Having a clear vision and trust from the Chamber allowed me to have creative freedom to make their programs shine above the other Chambers in the area.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging clients I’ve ever had is the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. For those of you not familiar with the organization, it’s one of the largest Chambers of Commerce in the northeast region. When I was brought on as a full time employee, I saw huge potential in the initial re-branding of all their materials, including their legacy website.
Their representing graphics and technology suffered quite a bit from inconsistencies. Their search engine optimization lacked because of an integration with a legacy CRM. The pages were not very friendly. After a few meetings, I convinced the organization to completely revamp their web presence. In addition to the website, there was a great opportunity to show them what they could really do to upgrade their image for their member base to improve their return on investment.
Although I am no longer a full-time employee at the Chamber, I still work every day as a contractor to make sure they are operating smoothly from my remote office. The day-to-day tasks have not changed, but I have streamlined their processes and helped put standards together so they can operate without interruption.
Look and Feel
The Chamber did not have a standard color scheme or style guide in place. Their website was a mix of green and brown elements that were inconsistent and did not carry through to their print materials, marketing collateral and signage. The only element they had that was concrete was their logo. With it, I had a starting point.
I first made sure that the colors were absolute and coupled with elements that could be reused in their different business programs without sacrificing the individuality of each program. Once specific templates were created, it was easy to move forward with the remaining materials such as flyers, brochures, business cards, event signage, videos and most importantly their email campaigns.
Email Blasts / Campaigns
I’ll admit, crafting up to seven individual email campaigns per week was challenging. Since the Chamber’s wish was to keep the email campaigns graphical, we had not yet moved into responsive email coding quite yet. The champions of each business program wanted their email blasts to mimic their program collateral. So each flyer was converted to a 660px wide graphic, with calls to action added to get users to register for events directly from the emails.
I find that I can produce the Chamber’s daily email campaigns more efficiently if I hand code the legacy HTML that works across all email clients tested.
That aside, it pleases me that members are impressed with the content, consistent look and feel and inviting nature of the newsletters.
On my first day of employment, I decided to delve into researching the technologies that were driving the website. It had been written in ASP DOT NET, which was quickly becoming antiquated and needed a reboot. Since I had some experience with PHP and MySQL, it was only natural to put the Chamber in a WordPress website. It would allow their employees to update their own programs and give them a common vehicle that would reduce dependency on a web developer. I had experience with Drupal and Joomla, but WordPress was easy; they were happy to have control over their individual program pages.
The connection and integration with WebLink Connect, their legacy CRM, was a challenge to work with with since I didn’t have much control over the source code or database that existed on a remote server managed by WebLink.
After several phone calls to the organization, I was able to have a custom template that was refreshed from their servers that I could code myself and have the data displayed inside WordPress without the use of iFrames. This was a win in my book. To this day, the website pulls several different templates that I had created to customize the way the website operates, leaving me full control of how the site worked and appeared to visitors.
Technical aspects aside, the Chamber and their members were mildly giddy about seasonal changes to the website such as holiday themes and elements. An attractive header with the current season or holiday highlighted was a welcome change to visitors and staff. It also represented a website that appeared to be continually updated and cared for.
Over time, careful attention was paid to organic SEO strategy and structure. Continuous fresh content submitted from members allowed Google and other search engines to actually bring search content to the top of the list, sometimes outranking the highlighted companies themselves. This brought the Chamber into the forefront of company searches allowing more visitors to click through. We saw a significant increase in traffic and a great drop in bounce rate. Another win.
Video Production, Television Commercials, Digital Signage and More
As a creative multimedia production artist, the Chamber was the perfect outlet for me to help make the best use of their advertising budget.
Video interviews with high-profile members were shot by a professional video company over four days, on-location at each company being highlighted. The raw footage was passed along to me and edited in-house for use on cable television outlets and during movie theater previews. The spots were changed often to reflect the demographic and location for each media buy.
A portable digital kiosk was then created to advertise upcoming events, show the commercials and even highlight specific members and companies. The unit consisted of a 29″ monitor on a wheeled stand utilizing a mini PC that was simply plugged in at each event. The slides, videos and animations were updated monthly via remote connection to the machine. It was also designed to boot up “incognito” with Chamber branding and elements that didn’t reveal that it was a Windows PC.
Yearly Impact Study Report
Each year the Chamber requested an impact study report to be mailed to the members to show annual growth and revenue. In this report, infographics were created to reflect the number of members, growth percentage and much more. Careful attention was paid to be sure the foldout glossy report was attractive and meaningful to the members. The Chamber relied on this document to bring more sponsors and members by showing the explosion of expansion and revenue they were gaining each and every year.
Moving at the Speed of the Chamber
There’s no doubt in my mind that the PRCC is the fastest, deadline-driven organization I’ve ever had the pleasure to support. At times, the workload was so chaotic that I had to keep a very detailed project system in place to be sure projects were given proper priority and attention. This was surely not an easy task with each champion of the staff feeding me needs and wants every day. Although they are a tight-knit group, they didn’t necessarily communicate to each other what they were feeding me, creating confusion about priority and what was being handled first.
It was then that I grabbed yet another mini PC and monitor from the closet and created a graphical “project board” showing what was requested, what was in the queue and what was waiting for approval. This little board was certainly a visual representation of what was happening in real-time and was the perfect solution for such a busy organization. Yet another win.
As a freelance consultant for the Chamber to this day, I am thankful to have the opportunity to assist with their everyday needs. I am also thankful that I am a part of an organization that is supportive as it is fulfilling. The staff at the Chamber offices have always offered their assistance and support when I was overloaded or needed to keep a finely-tuned work-life balance. We have a great working relationship that is never taken for granted.