Reflecting on a 26-year career spent crafting and delivering the RV industry’s message, Chris Morrison finds reward in being able to pass on the passion – the opportunity to instill her love for the outdoors into the legions of people who heard that message, and embraced the RV lifestyle.
“I was always into camping and backpacking,” said Morrison, senior director of communications for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “I grew up in Northern Virginia and spent a lot of time hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Maybe that’s what drew me to RVIA.
“RVing is about families enjoying each other and having a wonderful experience. We found a million ways to convey that theme over the years and I feel like they have worked. I can’t think of a better job than to promote on a national scale something that I relate to and believe in.”
Recently, however, Morrison decided it was time to move on. She will step down from her post at RVIA on March 31, hoping to pursue a few of her other passions.
“It was a family decision,” she said. “My son is in his senior year of high school and will be going to college, so I want to help him with that transition. And my husband is nearing retirement, so we’re looking forward to spending time together. But I also have some personal goals and projects that were put on hold. It just seemed right.”
The time is right on a professional level also, Morrison said. She has worked tirelessly on the latest marketing and advertising phase for Go RVing that promotes the industry’s cornerstones – freedom, family and affordability – in a new multi-media “Away” campaign.
“In many ways, this has been one of my most challenging projects,” she said, noting that the campaign will launch in late February. “When the ‘Great Recession’ hit, our industry – like all the other leisure industries – took a huge blow. But I take pride in the fact that we didn’t circle the wagons. We continued to advertise – as much as we could – and still got our message out there.
“We made it through that terrible time, and it was important that we come back with a strong and relevant campaign. The new ads will roll out next month and we will also be launching an all-new Go RVing website. I feel it will mark a big transition point for the industry.”
James Ashurst, RVIA vice president of public relations and advertising, noted, “Chris deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this latest phase in the Go RVing campaign. We will be launching on so many fronts, and it’s a testament that she will be staying on to see it through. I leaned heavily on her insight and judgment, as I have since I began with RVIA. She will be missed, but I certainly wish her the best in retirement.”
Interestingly, Morrison’s hiring in October of 1985 also coincided with another pivotal point in the industry’s history. After graduating from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s in English, she gained experience with two other associations before joining RVIA. Her task: Bring the Baby Boomers on-board.
“I was hired to strengthen RVIA’s market expansion efforts, and to specifically target the Baby Boomers,” she said. “There was a real fear that we would not capture the discretionary dollars from those younger buyers unless we effectively communicated the family benefits associated with RVing. I think it’s extremely gratifying to see that the area that has grown the most is that important Baby Boomer demographic.”
In addition to the challenges of the job, Morrison said that she will remember “the highly talented group of people” that she worked with over the years, including her boss, former RVIA vice president and chief marketing officer Gary LaBella, former RVIA President Dave Humphreys, current RVIA President Richard Coon and B.J. Thompson, longtime chairman of RVIA’s PR Committee.
Morrison added, “I think one of the things I am most proud of is seeing the people on the PR and advertising team that I helped bring in, then taught and worked with over the years. There is a very deep pool of talent, and I am confident that I am leaving things in very capable hands.”