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Working with Patriots

Stadium of FireWe just had a wonderful Independence Day weekend and in the spirit of the season I want to tell you about America’s Freedom Festival, a not-for-profit organization we have the privilege of working with. I do want to make it clear that they are one of our clients, but they are not paying me or even know that I’m writing this.

I have always loved America. I think our country is the best in the world, and I will always stand by that opinion. I’ve always celebrated patriotic holidays and honored our servicemen and women. US history was one of my favorite subjects in school and I get emotional every time I watch Gettysburg (one of my top ten favorite movies). But as I’ve worked with the people at the Freedom Festival, I’ve seen a whole new level of what love for America means.

America’s Freedom Festival is an organization devoted to Family, Freedom, God, and Country–the core values the Founding Fathers relied upon in the establishment of America. The Festival organizes around 30 annual events, the bulk of which take place in late June and early July. These events are big time. They organize a parade that attracts around 300,000 people. They organize Freedom Days, where hundreds of vendors come together to turn downtown Provo into an exciting patriotic shopping center. They put on a Patriotic Service where talented musical guests contribute to a patriotic message from a notable person to inspire the 10,000+ in attendance. They organize a massive production where thousands of fifth graders come together to put on a patriotic program that will stir your inner Patriot. And of course the main event, Stadium of Fire, where huge musical stars like Carrie Underwood, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and many more perform in front of 50,000 people and add their talents to an Independence Day production and fireworks show rivaled by few.

The question is, why? Why does this organization do it? Are they pushing some political agenda? Isn’t someone making a bunch of money off Stadium of Fire and rolling in it after the show? No. There is no monetary motivation, there is no political agenda. All of the money made off Stadium of Fire goes to pay for the 25+ other free events, which are not cheap to put on, as well as the next year’s Stadium of Fire. I’ve been in a ton of Freedom Festival meetings and I’ve worked in their offices for a year now and I am so surprised how little politics are spoken of. Honestly I can’t remember politics coming up once outside of the conversations my business partner Emory and I have.

I really wish you could spend a few days hanging out with the organizers and the volunteers in this organization. I’ve never met a group of people more genuinely in love with their country. When you see the work, the effort, the stress, the tears shed, and the volunteer time given to honoring America you can’t help but glean from the pure patriotic spirit that they radiate.

So what has the Freedom Festival taught me about what it means to love America? It means you serve regardless of your own interests. It means you give of your money, time, and even your life, for the good of others. It means you understand that freedom is not free as you try to empathize with the pain of parents and spouses who have survived the troops they sent out. It means you look and treat the American flag with respect and honor. It means that whenever you say the pledge or sing the national anthem you can’t help but think of the thousands of lives and the billions of hours that have been given to ensure freedom. It means so much more that a weekend of celebration.

So thank you to America’s Freedom Festival for opening my eyes a little more to what it means to love America. America is amazing!

Online campaigns that mobilize fans are key to social media success

Activate the masses through social media

Activate the masses through social media

It’s been a busy few months for us here at Blue Helm. We’ve worked with some exciting new clients –from leading financial advisors at Northwestern Mutual to community education experts at Utah Valley University to the ambitious health food company, SunDrenchers. By far the group we’ve collaborated with the most over the past several months, however, are the folks over at America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, who work tirelessly to organize and promote year-round patriotic celebrations throughout the state of Utah.

The Freedom Festival sponsors one the nation’s largest (if not the largest) Independence Day extravaganza every year called the Stadium of Fire, located in LaVell Edwards Stadium on the campus of BYU. Last year they invited the Jonas Brothers, SHeDAISY and Glenn Beck to perform. And the year before that was Miley Cyrus and Blue Man Group. Big stars like that, in addition to thousands of other dancers, singers, volunteer performers and a trillion pounds of fireworks, make this quite a show. Needless to say, this is no humdrum July 4th celebration, and the Freedom Festival needed a social media campaign to match this colossal patriotic performance.

We strategized here at Blue Helm for a while and decided that the Freedom Festival needed an online campaign that not only energized its thousands of fans, but activated them. How could we use the Freedom Festival’s existing social media platforms to galvanize its fan base into doing something, thus enhancing the admiration, loyalty and passion they have for the organization? What could we do to attract other members of the community to its cause? How could be grow its social media fan base, all the while galvanizing and motivating its existing fans into taking positive action?

To make a long story short, we organized Vote the Voice—a three-part campaign that invited people to vote for a future Stadium of Fire performer. You can read more about the campaign (and the viral stir it caused) here. We promoted the campaign extensively, utilizing Facebook, Twitter and the local media. But the response to Vote the Voice was more than we could have ever anticipated. Over 75,000 votes were cast, some from as far away as New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. Blogs and news sites from across the United States picked up on the story, and we were overwhelmed with thousands of comments, links and wall posts on the Freedom Festival’s social networks. Even now that the campaign has officially ended, fans continue to send us votes and comments saying who they want to see perform this summer.

Moral of the story: Choose a social media campaign that mobilizes your fans and prompts them to do something. The Freedom Festival’s fans are now expert lobbyists, motivating (sometimes begging) other fans to vote for their pick. And it turned out to be a PR coup for the Freedom Festival as well.

Activate your Facebook, Twitter and blog fans. Posting random updates that don’t ask your fans to do anything will result in a lower level of fan participation, thus undermining the point of using social media.

Blue Helm sponsors Freedom Festival’s Vote the Voice campaign

The Jonas Brothers performed in 2009's Stadium of Fire.

The Jonas Brothers performed in 2009's Stadium of Fire.

Blue Helm is proud to work with America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, a nonprofit group that dedicates itself to promoting family, freedom, God and country. One of the Freedom Festival’s great annual events is the Stadium of Fire, an awesome celebration every 4th of July featuring past performers like the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, the Beach Boys, Blue Man Group and the Osmonds. This year, Blue Helm has sponsored the festival’s successful Vote the Voice campaign—an opportunity for Facebook and Twitter fans to recommend who they would like to see perform in a future Stadium of Fire event. Here’s the most recent press release we sent out to Utah’s media about the campaign:

Provo, Utah – November 17, 2009 - America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, in partnership with Blue Helm Communications, officially released today the final online poll for the Stadium of Fire’s Vote the Voice event. After aggressive grassroots and viral lobbying among thousands of fans, the community may now choose between David Archuleta, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Bon Jovi and Eric Dodge to become a potential performer in a future Stadium of Fire celebration.

Fans must visit the Freedom Festival’s Facebook page to access a link to the new online ballot. Over 15,000 votes have been cast since October 15 to narrow the list of favorite contenders to five. The new online poll of five names is comprised of leading nominees from the last two phases of the Freedom Festival’s Vote the Voice campaign—an energetic and ongoing vote held since September on the festival’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

A unique example of how Vote the Voice has influenced the Freedom Festival’s consideration of future performers is the inclusion of southern Utah country singer Eric Dodge in the final five. The Freedom Festival was unaware of his enormous popularity among many Utah residents before Vote the Voice began. Through Facebook, Twitter and Eric Dodge’s website, fans have coordinated and lobbied to vote in strong numbers, thus securing his name among other, better-known contenders in the final five.

In another distinctive use of social media campaigning, David Archuleta’s fans dominated Twitter discussions about Vote the Voice. Their lobbying for the American Idol runner-up was so relentless, one of the largest David Archuleta fan pages on Twitter took notice and encouraged its thousands of followers to get involved.

Members of the community are encouraged to visit the Freedom Festival’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/freedomfestival to learn more about how to vote for their favorite performers. Fans can also stay up to date with Vote the Voice on Twitter at www.twitter.com/freedmfestprovo.

When the Freedom Festival tallies all the votes at the end of the year, it will do its very best to book its fans’ favorite performer for a future Stadium of Fire event. No guarantee of any future performer, despite the outcome of the vote, can be made.