By Joel Rubin
Every city in Hampton Roads, in partnership with the local Chambers of Commerce, conducts a State of the City event each year.
It typically features an uplifting speech by the mayor, a PowerPoint with lots of pictures and a feel-good video. Some are better than others (often based on the mayor’s speaking ability), and most are typically a bit too long for the audience of business people who are looking at their watches, wondering when they can get back to work after lunch. Still, they are popular and well-attended programs, which is why city staff invests a great deal of time in producing them.
I’ve attended lots of these state of the city events but rarely have had an opportunity to be consulted about the content. Hampton changed that this year, thanks to their dynamic economic development director Leonard Sledge and city manager Mary Bunting. They wanted some creative ideas because Hampton has a new mayor, Donnie Tuck, and they wanted to help him make his first State of the City memorable.
Our creative director Jessica Bensten designed graphics to highlight the theme, Full Speed Ahead, and I worked with the city’s communications director and Mayor Tuck on the speech, which he delivered well. One reason he is so good on his feet is that Donnie Tuck was, like me, once a TV reporter, doing two years on the street with WTVD in Durham, NC. I figured reading off a teleprompter would not be a problem for this Duke University grad, who actually also worked in public relations…for the Washington Redskins in 1987 where he earned a Super Bowl ring.
But I wanted to take even more advantage of his personality and on-camera skills and suggested a two-and-a half-minute video with the theme, “Gotta Go.” So one morning about ten days before the State of the City, videographer Bobby Cullipher, the mayor and I hit about seven spots in Hampton, recording quick scripted bites from business and government people and a tag line from the mayor, “would love to hear more but I’ve gotta go.” At the end, as you’ll see, a group of school children asks him, “where do you gotta go?” And his Honor says, “I gotta go deliver the State of the City address.”
When the video ran on big screens in the Hampton Roads Convention Center ballroom on November 15, the audience of about 450 watched intently, and then applauded as the Mayor ran into the room when it concluded.
Our other addition to the day was having all the attendees write notes of encouragement to school children, which were then delivered to all of the city’s elementary, middle and high schools that afternoon.
I wasn’t able to poll the crowd about their reaction to our video and note writing, but Mayor Tuck, who has been on the Hampton City Council since 2010 and was elected mayor last May, was thrilled. “You took our theme and with your creative genius, helped us to hit it ‘out of the park!’ We could not have done it without you!” That made it all worthwhile for me.
We love thinking “out of the box”. So give us a ring when you want to liven up your event. We usually come up with a good idea that works.