Hospice of Michigan is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort and care to patients and their loved ones at end-of-life. After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, in 2023 Hospice of Michigan brought back its annual Barley, BBQ & Beats fundraiser, a popular event that combines the joy of live music, barbecue from leading pit masters and hand-crafted cocktails from select Michigan distilleries to create a memorable experience for attendees. Not only did the event return to Detroit (April 21), Grand Rapids (May 6) and Cadillac (May 19) in spring 2023, but it’s launching in three new cities – Ann Arbor (Sept. 21, benefiting Arbor Hospice), Traverse City (Oct. 20) and Alpena (Nov. 3) – in fall 2023.
To promote the spring fundraisers, Franco developed a comprehensive integrated communications strategy that included media relations, social media and digital advertising to increase awareness and drive ticket sales for each of the three events.
Digital promotion for the event launched with a web-traffic campaign highlighting the event’s return to six locations throughout Michigan. The Franco team implemented location-specific campaigns for each of the three events held in the spring, utilizing messaging in post copy that showed how each location had something unique to offer, whether that was the event being hosted at the iconic St. Andrews Hall in Detroit or having a special guest appearance from Kelsea Ballerini in Grand Rapids.
Franco supported the fundraiser with a two-pronged media relations approach. This began with a statewide Barley, BBQ & Beats announcement to spread awareness and sell tickets to all six events. Franco leveraged its media relationships across the state to reintroduce Detroit, Grand Rapids and Cadillac to this beloved fundraiser, as well as give Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Alpena audiences an idea of what to expect in fall 2023.
From there, the team tailored its outreach specific to Detroit, Grand Rapids and Cadillac – working chronologically to promote each of the three spring events. Not only were the drink, food and music vendors unique to each community, but the pitches had to be, too! This phase relied heavily on creative media pitches to visually highlight the main elements of the fundraiser – hand-crafted cocktails, mouth-watering barbecue and live local music. Franco worked closely with the Hospice of Michigan team (and vendors across the state) to secure and prepare for broadcast interviews and segment opportunities.
With the trio of spring dates complete, Barley, BBQ & Beats welcomed nearly 3,000 loyal supporters and new friends to successful events in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Cadillac – all to benefit Hospice of Michigan’s Open Access program. While Franco was primarily responsible for media relations, social media and digital efforts, the team worked collaboratively with the client on the integrated communications program.
By leveraging the power of digital advertising, campaigns generated over 400,000 impressions and nearly 10,000 clicks in just three months. Ad content on Facebook resonated with the target audience and proved its relevancy by garnering an engagement rate of 35%.
Thanks to our integrated communications strategy that included earned (media relations), shared (organic social) and paid (digital and traditional advertising) tactics, two out of the three spring events sold out before their campaigns finished running in market.
Franco’s media relations efforts earned a total of 97 pieces of coverage in the 66 days between the tickets on sale announcement (March 15) and the Cadillac event (May 19). This includes Barley, BBQ & Beats mentions and interviews from media outlets across the state, such as FOX 2, CBS Detroit, The Detroit News, FOX 17, WOOD-TV, The Cadillac News, 9&10 News and more.
And in true Barley, BBQ & Beats fashion, even the interviews promoting the events were fun – highlighting Barley through cocktail segments, BBQ through cooking segments and Beats through music segments.