Social Media

Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome Makes College Basketball Debut


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.


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.

Increasing Awareness and Supporting Donor Relationships Through Media Relations


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


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.

Social Media Growth “One” Day At A Time

Client: C&F Mortgage Corporation Social Media Program

Tactics: Social Media

Strategy: To utilize the uniqueness of a “social media day” to achieve measurable growth of the company’s social media channels

Outcomes: Social Engagement and Growth

C&F Mortgage Corporation launched a Social Media Day campaign to engage employees and build its online following. In a series of special days during the summer months, the PR and marketing team worked to plan contests to engage employees, customers, and others. Then, they planned social media activities to support these activities while increasing its following and engagement. The internal push for employee engagement improved morale and online activity while it grabbed the attention of an external audience. Over three months and two social media day events, the Facebook audience grew 30%, engagement increased 375% and reach grew by 1,457%.

Research and background information was gathered through conference calls with C&F Mortgage to discuss the idea, gain consensus to execute, and insight into potential resources that can be used. We also monitored weekly activity to set goals and establish the right time and information to post. Internet research also revealed online holidays and companies that have had success engaging employees via social media.

With the primary goal of increasing employee morale, we hoped the event would, in turn, increase the engagement of potential mortgage customers socially. Our strategy was to utilize the uniqueness of a “social media day” to achieve measurable growth of the company’s social media channels.

For planning, we worked with the client’s internal marketing team to establish and plan the best day for the event, come up with communications tactics such as internal emails, and an appropriate prize to encourage participation from external audiences.

Deliverables created included 2 internal email campaign, an initial Facebook message on the day of the event, a follow-up message, and email to announce the winner.

Planning objective was to increase C&F Mortgage’s Facebook followers by 10 percent.

The first day of the campaign was June 30, 2016, because it was already deemed Social Media Day and a great tie-in to our efforts. Earlier in the week, C&F Mortgage’s marketing department sent an email to all employees. Then on the morning of June 30, they were sent a second email reminding them of the day. A post was published on both Facebook and Instagram announcing the contest and prize to the public.

Each like, share and comment were counted and responded to when necessary. Photos posted by employees and public were shared or commented on by the C&F Corporate page and sometimes shared by corresponding branch pages. Branch pages and Loan Officer pages invited their followers to ‘like’ the Corporate page in order to participate.

The second campaign was National Dog Day.

The company’s Facebook audience grew 30%, engagement on the page increased 375% and reach grew by 1457% between June 1 and September 30, 2016.

The National Dog Day post received 96 photos as comments and 6 posts to the page.

A History Story Like No Other Results In Pride and $10,000 Donation


Client: UMFS’ Media Relations Program

Tactics: Media Relations

Strategy: Targeted local reporter Bill Lohmann from The Richmond Times-Dispatch to tell a history story that could have come from a Hollywood movie.

Outcomes: Media Coverage

It was a story that most would believe came from a Nicholas Sparks movie. Our client UMFS, which ran an orphanage in the 1930s, uncovered the story of a man named Ray Coffelt and tasked us with telling it the best way possible. While a teenage resident of the orphanage, Coffelt jumped on a train in Virginia, rode it to New Mexico, later joined the military and fought for his country, and returned to marry his sweetheart. The strategic pitch to a specific reporter resulted in Collfelt’s story running on the Fourth of July with the result of $10,000.


Primary research was gathered by reviewing archived photos from UMFS resources that included Ray Coffelt (now deceased). It was also done via personal phone calls with the Coffelt family. Nancy Coffelt, Ray’s wife met regularly with previous residents of UMFS’ orphanage known as “The Home” and gathered additional details pertaining to the story.

Additional research was conducted via review of a Facebook post that revealed that Ray Cofflet’s grandson had commented on a photo featuring his grandfather. Internet searches for the best reporter to cover the story turned out to be a game changer as it uncovered someone who loved to tell interesting history stories in a unique fashion.

Armed with the goal of using media relations to generate branding and awareness of UMFS, we leveraged the strategy of targeting reporter Bill Lohmann from The Richmond Times-Dispatch to tell a history story that could have come from a Hollywood movie. We then developed a specific media pitch that focused on his unique writing/reporting and key facts of the story.

We first emailed our pitch to Lohmann and within minutes he responded with interest. This resulted in a phone call with him to schedule the interview. Since Nancy Cofflet had aged and was not in the best of health, we were challenged with planning the interview and keeping the Coffelt family engaged through the logistics of scheduling an in-person meeting. We arranged interviews for the Coffelt family and UMFS staff. Lohmann met the Coffelt family on the campus of UMFS, where Ray and Nancy first met and later married. He talked through Ray’s history, scanned multiple photo albums, and took some pictures. The story ran on Independence Day, A Story of Remembrance.

We saw an immediate reaction from the story running as board members and UMFS staff read and shared the story. More than 6,000 people interacted with the Facebook posts that featured the Coffelt story and led to additional awareness of the history of UMFS. We also evaluated our efforts through emails and phone calls to UMFS staff and board members. The organization received an unsolicited $10,000 donation from a reader of the article. UMFS was thrilled with the results.