Inside the Chamber: How to win awards and influence people |

Inside the Chamber: How to win awards and influence people

It’s 11:45 p.m. on a Sunday night on the East Coast, and the chamber team is scrambling. We’re tweeting and texting and emailing and madly posting photos.

The competition is hot and heavy as Outside Magazine approaches the midnight deadline for its “Best Towns” tournament. Magazine editors have identified 64 of their favorite towns, and the overall winner is being determined by electronic voting. We beat Victor, Idaho, in round one, and in round two we’re in a dead heat with Whitefish, Montana.

We stand strong.

We “like.” We “share.” We “comment.” We relentlessly pound our keyboards.

We sleep with iPads on our nightstands and mobile phones under our pillows so we can check the stats during the night.

We strategize about the best times to eblast our fans and followers so that we’ll get a significant spike in the votes and stave off the competition.

We are not alone. If this were an army, Vicky Nash (Resort Trends) and Mandy Gauldin (Peak Communications) would be our generals. They are recruiting and rallying troops of their own in this social media battle. Erin Zalinski (owner of Treadz) is our “eyes on the ground” and the one who alerted us about the contest in the first place. Community leaders like Steve Beckley, Steve Davis and John Bosco use their influence in getting their followers to vote.

Thousands of friends and fans are with us as we close the ranks and finally pull ahead. It’s a nail-biter, but we win our bracket, 9,994 votes to 9,922.

Yes, we are the cyber-warriors, the proud and shameless promoters of Glenwood Springs.

The next bracket doesn’t go as well, and we lose to Port Angeles, Washington, by a margin of just under 1 percent. But we get a whopping 13,586 votes. Most importantly, we reach our goal to make it to what I call the “Sweet Sixteen” — the top 16 towns that will be featured in Outside Magazine as the Best Towns of 2015. That’s the type of publicity you just can’t buy.

I chose this award to write about because it is unique and not many people know what went on behind the scenes. The chamber has been privileged to have been instrumental in most of the community awards, and we also nominate and promote individual businesses and publicize their honors. While winning awards looks seamless, the nomination process for PR professionals takes work.

Colleagues have asked me the secret of how Glenwood Springs manages to win so much recognition. I grin as I recall that I learned all I know about promotion from a man named David “Hands” Levenson.

I started my public relations career at The Cleveland Orchestra, arguably the best orchestra in the world. David was my boss.

The orchestra was doing a world tour when David earned the nickname of “Hands.” When the conductor would come out for his first bow at the end of a performance, David would go to work in the audience. He’d start by clapping politely and build up to a crescendo that matched the percussion section. By the end of the first encore he’d be whistling, cat-calling, stomping and yelling “Bravo.” He was a master at getting a standing ovation every time. Naturally newspaper headlines wherever the orchestra toured documented the audiences’ wild enthusiasm.

Meanwhile back at the office I had organized a community welcome home party for 200 fans and had all the rave reviews enlarged and mounted on poster board at the Cleveland Airport. The reception made a great front page photo for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

So back to David’s three rules of public relations: First, promote something absolutely amazing. Second, generate applause. And finally, celebrate the win.

Glenwood Springs has been recognized as the Most Fun Town in America with the best hospital, best community college, best chamber of commerce, best rural transit system, best hot springs and attractions, best arts community, best golf courses, and the best place to start a business. The list of individual business honors is so extensive that one might determine we have more over-achievers per capita than any small town!

If your business has achieved recognition that you’d like the chamber to promote by award nomination or support, call me.

Yes, we are the shameless promoters of Glenwood Springs — and we’re clapping for you.

Marianne Virgili is president & CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

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