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Buzzie from Nashville: The Grand Ole oPRy

  |  August 1, 2000   |  Comments

If you're looking for some program ideas that are so basic, yet truly fresh, you're gonna love this Buzzie nominee. Off the beaten media trail, a Nashville agency and its client are using dialogue and relationship-building techniques to build a brand.

If you're looking for some program ideas that are so basic, yet truly fresh, you're gonna love this Buzzie nominee. Off the beaten media trail, a Nashville agency and its client are using dialogue and relationship-building techniques to build a brand.

Late last year, Silas Deane left his job as a PR exec with a Nashville agency to set up shop out of his home. A local Nashville reporter discovered the story and asked him what his niche was going to be. Those were the days when only one answer was possible: dot-coms and start-ups.

Joe Freedman, president of eConception, a Nashville start-up, read the story and offered Deane a tradeoff: space, facilities, and a phone for PR services. (This might tell you right away, Toto, that you're not in New York, Boston, or California.)

It turned out to be a dynamite combination. Deane got "caught up in the energy behind launching a dot-com and came up with a PR product designed for that sector." (The product, code-named PRSource, will be released in September and is funded largely by eConception, but that's another story.) eConception got plastered all over the local and regional media in highly targeted communications. And Si Deane's LogicMedia got a major fringe benefit that went way beyond office, phone, and fax.

eConception positions itself as "Mission control for start-ups." The company offers a shopping basket of services from building and operating tech companies to providing capital and management consulting services. The company's model is to minister to underserved areas like Nashville with local management in offices headed by local entrepreneurs. After building and testing the Nashville model, eConception expects to proliferate mission-control centers rapidly across the United States and internationally. For Silas Deane and his LogicMedia agency, it was like landing in the briar patch.

"All start-up companies need PR," says Adam Small, "so LogicMedia is a resource." And as one of eConception's portfolio companies (because of the new PR product in development), those services are available at a deep discount. "It's a question of economics, but it's also a question of synergy," says Small.

To position eConception as the local experts on all things Internet, the LogicMedia team set out "to establish eConception as the quotable source for anything related to e-commerce and the Internet." Deane's group set up five editorial board meetings in the eConception offices and traveled to several others across the state and region. It helped that eConception is in a converted warehouse known as Cummins Station, located downtown near the historic Nashville train station. The huge facility is fully furnished with hardwood floors and a huge metal swinging door to the conference room.

LogicMedia arranged for meetings with the mayor and local members of Congress and set up appearances at e-commerce and technology seminars. Working with Vanderbilt University, eConception and LogicMedia set up a technology council in Nashville and, with the Chamber of Commerce, helped launch the E-Commerce Council.

"Some of our editorial board meetings have been as far away as Atlanta, Birmingham, and Louisville," said Deane. "Most, however, have been local. We do not discriminate between big and little publications or between radio or TV stations. If we get the opportunity to sit with them, we do... The meetings are structured to be open forums, not so much about eConception, but about the Internet or about what the e-business climate is in Nashville. Eventually, it leads to us, and we talk about our portfolio companies. Mostly, though, the format is open dialogue, no PowerPoint presentation, [people] get to know one another, and then our team is charged with doing a lot of follow-up... We try hard to be a media source rather than just pitching stories. However, pitching stories is important..."

One way to measure the success of this program would be media results: 25 written features across middle Tennessee plus 15 radio and TV interviews "and innumerable Internet media features." There's another way. From a handful of business plans reviewed weekly, eConception is now receiving more than 200 Internet-related business plans per month to review.

Pretty good tradeoff.


Now for some summer reading...

"Getting @ttention," Susan Kohl's classic little book on publicity and marketing is a mercifully brief and refreshingly practical manual on pretty much everything you have to know to take your story to the online and offline, for that matter media. Down to earth and endlessly useful, "Getting @ttention" is like the "Joy of Cooking" for PR folks... in paperback. You might have trouble finding it at your local booksellers, but you can get it at Amazon.com for $15.96. And with average monthly PR retainers running $20,000 to $25,000, what are you waiting for?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zhenya Gene Senyak

Zhenya Gene Senyak of www.senyak.com is a bipolar writer/marcom pro based in a formerly lazy California chicken farming river town. A ClickZ writer, he's also the author of Prentice-Hall's "Inside Public Relations" and Public Relations Journal articles on cognitive dissonance and fear appeals, and is a contributor to Business 2.0, OMNI, Home Office Computing, Publish, and other onlineand offline media.

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