The morning after the NFL announced the Rams will bolt to Los Angeles, I received an email from the Missouri History Museum (MHM).
“We’ve been here 150 years…And we aren’t going anywhere,” the email proclaimed. “St. Louis is the city of Lindbergh, Lewis and Clark, and Scott Joplin…While some organizations are leaving St. Louis, we’re staying.”
The email then encouraged people to post positive statements about St. Louis on social media with the hashtag #staySTL.
“Let’s rise above the noise and spread the word about how great St. Louis truly is,” the email said. (See the email online here: www.marketvolt.com/mhm)
What a great email! What a great campaign!
Immediately after I read the email, I tweeted: “Walked to work through Forest Park, most beautiful muni. park in US. I love this place #staySTL”
I write about it here because we, as St. Louis business people, should be proud of our community and grateful for institutions like MHM which encourage us to celebrate the positives. I also write about this because MHM’s campaign reveals some great marketing lessons which you can apply to your business.
Businesses thrive when they understand their mission and the connection points with their audiences. As we often say, you do not sell the products and services you deliver; you sell the outcomes and benefits your clients garner from those products and services.
MHM doesn’t sell museum exhibits or bookstore merchandise. MHM sells our city’s heritage by delivering museum exhibits and bookstore merchanise. MHM celebrates, honors and occasionally challenges our city’s history. In so doing, MHM strengthens our sense of community and creates connections.
The #staySTL campaign reflects and promotes that beautifully.
“It makes a lot of sense for our brand,” MHM spokesperson Leigh Walters told me. “It fits in with what we do. It helps to spread awareness of what we’re about. We felt like we were in a unique position to ask people to lead this campaign.”
People responded. The campaign spread quickly.
In less than three days, more than 1,500 tweets or retweets with the #staySTL tag had been posted. MHM’s Facebook page saw an 860% spike in new page likes translating into 1,700 new followers. MHM’s post reach jumped from an average of 19,000 the week before the campaign to more than 135,000 in the days following the launch. MHM doubled its engagement rate on Twitter increased its average number of retweets 60% (from 149 in a week to 220), saw a 72% jump in likes/favorites (from 128 to 456) and saw an 87% jump in replies to tweets.
Pride in St. Louis and a desire to give back to the community drove MHM to launch this campaign.
“We want to make ourselves a force for good and for spreading the good word about this community,” Walters said.
Let’s not forget, though, that MHM is a (nonprofit) business with goals and a bottom line. This campaign is good business for MHM. It has driven online engagement, strengthened the brand, fostered connections with thousands of people across the community. Over time this helps the bottom line — driving more visitors to the museum and increasing donations.
There’s nothing wrong with garnering business benefits from a community-minded campaign. In fact, this underscores the most important lesson of all: Act as a force for good in your community because it’s the right thing to do. But don’t be surprised when your business grows because of those actions.
Postscript: This article first appear in the February 2016 edition of “St. Louis Small Business Monthly.” After its publication, I received an email from Robert Baker, a St. Louis-based candlemaker who sells his products online at tinkerdickeranddoc.com. Robert noted that he woke the morning after the Rams’ announcement and posted the following to Twitter (among other posts):
Robert doesn’t know if MHM saw his post and then ran with its own campaign with a slightly different hashtag. But as he and I discussed when I called him after receiving this email, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he — a proud St. Louis resident and business owner — wanted to stand up and proclaim his love for his city AND that MHM wanted to do the same. MHM’s campaign is worth celebrating. That’s why I wrote about it. And Robert’s tweets — whether or not they inspired MHM — are worth celebrating, too. That’s why I’ve added this postscript to the original article.