Local groups re-tooling strategies to stand out

Local groups up the ante on promotional strategies
Local groups re-tooling strategies to stand out

Upwardly mobile people attend business and nonprofit events to support their favorite cause and, of course, to network. But with fierce competition for audiences and funding, local groups are upping the ante with novel venues, better food, clever slogans and substantive programming.

Due to space more than anything, the women’s leadership forum TEMPO is leaving the venerable Madison Club after thirty-four years, taking up new residence at Blackhawk Country Club. It’s a big move from the city’s core to Shorewood Hills, but it’s part of a strategic initiative to add diversity to its older, white demographic.

“Like a lot of other organizations, people haven’t deliberately excluded anybody,” says president Jacqui Sakowski. “But it’s easy to come up with excuses when you’re already crammed.”

Lack of available or sufficient meeting and conference space downtown is a source ?of considerable public debate. For today’s organizers and attendees, though, quality counts as much as quantity.

“It’s a well-known trend that people increasingly seek and value rare experiences,” says Marsha Lindsay, CEO of the branding and advertising firm Lindsay, Stone & Briggs. “One definition of ‘rare’ is a cool venue people would never get the chance to experience otherwise.”

Rare is exactly what the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce had in mind when it booked the Kohl Center for IceBreaker, a new networking luncheon on April 23–right after the facility breaks down the ice in the hockey rink. It’s part of the chamber’s quest to brand Madison as a hub of business activity and innovation.

“We’re trying to create can’t-miss events for the purpose of building a sense of place and a sense of who we are and a sense of where we’re going,” says president Zach Brandon, who has successfully engaged a ?new generation of entrepreneurs and the burgeoning tech sector. IceBreaker’s creative location coupled with its double-entendre moniker gives the event the kind of novelty and appeal its nearly 1,300 members have come to expect.

Blazing the trail in rebooting and rebranding community causes is the Clean Lakes Alliance that four years ago launched the nonprofit with a swanky cocktail party at Sardine overlooking Lake Monona. “I promised everybody unique spaces and no chicken dinners,” says executive director James Tye, who, true to his word, opted for a 7:30 a.m. annual breakfast. Last year’s “Save Our Lakes” event featured fish mobiles made by schools and community groups hanging from the ceiling and a real pier doubling ?as the stage. The morning eye-opener now ?attracts as many as eight hundred people.

“It’s not just about the networking, it’s about how you exponentially move your brand forward and make community connections,” says Tye, adding that an important piece of land in the Yahara watershed was sold to the county for preservation as the result of a breakfast interaction.

A thirty percent increase in attendance at Frostiball 2015, a fundraiser for Overture Center’s community arts programs, came by promising and delivering fresh entertainment that included contortionists and stiltwalkers wandering through the crowd. And with an active board of directors motiving its base, the crowd was diverse.

“For our longterm success, we need the entire community supporting us,” says publicist Robert Chappell. “And that includes communities of color, that includes young professionals, that includes everybody.”

The Best in Business

Do you love going to work? Whether your boss rocks, your cubemates are your off-duty friends or you clock out with the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference, your company could be one of the city’s best employers.

Put your team to the test in Madison Magazine’s Best Places to Work. Nominate your company to participate in an online employee survey to find out how you rank in ten key factors that drive employee engagement:

1. Teamwork
2. Manager Effectiveness
3. Trust in Senior Leaders
4. Trust With Coworkers
5. Retention
6. Alignment With Goals
7. Feeling Valued
8. Individual Contribution
9. Job Satisfaction
10. Benefits

From major corporations?to small shops, private businesses to nonprofits, all Madison-area companies are encouraged to enter the nominations process.

Nominations are accepted March 16 to April 17 at madisonmagazine.com/bptw, with the survey period running April 27 to May 29. The survey is confidential and only the top-ranked companies will be featured in the October issue of Madison Magazine.

To nominate a local company or find details on Best Places to Work, visit madisonmagazine.com/bptw.