A Literal Sign of Opportunity In 2013

December 30th, 2012 by Matt Friedman

How are you feeling about the PR and communications business heading into 2013?

Sometimes, nervousness can be tempting. It can be easy to think about the continued contraction of traditional media, the uncertainty of social media platforms, the prolonged de-emphasis of PR by too many large corporations and the “experts” who are popping up around every corner, claiming to know more than the professionals who serve clients for a living. But, then, there’s a sign, quite literally, that much opportunity lies in front of us.

During a Christmas Morning walk in Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta, I noticed a historical marker about an event I had never heard of in the 20 years I have been spending time in that city (including time working in that market’s leading broadcast newsroom). The marker tells of what can only be described in today’s language as a mega PR campaign, held in 1895. I have pasted the text of the sign below. As you read it, think about how much money was raised ($53 million in today’s currency), how many people came together and how much was accomplished, all with 19th century tactics. After you read it, think about how much we can accomplish today to use communications strategies to accomplish business objectives, with the tools available to professionals in this business. If it doesn’t get you psyched about 2013, I’m not sure what can.

“The Cotton States and International Exposition. Was held for 100 days from Sept. 18. to Dec 31, 1895 in Piedmont Park. This event was held at a time when the region’s population was only 75,000 and economically depressed. The people of Atlanta raised two million dollars to finance a public exposition. The theme for the exposition was two fold: to exhibit the resources of the Cotton States and to stimulate trade with Spanish American Countries. The exposition attracted over 800,000 visitors from 37 states and foreign countries. Eleven elaborate exhibition buildings were built to house 6,000 exhibits. Principal buildings included the 65,000 sq. ft. US Government Building, the Negro Building, Women’s Building, Georgia Building, Electrical Building. Other attractions included a Ferris Wheel moving picture theater, water rides, reunion of Confederate and Union soldiers, University of Georgia vs. Auburn University football game, the Liberty Bell, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. President Grover Cleveland and John Philip Sousa composed the King Cotton March for the occasion. All citizens were involved in the exposition and the success of the exposition proved to lift the community to a high plane of prosperity and public spirit.”

On that note, Happy New Year from all of us at Tanner Friedman.

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