Tending to public relations challenges during rather difficult times was the main job for RVIA’s Public Relations Committee again this year, general session attendees were told at the RVIA Annual Meeting, Sept. 21-23 at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, Calif.
“At last year¹s annual meeting,” said Gary LaBella, vice president of public relations and advertising for RVIA, “the issue of the day was fuel prices. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, fuel prices were higher than ever before in our nation’s history.
“The media were asking hard short-term questions, and we provided you with long-term answers about our industry’s strong outlook.”
All in all, 2006 was about as “crazy” as this past summer’s major RV public relations coup, “RV,” the movie, added Public Relations Committee Chairman BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson and Associates, Mishawaka, Ind.
“Think about it,” said Thompson. “Sony’s Columbia Pictures releases a heavily promoted comedy film starring Academy Award winner Robin Williams, Jeff Daniels, Cheryl Hines, and Kristin Chenoweth, and the film’s title shines a Hollywood spotlight on our product.
“The big letters “RV” stood tall on posters, marquees, and billboards all across the country, and in full-page color newspaper ads in the Sunday New York Times and all major metropolitan dailies from before its April 17 release through the summer. As the ads in the New York Times and across the nation screamed out – the number one movie in America!”
To Thompson, the movie was a sign of the acceptance and sustained popularity of recreational vehicles today throughout America.
The committee’s approach to the fuel price spikes, in turn, was to reinforce the facts and keep emotions out of it. Consequently, the RVIA PR team, assisted by Philadelphia-based Barton Gilanelli & Associates Inc., closely monitored the situation and constantly updated its fuel strategy to reflect the latest on the overall strength of the RV market, travel intentions and savings over other forms of travel – in part by utilizing the association’s Campfire Canvass survey and its PKF Vacation Cost Comparison Study.
After reviewing clips from a wide variety of PR hits, from the Boston Globe to Ebony and a variety of others, LaBella and Thompson updated the association’s “Spokesperson Tours” program through which celebrities tour the country as paid spokespersons for RVIA.
Joining the “See America” Herzog family (Brad, Amy and two sons) and veteran California-based RV historian David Woodworth are baseball great (and golfing fanatic) Jim Kaat and the “Extreme Tailgating” (and book-writing) DiEugenio family as they visit NFL games in a Fleetwood Bounder.