The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) ongoing push for positive publicity – a campaign that has taken on an extra edge this year for a variety of reasons – resulted in a solid PR hit Sunday night (April 11) with a flattering NBC Nightly News segment in which anchor John Seigenthaler headlined a “rather surprising turnaround in the world of leisure.”
“Those lumbering homes on wheels – RVs –  are experiencing a revival on America’s roadways,” Seigenthaler said, in introducing the report. “This, despite record high gas prices.”
In the segment, which opened with a shot of a Fleetwood Discovery diesel pusher and a string of modern and vintage Airstream towables, correspondent Jeannie Olm told how higher gas prices “have done little to curb the enthusiasm” for RV consumers.
Featured were a retired, Class A-driving couple, Phil and Sharon Miller, along with first-timer Sharon Green, who was shown receiving driving lessons after having made the decision to purchase her first coach. “I went to a big show in Atlanta,” she said, “and got the bug.”
That bug is “contagious,” with sales this year expected to hit a 25-year high, said Olm, who then turned the microphone over to RVIA Chairman and Coachmen Industries Inc. Chairman and CEO Claire Skinner.
“Historically,” Skinner said, “what we’ve seen is that as long as fuel is available, the price of it really does not have that much of an impact.”
Added Olm, as the camera segued to Tampa’s Lazydays RV SuperCenter Inc., “What is driving the boom – low interest rates and a $50 million marketing blitz targeting people as young as their 30’s.”
As a salesman pointed out interior amenities at the nation’s largest single-site dealership, where business was described as “brisk,” Olm addressed another one of the three key talking points RVIA and its public relations agency, Barton Gilanelli & Associates Inc., have been stressing this spring.
“The demand for RVs is so strong,” said Olm, “it’s fueling something hard to come by these days – jobs in manufacturing,” including the addition of 3,500 RV jobs in the RV manufacturing capitol of Elkhart County.
Coachmen, for example, has added three new plants and opened two others, she said.
All in all, Barton Gilanelli President Frank T. Gilanelli, the campaign has been a successful team effort for RVIA, his agency, Fleetwood, Coachmen, Lazydays and the industry at large. In addition to addressing gas-price concerns and overall industry growth, he said, one of the key focuses of RVIA’s campaign now involves countering the spate of news stories in which companies are closing plants and moving jobs overseas because the RV industry, based on a recent survey of manufacturing members,  is bucking that trend.
“All of those things packaged together you saw on that report last night,” said Gilanelli.
Although he took issue with the word “revival” in Seigenthaler’s introduction, Gary LaBella, vice president of advertising and public relations for RVIA, was satisfied with the exposure. “This is a great placement for the industry, and we’re very happy to have it, especially on Easter Sunday,” said LaBella. “We were extremely pleased that the story focused on both themes that we’re hammering home right now – the ever-increasing popularity among consumers and the made-in America theme.”