B.J. Thompson

There were as many questions as answers among some Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) members last fall when the national trade association opted to cut its 21-year-long ties with Philadelphia-based marketing firm Barton Gilanelli & Associates Inc. and move forward into a new era in which outside consultants and internal staff would shoulder more of the responsibility for presenting the industry’s public relations case to the American public.

Adding to the transition was the departure of RVIA’s Gary LaBella, vice president of public relations and chief marketing officer, who turned over the PR reins on Jan. 1, 2011, to James Ashurst, a former Travel Channel executive named RVIA’s vice president of public relations and advertising.

The change was “based on an overall strategic shift to bring more ownership and responsibility for our public relations function in-house,” Ashurst said in late 2011.

But time marches on, as most in the Public Relations Committee meeting last week (June 12) during RVIA Committee Week were reminded after reviewing year-to-date PR activity for 2012, including a Fox Business appearance by RVIA President Richard Coon and PR “hits” in Fox & Friends, ABC News, the Associated Press, CBSNews.com, the Washington Post, Miami Herald and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In fact, PR Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson tells RVBUSINESS that he’s pleased with the progress forged to date by RVIA’s staff and two outside consultants now working closely on a contract basis with RVIA on public relations initiatives – former Barton-Gilanelli staffer Jon Tancredi, who now operates a small shop called TPR in Havertown, Pa., and Diane McNamara, president of Fire It Up, P.R., with offices in Washington, D.C., and three other U.S. cities.

“Yes,” Thompson told RVBUSINESS.com, “we hired two consultants and that transition has worked out quite well for us. We continue to reap benefits from it, getting stories placed and getting partnerships developed. A number of other initiatives have taken place and are in the works right now. So working with Jon Tancredi, who has been familiar with RVIA and our products, has worked out real well for us, as has our new linkage with Diane McNamara with Fire It Up, P.R.

“They are both enthused about what we’re doing and they so far have turned out to be great marketing partners for us,” added Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, Mishawaka, Ind. “The amount of exposure that we’re getting continues to be very satisfactory. Plus we’re getting different kinds of exposures factoring in the social media opportunities the staff is working on. But it’s all working together in a nicely cohesive and synergistic manner. So, the transition’s working well.”