Georgia Case and myself in front of the new "Share Our Streets" pole banners for the upcoming multi-media road safety campaign in Long Beach we worked on together. The image behind us is of Aidan Cruz and to the right is Lexi Cruz (both are the children of LB Bicycle Ambassador Tony Cruz and his lovely wife Jody). Aidan by Allan Crawford, Lexi by Matt Fukushima. Graphic work by Jay Doronio of Parallel Play.
I have a new laptop and a new phone and guess what that means? I'm getting new lessons in patience. Because of course nothing quite works out the way one hopes as quickly as one hopes. I now actually have a smart phone and can be online on my phone - oh but for some reason my phone isn't recognizing my data purchase...and so it goes.
Know the feeling?
The past month or so has been an amazing time of things coming to fruition and falling into place for biycling in Long Beach in so many wonderful ways, especially with media placements (Women On Bikes SoCal in Momentum Magazine, Bicycling Magazine and more oh my!). It has been incredibly gratifying, but boy have the last three years been a time of teaching me the art of patience in all kinds of new ways. I come from an entrepreneurial background and most of my clients have been of the same ilk. I'm used to decisions being made quickly and moving fast at accomplishing things - that is until Georgia Case and I decided we'd like to throw our hat in the ring for an RFP to work together on a bicycle advocacy marketing project for the City of Long Beach.
One of Long Beach's two transit shelter ads out now is this one above. Image by Matt Fukushima of Katie Taylor and Geraldine Knatz. Graphic design work by Jay Doronio of Parallel Play.
Just this week someone from Northern California has taken Women On Bikes SoCal up on our offer to be an inspiration to have others start their own Women On Bikes projects and has asked me about how I put our structure together and how we'd become so media focused. Standing in the dusty parking lot of Acres of Books this week watching Charlie Gandy be photographed by top OC Weekly photographer John Gilhooley (for a possible OC Weekly cover story next week - keep your fingers crossed won't you?) I had some time to ponder the road to how we got here.
Georgia and I had known each other casually from a local non profit we both attended the events of, and I knew she and her husband had founded Bikestation because we'd profiled Bikestation in 2006 in Long Beach Magazine when I was the editor. We both have public relations in our backgrounds and our conversations would invariably turn to how to get Long Beach more in the regional and national "good news press." Indeed, that was our whole idea of wanting to work together, scheming to get our beautiful city seen with new eyes not only by others but from within as well.
Perhaps you as well live in a "second" city, or a place that you love dearly that does not have the reputation it deserves. Since moving back to my hometown in 2007 I have done my best to find different ways to try and get Long Beach into the powerful "good news press" on a regional and national scale in a variety of ways, but it wasn't until I became involved in bicycle advocacy that everything really began to click and come together, and the stories continue to have amazing legs and potential.
Most people not in the media (which is most of society, let's be honest) assume that most media stories just happen. Ah no, not unless you've already achieved a pretty decent level of celebrity, or have a strange, wonderful, or horrible thing happen to you that's incredibly newsworthy does the media "discover" a story any more.
These days the media is so cut to the bone staff-wise most stories are "placed." By that I mean that someone like me, who works in media relations, has often worked long and hard to get a story about someone, or something into the paper, magazine or blog. Basically we've pitched it. We've sent press releases, emails, phone messages etc. advising a particular writer or editor at a particular media outlet why they should consider a certain story. For example recently Ari Bloomkatz who writes on transportation for the Los Angeles Times came on two of Charlie Gandy's "Long Beach by Bike" tours and will probably write an article on Long Beach and bicycling quite soon - but I was in touch with Ari for over a year about Charlie and LB bike stuff before that happened. In regards to the O.C. Weekly piece by local writer Dave Wielenga I think we've been talking about him doing something somewhere on Charlie for over two and a half years now - and it all came together now because another media person, Ron Antonette (who handles the Public Relations for Bike Long Beach), booked Charlie and Bike Long Beach Bike Coordinator Allan Crawford on Dave's radio show out of CSULB a few weeks ago. Am I making you dizzy yet?
Back to the history and why patiene is such a virtue...
Georgia and I were getting more and more serious about finding a project to work on together in 2009 - and then Charlie Gandy was hired as the City of Long Beach's Mobility Coordinator. Georgia and her husband, being superb hosts, decided to throw Charlie a "welcome to Long Beach" party. That same week Charlie was on the cover of our sadly now defunct alternative weekly "District Weekly" (photographed by Russ Roca) and, prior to the Cases hosting Charlie I went to see him speak at Utopia at an event that I believe local walking and placemaking advocate Brian Ulaszwski organized. It was heady stuff - to hear that Sumi Gant had quietly gone about raising some $17+ million for Bike Long Beach (in the end it was over 22 million) and the new infrastructure and other projects that were either in play or on their way that would put Long Beach on the bike-friendly map. And Gandy was a pretty convincing showman with easy to understand soundbites and souther charm. My media relations thoughts were spinning.
A dynamic and diverse crowed showed up to listen that night. I sat next to Mark Bixby and reconnected with Bernadette McKeever who had done some terrific photography work for Long Beach Magazine and was now the head of the Long Beach Cyclists (Excitingly she is a photographer for the Port of Long Beach and one of our bike safety instructor scholarship candidates). When I asked if the City would be doing a proactive media outreach campaign to share all of this bike love locally and abroad Charlie asked me to stay after and speak with him - he'd found someone who spoke his language. Charlie and I have been pondering and planning and scheming and networking to get Long Beach not only into the local but the regional and national good news press ever since.
From the time Georgia and I had originally been notified the City of Long Beach would release two RFP's for Bike Long Beach (a media and a marketing one - we went after both) it took over six months for the RFP's to actually be released. We were up against stiff competition and didn't get the one we thought we really wanted - the media relations. Instead we won the marketing RFP (which God Bless her) Georgia insisted we go after. Then it took even longer to find out we'd won, and another few months to official be awarded the contract. So it took about a year from hearing of the RFP existing to being awarded it . The images you see in the pieces I've shared above were taken a year ago spring. Yes, it's taken over a year for the actual campaign we created called "Share Our Streets" to actually begin to roll out. The multi media campaign consists of a pre and post survey, pole banners, transit shelter ads and interior bus card ads, postcards, mini posters, three types of brochures, video public service announcements and more. We will be delighted when it all comes out because for almost two years we seemed like women who showed up at events and meetings without much to show for ourselves!
If in relation to that journey Women On Bikes SoCal came together quickly in some ways it's because I've had three years of tutoring by Charlie, three years of working with Georgia, and three years to study what's going on locally, regionally and nationally in bicycle advocacy. I now know well how different cities behave vs. advocacy organizations. I know what's possible and how to maneuver. I had a marvelous framework of professional women like Georgia, Andrea and Suja to work with who were leaders in the bike movement - and I wouldn't be anywhere wanting to share the power of story telling without all kinds of women being willing to be photographed for Women On Bikes by Allan Crawford and Shereef Moustafa.
Long Beach is now reaping the rewards of good news press because of a lot of hard work by very talented people like the City Manager Pat West, our Mayor Bob Foster, Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal, Council Member Robert Garcia, Mobility Adviser Charlie Gandy, Media Relations Ron Antonette,the grea work Bike Friendly Business District Coordinator April Economides has done and more. And truly the whole bike story of Long Beach began 15 years ago when John and Georgia Case convinced the City of Long Beach to work with them to create the first Bikestation in the U.S.
In other words it takes a vision and leadership, but it also takes a village and patience!
Why am I so passionate about the power of the press? Because the press is storytelling and humans are storytellers and story readers. That's how we make sense of the world. Someone telling you you should ride a bike won't go far. Someone showing you in a story how riding a bike has revolutionized their life will go much farther - especially if you can see yourself in that person.
My big picture bicycle advocacy dream is harnessing the power of the fashion and lifestyle media by having five famous women and five famous men on the covers of ten top national fashion and lifestyle magazines in May 2013 riding bikes for bike month. I know that it will more likely be 2015 by the time it really happens. But dream with me won't you? I know together we can make it happen! If we are truly going to double the number of women and girls riding their bikes we're going to need all of the positive media love we can get. I'd love your help!