Many of America’ small towns are county seats that have an annual community celebration. In the case of Seward, Nebraska, they are the State’s official 4th of July City, and have an annual event on the 4th that draws between 25-30,0000 participants from nearby Lincoln, the state capitol, and surrounding communities. This is also the homecoming day for their High School graduates, out-of-state relatives and anyone who wants to participate in a typical small-town festival.
Most commonly media coverage of such events consist of a good spread in the local newspaper, a reporter sent to cover the event from the nearest regional newspaper and perhaps a radio and TV broadcaster from local stations. All this coverage is fine, but does not have much lasting power. On the other hand, free social media such as YouTube video, PodCast radio, blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook offer national and even international exposure for locally produced content.
My introduction to Seward County came when I had to do community service following a traffic stop on nearby Interstate 80 while on my way back from an Idaho hunt. I discharged this obligation with a video and radio show on Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures. I was charged with having an unlicensed concealed handgun in my vehicle because my Georgia carry license had lapsed. After having successfully completed all of my requirements regarding this event, I was informed that I could reclaim my gun at a State Patrol facility in Lincoln. I arranged to pick the pistol following my receiving a prize from the Outdoor Writers Association of America in Knoxville, which put me near Seward in time to cover their 4th of July event.
I contacted the festival organizers with an offer to do an outdoor comedy show to be followed by brief presentation on how to start a million or billion dollar business in small-town America. I also
arranged for a book signing at Chapters Books and Gifts on the town square. The larger news outlets had more profitable markets and gave relatively scant attention to the goings-on in nearby Seward. In sharp contrast, I was there from dawn to dusk on the 4th, but actually started my coverage two days before by taking set-up photos and doing interviews. I even went to nearby York and arranged to do a story about Abengoa Bioenergy Corp’s ethanol production plant. I also arranged a long interview on Small Town Business Development with Stephanie Croston of the Seward County Independent to run sometimes after the 4th. As I would be walking around town with Young Blunderbuss slung over my back, I informed the County Sheriff’s office and City Police about my activities. My unusual appearance with a white sodbuster straw hat, coveralls and blunderbuss was specifically designed to attract attention and work up potential spectators for my off-menu stage performance and advertised book signing.
Pre-parade events on the 4th that I and Young Blunderbuss covered included the pancake, eggs and sausage breakfast at the VFW, Anvil Firing, Old Car Show, Crafts Fair, Fire Company Competition, Clogging, Pie Eating Contest and Bubble-Gum Blowing Contest. Simultaneous events were also taking place at the Civic Center and Fairgrounds that I did not attend. The observed presence of other media was scarce. There were some reporters/photographers from the Steward Independent and one TV reporter, and only one other recognizable media representative. If these events are going to receive much coverage on anything on more than local scale, it is apparent that local people are going to have to gather and report it.
I had an added complication by the time I did my stage show in that I discovered that I had lost my truck keys and had to make plans to get back to Lincoln and return to reclaim my truck. I was hot and a little flummoxed from these prior events, but, “The show must go on,” and it did. I have a preview of my show at: https://youtu.be/UGdFb9l0x-A and you can see the full 30-minute version on YouTube at:https://youtu.be/x6kNXvHyJ7w.
Of considerably more interest to most people was that I did an additional video where I attempted to capture the day’s events from the pancake breakfast to literally sleeping off the events of the day. This included still photos that I took the previous days, an interview with a local gallery owner, some bits of live footage of the more exciting events, and close-ups of the aftermath of a bearded contestant’s winning the bubble-gum blowing contest.
Want some bubble-gum? I am willing to share.
Thus far the count is three videos with exposure on Pinterest,, Facebook, Twitter and Google +. There will also be cross connections between this blog and YouTube. Although all of these were posted within the last three days, they have already received comments from people in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Although these videos contain ads for my books and services they should have also contained contact information from the Chamber of Commerce and Concordia University. I was unsuccessful in making contact with them although I made three attempts with Concordia and one with the Chamber.
With the pool of talent available at the High School or at Concordia there is no reason that this type of Media Blitz could not have been done in previous years or in the future as a low costs means of advertising the community, attracting businesses and new residents. Using four students pushing out social media content with input, and pay, provided by the Chamber of Commerce can go far towards advertising Seward as an attractive place to live and a viable location for new businesses at far less costs that hiring professional video production firms or public relations agents from Lincoln or Chicago.
I could return and do a more typical “Chamber of Commerce Video,” but this would costs $2,500 for similar coverage with more input about businesses and the Chamber, but the same can be provided with local talent for far less costs. Slick productions are not desired, as these look like ads and will be switched off as soon as they are identified. If these community ads tell people something that they need to know, are fun and have more than temporary usefulness they will go far towards advertising the community, particularly if there are hundreds of them. One video, presented once, will do little, but needs to be linked to follow-up and past activities, other forms of media, etc. In few words make the videos interesting, lively, smart and personal.