment desks to explain the program.

We strategically divided up our media pitches by familiarity with reporters. We first emailed our pitch along with the media advisory, following up by phone to explain the opportunity. This resulted in a positive first impression by the media in regards to a national company highlighting their local university town and added the dynamic of a fun and different interview opportunity. We then arranged interviews for the Gnome via his handler, a Travelocity employee.

We saw an immediate reaction from our media outreach, as reporters from around the area posted information about the Gnome’s visit and wrote about how excited they were to have an interview with the iconic figure.

More than 13 placements were generated with almost 1 million impressions. Emails revealed that our activities generated a top number of media placements when compared to other markets. We also evaluated our efforts through emails and phone calls with staff from Travelocity, who were thrilled about the media coverage and results. Travelocity provided a budget, which we were able to stay within during execution.

 

Bringing Awareness to Distracted Driving

Client: McGeorge Toyota

Tactics: Media Relations, Social Media

Strategy: Separated McGeorge Toyota from its competitors by helping to raise awareness of distracted driving through the establishment of a scholarship program

Outcomes: More than 1 million impressions, increased brand awareness

 

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. About 10% of those drivers were under the age of 20. With this in mind, local automotive dealership McGeorge Toyota leveraged a scholarship program to help build awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

Primary research was gathered through meetings with the McGeorge Toyota leadership and marketing department to get an idea of topics of importance among their target customers. Additionally, key local organizations or influencers, such as high school counselors and local nonprofit, DriveSmart Virginia, were identified as targets for potential partnerships that could increase awareness of the program.

Secondary research helped to uncover other distracted driving scholarship programs in other parts of the country. One program in particular required a 140-character entry – the length of a tweet – followed by an essay. This unique way to enter for the scholarship ended up being our entry protocol, providing a challenge, but also content that could be used via social media channels to continue awareness.

Research also uncovered a list of high school guidance counselors that were contacted to help spread the word about the program to students. Lastly, we found there were an abundance of website searches for “scholarships in Virginia,” and that web advertising could be used to drive attention and entries to the scholarship program.

With the GOAL of increasing McGeorge Toyota’s brand among potential target audiences (parents, moms, decision makers) who could purchase a vehicle from the dealership in the future, the STRATEGY of heightening awareness of an important topic via a scholarship program was established. The program was also designed to help increase McGeorge Toyota’s brand as a reputable company, increase trustworthiness, and boost awareness.

We named the program: “McGeorge Toyota’s Saving Lives, Supporting Futures, Scholarship Program,” and created logos to assist with brand recognition. We established a budget of $2,500 for website advertising, and $2,000 per-month ($12,000 total for the six-month program) for public relations, media relations, social media content development, and grassroots marketing.

During the planning phase, we also came up with the application process and design. To apply for the scholarship, students submitted a personal statement limited to 140 characters stating, “I pledge to not text and drive because…” From those submissions, ten students were selected to submit an essay extending their explanation of why they will not text and drive.

On April 1, the beginning of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, our team began the first phase by pitching the scholarship story to local media. We continued pitching media outlets throughout the summer, focusing on the problem of distracted driving and McGeorge Toyota’s focus on bringing awareness to the issue. To kick off the program, we secured news stories from all local TV stations, the top daily newspaper in the market and several radio stations.

As we headed into May, we began the second phase of our plan, leveraging the list of high school guidance counselors we uncovered during our research, as well as launching advertising, social media and grassroots marketing campaigns.

Additionally, we created and provided flyers, social media content, press releases and other materials to our influencer/partner DriveSmart Virginia to utilize and help promote the program.

Throughout the program we monitored who entered the scholarship and utilized their 140 character entries to promote the program via social media.

By the end of July, 121 people had entered the scholarship program. Via our efforts, more than 387 people visited the scholarship page on McGeorge Toyota’s website – about a 40 percent conversation rate for those visiting and applying for the scholarship.

Additionally, the relationship established with DriveSmart Virginia resulted in a greater awareness of McGeorge Toyota among its targeted audience, via presentations at the organization’s board of directors meeting and involvement at several events the organization was holding.

Media relations generated 16 news stories, with more than 1 million impressions.  We also evaluated our efforts via emails and face-to-face meetings with staff at McGeorge Toyota, where we heard about the results of our success and comments they received from customers.

We were acknowledged for increasing awareness of the dealership in a way that separated it from its competitors in the market, as well as our ability to stay within our pre-determined budget.

Using Key Events to Drive Engagement

Client: Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners

Tactics: Social Media

Strategy: Leveraged VCNP’s 40th Anniversary celebration to increase brand awareness and drive online engagement

Outcomes: Increased social media engagement and web traffic

 

In 2014, the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners (VCNP), the professional association for 8,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) in Virginia, celebrated its 40th anniversary. VCNP wanted to use the anniversary to educate the public about NPs, increase VCNP membership and generate excitement among members.

As part of VCNP’s 2014 strategic plan, the organization wanted to “utilize the 40th anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen VCNP’s brand” and “increase Facebook likes to 900 by the end of 2014.” Results from a 2013 membership survey showed only 9 percent of respondents received communication through Facebook, but 94 percent received information via email from the state organization. Additionally, the survey showed 44 percent never visited VCNP’s Facebook page, and 21 percent weren’t even on Facebook.

Conversations with board members and the PR committee reinforced the decision to use weekly email messages to supplement daily Facebook posts during the contest. Daily trivia questions were developed by consulting with VCNP’s historian and researching information posted on VCNP’s web site.

After working with the historian, daily trivia questions were developed during the planning phase of the project. By developing questions that could be found on VCNP’s website, we were able to make responses easy to find, but also created a way to drive traffic to the organization’s web page to look for answers. A variety of questions about VCNP history, member benefits, officers and regional activities were written to promote VCNP and engage a new network of followers. Images to make Facebook posts and the contest more recognizable were also created.

All work was completed within the budget for VCNP’s PR consultants. Planning objectives included increasing the overall “likes” of the statewide page to 900 by the end of 2014, as well as posting one question-per-day for 40 days.

Although our primary objective for the contest was to increase Facebook traffic, we recognized that not all members were on Facebook or wanted to join it, so we included weekly trivia emails in our planning. Target audiences included members and prospective members, NP students, legislators, and physician and other healthcare colleagues.

Prior to the contest kick off, we included messages about the trivia contest in VCNP’s monthly e-newsletter, quarterly member newsletter and on Facebook. We then consistently posted trivia questions every day for 40 days.

From January 1, 2014 through March 31, 2014, VCNP’s Facebook page added 100 new followers and, by the end of 2014, had 893 likes. During the 40 days contest, daily Facebook posts reached an average of 225 people and included multiple comments. VCNP’s web traffic also increased from 290 page views on January 25, 2014 to 446 page views on February 28, 2014 and 890 page views on March 14, 2014. February also recorded a 53 percent new visitors rate as opposed to 46 percent in January. We also received positive feedback from VCNP’s board of directors and members about the trivia contest.

 

Fetching Support Through Social Media

Client: nTelos Wireless

Tactics: Social Media

Strategy: Utilized trending topics and local partnerships to leverage engagement and an increased social media footprint

Outcomes: Social media growth and engagement

 

Hanging out with celebrities, even the furry ones, turned out to be one of Virginia-based nTelos Wireless’ best philanthropic decisions of 2014.

Primary research was gathered through meetings with nTelos Wireless’ public relations and digital marketing departments, as well as emails and phone conversations with the potential partners of the company’s next nTelos Cares program.

Secondary research was gathered via the Internet to determine what companies in the Roanoke area had influential social media profiles, as well as what nonprofits needed higher visibility.

With the goal of driving record-breaking social media activity for the nTelos Cares program, we utilized the strategy of leveraging National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month as a trending topic to create awareness for the nTelos Cares program and the phenomenon known as “Black Dog Syndrome,” where black dogs and cats are passed over for adoption because of the color of their coat.

Planning included conference calls and emails with nTelos, Black Dog Salvage and the Roanoke Valley SPCA. Materials developed during the planning phase included a PowerPoint overview of how nTelos Cares works, a marketing ideas tip sheet, social media content suggestions, sample blog posts, images for social media posts and a social media content calendar that outlined the content to be used for the duration of the two-week program.

Measurable objectives were set with a primary goal of increasing the likes, followers, reach and impressions of each partner’s (nTelos, Black Dog Salvage and the RVSPCA) social media channels by a minimum of 10%.

On Aug. 18, 2014, nTelos Cares’ two-week program kicked off with all three partners blogging about the program and posting to their social media channels. Throughout the program, content was shared daily by all partners and accounted for a total of 33 social media posts. Daily activity was recorded and reported to everyone involved.

Upon the completion of the program, Black Dog Salvage’s Facebook page’s likes had grown by 13 percent and its Twitter followers had seen a 3 percent growth. The RVSPCA’s Facebook page had grown its likes by 29 percent and its Twitter followers by 9 percent. nTelos’ accounts had also grown by more than 5 percent.

Black Dog made nine Facebook posts generating 3,485 post likes and 502 shares, while RVSPCA had 15 posts that generated 1,162 likes and 427 shares. nTelos’ Facebook posts received 681 likes and 114 shares. The total sum of social media activity equaled 7,390 interactions, which led to a donation of $3,000 RVSPCA.

Message in a Bottle

Client: Rock Bottom Brewery

Tactics: Media Relations

Strategy: Created a press kit as unique and iconic as Rock Bottom’s popular craft brews

Outcomes: Media coverage resulting in more than 6 million impressions

Rock Bottom Brewery – a national icon in the restaurant/brewery industry – targeted Richmond, Va. to open a new location in 2014. Selecting Richmond, based on its reputation as one of the fastest-growing craft beer markets in the country, RBB needed a media relations program and accompanying press materials that were as unique as its beer and brand.

A research program, followed by strategic planning, became the foundation for a press kit that would leave reporters literally “wanting more.” Envision a message in a bottle: a press release rolled up inside of a Rock Bottom Brewery growler, presented alongside additional media materials.

Primary research was gathered through meetings with Rock Bottom Brewery’s leadership and PR and marketing departments. This helped us determine what had worked with other market openings, as well as the company’s value message that needed to be communicated.

Secondary research was conducted in the beer market in Richmond via Internet searches. We focused on how other craft breweries in Richmond got their news to the media. We found that a sample of the beer being brewed was often the best way to get the media’s attention. Research also revealed how much the local breweries used social media as a marketing tactic.

Armed with the goal of using media relations to generate as much publicity and attention of Rock Bottom’s opening as possible, we utilized the strategy of creating a press kit as unique and iconic as the company’s craft beer and brand. The result was a press kit that included a signature Rock Bottom beer growler, signed by brewmaster Becky Hammond, with the press release rolled up and placed in the top, creating the “message in a bottle” theme. Rock Bottom also supplied us with marketing folders to hold coupons, informational materials, menus and business cards of Rock Bottom’s general manager and brewmaster. We were challenged with the issue of where to place the cap for the growler. The solution was to tape the cap to a piece of paper inscribed with a unique custom-created, beer-related poem, and place it in the press kit folder.

We strategically split the media distribution sites by location and familiarity with the news staff. We traveled to hand deliver 30 press kits/growlers to reporters so we could see their reaction and answer questions. This resulted in a positive first impression of the brewery by the media and added incentive for the reporters to visit and taste the food, fill their growlers, and cover the opening.

We saw an immediate reaction from some of the media via their social media networks. Reporters from around the area posted pictures of the growlers on their desks and wrote about how excited they were to try Rock Bottom. More than 20 placements were generated, resulting in more than 6 million impressions. Emails revealed that the restaurant recorded Rock Bottom’s busiest opening ever and that media relations played a big part in driving that traffic.

Increasing Awareness and Supporting Donor Relationships Through Media Relations

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Client: Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia

Tactics: Media Relations

Strategy: Leveraged high-profile charitable deeds into increased media coverage and awareness of Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia

Outcomes: Media Coverage

On Dec. 9, 2014, Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia granted its most impactful wish of the year. Lee, a 15-year-old diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, received his wish of a Tracker Bass Boat.

Research and planning identified that media relations could be used to increase organizational awareness, while simultaneously supporting development.

Initial background information regarding the needs and goals of Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia was gathered through planning meetings and telephone conversations. Formal research included a survey of staff and board members, which provided valuable insight into the needs of the organization. Other research revealed the community’s confusion about Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia as “local.” Through the survey and conversations with staff, there was also a strong desire to leverage media relations to highlight and increase corporate partnerships.

Our program goal, defined during planning, was to increase awareness of Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia as a local nonprofit benefiting children in Virginia diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, while simultaneously supporting development activities. This helped to define our strategy to leverage high-profile wishes, like Lee’s, to meet this goal.

As part of the planning process, our team also worked with Bass Pro Shops to secure a significant discount on the Tracker Bass Boat. After securing the discount, which made the wish possible, our team worked together with Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia, the wish sponsor, Trusted Choice, and Bass Pro Shops to develop a news release and timeline for media relations activities.

On Dec. 8, our team began pitching targeted local media outlets to secure coverage of Lee’s wish being granted. Follow-up calls were made to each media outlet, along with emails distributing the news release. Leading up to the event, we worked with Lee’s family to prepare them for news interviews. We managed media at the event and coordinated interviews with local TV and print media outlets. We also took photographs to accompany follow-up interviews or post-event interest from other media.

The event generated eight local media placements, but one of the TV stories was picked up by an additional nine media outlets across the country, including Boating World Magazine, resulting in a total of 2,722,295 media impressions.

We also evaluated our efforts through face-to-face meetings, emails and phone calls with the staff of Make-A-Wish, who were thrilled about the media coverage of the event and for their corporate sponsor, Trusted Choice.

 

Planting A Seed For Media Coverage

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Client: YWCA Sprout School’s Press Kit

Tactics: Social Media

Strategy: creating a press kit as unique and iconic as the new school’s name, brand and curriculum: The Sprout School

Outcomes: Media Coverage

When two of Richmond’s most respected nonprofits partnered to create a unique preschool to be housed in a children’s museum, they needed a press kit that was just as unique to encourage the media to attend a press conference announcing the initiative. Named The Sprout School, the program grew out of a partnership between the YWCA and Children’s Museum. A research program, followed by strategic planning, became the foundation for a press kit that would plant a seed of what the news was. Envision a children’s wooden toolbox, with a live plant, school supplies, a press folder, and sticker.

Primary research was gathered through meetings with the YWCA’s and Children’s Museum’s leadership, PR and marketing departments. This helped us understand the vision and theme of The Sprout School, as well as the new school’s value message that needed to be communicated.

We also researched the launch of other preschools in the country via Internet searches. This also revealed how other schools utilized social media to get the attention of reporters.

Armed with the goal of using media relations to generate as much publicity and attention of the school’s opening as possible and grow enrollment, we utilized the strategy of creating a press kit as unique and iconic as the new school’s name, brand and curriculum: The Sprout School. The result was a press kit made out of a colorful children’s toolbox that included small plants that played off the “sprout” theme, a terracotta pot with school supplies, a folder with a media advisory, press release and fact sheet about the school and its curriculum. Research identified that the school’s “Reggio Emilia-inspired” curriculum had its own brand and color pallet, which we matched with our press kit.

We were challenged with the issue of how to create a social media buzz before the press conference. The solution was to create a sticker that read: “Plant a pic on social media and watch it grow, use the hashtag #SproutWithYWCA to let people know.” to post a photo of the press kit on social media.

We strategically split the media distribution sites by location and familiarity with the news staff. We traveled to hand deliver nine press kits/toolboxes to reporters so we could see their reaction and answer questions. This resulted in a positive first impression of the new school by the media and added incentive for the reporters to cover the press conference.

We saw an immediate reaction from some of the media via photos of the kit on their social media networks. The press conference was highly attended by the media with more than 30 placements generated, resulting in 34 million impressions. Emails from the client revealed that the school received a $10,000 donation during the press conference and had maxed enrollment within 30 days of the announcement.

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