The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) decided not to renew its contract with Philadelphia-based marketing firm Barton Gilanelli and Associates Inc. for 2012, opting to handle the organization’s public relations “internally.”
“We truly appreciate everything Barton-Gilanelli has done for RVIA and the industry over years, and wish them the best,” said James Ashurst, who joined RVIA last December as vice president of public relations and advertising. “Our decision was based on an overall strategic shift to bring more ownership and responsibility for our public relations function in-house.”
Barton-Gilanelli had contracted on a year-to-year basis with RVIA for 21 years, overseeing public relations efforts to promote the industry and the lifestyle. Over that period, the firm sourced and developed relationships with key media members, resulting in placements and national exposure with high-profile print and electronic media.
“This was an extremely powerful media relations program that even provoked other associations to call RVIA to ask how the RV industry was getting so much national positive exposure,” said Frank Gilanelli. “Without a doubt we played a major role in changing the perception of RVs with the consumers and the media. In the stories seen nationally, 99% were generated by a creative pitch coming out of Philadelphia.”
Ashurst noted that “while we’ve changed the agency arrangement, RVIA remains committed to growing our market through effective media relations.” He added that the Barton-Gilanelli issue was discussed by the Public Relations Committee at RVIA Committee Week and finalized by RVIA staff.
“By bringing PR in-house, it frees up the dollars that went to a fixed agency,” Ashurst said. “We will now be able to appropriate those monies toward media partnerships as well as the ever-growing social media and digital PR outlets.
“What we envision is that we will employ a mix of doing more work internally coupled with the likelihood that we would augment those efforts with media relations consultants working on a job-by-job basis. Actually, we see this type of approach going on across a lot of different industries.”
Ashurst said that the five PR and marketing communications staff members were currently finalizing strategies for the coming year. “Our greatest charge is to expand our central message, focusing on the fun, flexibility and affordability provided by RVing,” he said.
That initiative will be on display at the upcoming California RV Show in Pomona with RVIA conducting “satellite tours” at the event that will be distributed nationally to media.