Community Engagement and Partner Groups
Friday, May 17, 2019, 2pm by Karen DeSollar
At GRCVB, there seems to be a cycle of buzzwords that we use in our meetings and hallway conversations. In the last year or two, I have heard master plan, disruption, deep dive and "move the needle" tossed around quite a bit.
One phrase that has always been around but that we’re using more right now is community engagement. The Bureau has always been interested in, and committed to, being involved in many facets of community life, especially those that relate to tourism and visitor-friendliness. But we're ramping up our community engagement strategy this year and making a more concentrated effort (you will be hearing more about that in August).
In the meantime, we wanted to make sure you know about some of the partner engagement projects we have been working on in recent years and the results that have come from them. Community engagement can be profitable, for everybody.
Several years ago, we pulled together a group of owners/managers of area live music venues (called the Live Music Advisory Committee). We were wondering what kinds of shared issues/problems these partners might have and what we could do to help promote their venues collectively to visitors.
Several significant developments came from that group. One was the creation of themostnc.com, Raleigh’s live music calendar. The committee advised that Raleigh/Wake County needed one, go-to place to list every live music event in the county. So themostnc.com, powered by visitRaleigh.com and sponsored by Pepsi, was born and still continues today.
Another example is a Wake County Beer Summit, a regular get-together for all craft brewers in the area (now numbering 31). Again, we were trying to provide an opportunity for these peer business owners to get together, to share any common concerns or goals and to help look for ways to promote their ventures to visitors.
From that collaboration, came the Raleigh Beer Trail (you will be hearing more about the Beer Trail in detail in a couple of weeks). The Beer Trail has several components—the Beer Trail map, listing most every brewery in Wake County, and the Beer Trail Passport, a downloadable document that visitors (and locals) can take with them when they visit area breweries for samples/tours. If they collect enough stamps on their passport, they can turn it in for some Raleigh Beer Trail swag, positively reinforcing repeat visitation.
Cultural Presenters Forum
The group that I’m closest to is the Cultural Presenters Forum (CPF), a group of 60 or so museums, performing and visual arts presenters in the county. CPF has been meeting together regularly since 2011 and has worked collectively on a number of projects, including:
- 31 Days of Art which promoted October 2013 as a prime opportunity for arts aficionados to visit Raleigh; there was an arts-related event virtually every day throughout the month.
- Wherefore in 2015 was a shared campaign featuring the work of (or work about) William Shakespeare. Several arts partners realized that they had scheduled Shakespeare-related projects in the same six-month period and coordinated their promotional efforts under the Wherefore-branded umbrella.
- Artify was similar, celebrating 100 years of North Carolina’s park system in 2016. Event planners scheduled events and presentations in and around the parks in Wake County and the promotion was integrated under the Artify moniker.
- Art&Soul did the same thing around the work of African-American arts, artists, cultural exhibits and related performances in 2017.
And CPF is still at work. Now we have moved on to some of the initiatives that came up by way of the Destination Strategic Plan (DSP), specifically Priority 3 (Events) and Priority 4 (Key Attractors). A separate group of stakeholders including CPF members is working on the Key Attractors portion of DSP implementation, but the CPF group is looking at the Events priority and asking some great questions:
- What are some other arts-related events around the country that we might look to for clues and hints about what we would like to do soon here?
- What kind of a unique signature event (think World of Bluegrass but differently arts-focused) could we create here that no one else has?
- What are the resources and partnerships already in place that we could leverage?
We just talked about it at a CPF meeting in early May. And we will be meeting again soon to move forward.
Working with these committees is just one prong of a multifaceted, community engagement strategy being employed by the Bureau in the coming months. As I said above, you will be hearing more about that as we get into Annual Meeting season.
Don’t be surprised if a little while from now, you see a new, creative, uniquely-Raleigh arts event come online… that’s the kind of work that has been happening in these groups, and it’s where we’re headed next.
If you have any questions about any of these groups, please let us know.
Author: Karen DeSollar
Karen DeSollar is creative director at the Greater Raleigh CVB and has worked for over 15 years in the tourism sector. She started her career as an editor and earned a bachelor's degree in speech communications and English and a master's in journalism. She added graphic design to her bag of tricks when she spent 13 years as director of communications at a university in San Diego.