Spreading the Love in Rocky Mount

Love Rocky Mount? You're not alone. Every day, more and more people are discovering new reasons to fall in love with the quaint North Carolina community, and now they're talking. On air, online and on lawns, support for the city's "Ask me why I love Rocky Mount" campaign is evident. The successful marketing campaign kicked off April 2010 with colorful yard signs, window decals, and countless friendly faces.

"Not only did we want to create a positive image, but we wanted to make people stop and think about all the great things in Rocky Mount that some of us take for granted every day," says Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs.

A lifelong city resident, Combs is one of more than 200 friends and neighbors interviewed for spots now airing on cable television and online at www.loverockymount.com. Newspaper ads and social media outlets Twitter and Facebook also are part of the massive outreach effort created by Rocky Mount-based Lewis Advertising. Agency president Don Williams says the end goal was to create a very personal campaign.

"In place of a call-to-action statement, the campaign is centered around a question that encourages discussion. 'Ask me why I love Rocky Mount' is a very direct and personal challenge. It's a question that begs to be answered," Williams says.

Megan Hinkle, public affairs manager for the city of Rocky Mount, said the campaign is part of the city's responsibility to get people more involved in their community. She says newcomers who have moved to Rocky Mount specifically for its culture, education and healthcare often are more aware of local amenities than those who've called the area home for generations.

"We have lifelong residents who have never been to the Imperial Centre, or to some of our many parks," Hinkle says. "People are drawn to our small community where you still have some of the amenities of a larger city but without the frustration of a long commute at the end of the day. It really is a community that welcomes people with open arms."

Video clips feature residents of all ages citing reasons why they love Rocky Mount. Diversity, opportunity, recreation and friendly people rank among the most popular responses.

"To go to a site and see what people you know are saying is nice, and it really is amazing to see such a great demographic cross section," Combs says. "Everyone has a different perspective."

City leaders also are working with frontline staff at area hotels and restaurants to ensure out-of-town guests are given the most up-to-date and comprehensive city information possible. Meanwhile, online visitors are encouraged to "Show some love" by picking up yard signs, stickers and window clings available at area businesses. Click on "Send some love" to create a custom online postcard featuring familiar Rocky Mount landmarks, and learn about the city's recreational, educational and cultural venues at the "What's to love" link. Finally, visitors can "Feel the love" at the site's media center featuring the campaign's 14 videos, print ads, flyers and billboards.

"We've had an excellent response to the campaign," Combs says. "For anyone who says there's nothing to do here, they're just not looking for it."

Community gardens are really growing in Rocky Mount, with several churches and a number of green-thumbed individuals getting involved. One area master gardener and retired fireman, L.W. Farmer, uses gardening to give back to the community. He leases a piece of property from the city, tills the soil, and offers the land up to others in the community to use and grow crops in the summer. What they grow, they share amongst each other.