Cleveland’s RNC communications home run and 6 lessons learned

An ABC News story aired on July 17, the day before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The headline read:  “Cleveland on the Rise: A Look Back on the City’s Comeback Before RNC.”

The story was one of dozens that national and international media produced in July that chronicled Cleveland’s ongoing narrative of a city on the rise. Collectively, the coverage reached millions of people around the world.

This coverage didn’t just happen because Cleveland hosted the RNC. In fact, Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention a week later, yet earned only about a third of the coverage that Cleveland did. 

Making It Happen

Journalists were armed with data, storylines, expert contacts and other materials as a result of communitywide communications efforts and a two-year, collaborative multi media relations strategy that Dix & Eaton created and executed. The firm worked with a number of clients and organizations, including Cleveland Plus, the national and international marketing program of Northeast Ohio’s business community; Destination Cleveland, the region’s largest convention and visitors bureau; the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee.

The firm chronicled its experiences during the RNC in a series of blog posts titled: “Snapshots from Downtown.” In a post just after the convention, D&E CEO Chas Withers described how the effort, which involved professionals across Dix & Eaton, produced both pride and excitement for the city. 

The communications strategy generated results that exceeded all expectations.

What is Multi Media Relations?

Dix & Eaton has long employed a media relations approach based on a deep knowledge of journalism best practices as well as the trust that comes with long-term relationships with reporters.

“Multi media relations” leverages this philosophy and takes it further. It is an innovative communications approach that combines media relations best practices with elements of digital communications, social media, thought leadership and content marketing. Programs are highly strategic yet flexible to the communications objectives and the target audience’s appetite for information.

Through our RNC-related work, Dix & Eaton applied the full power of this approach to help journalists as well as clients tell stories that are both influential and engaging. 

Six Important Lessons Learned

Here are six lessons we learned while implementing our multi media relations strategy:

1. Planning

  • Whether preparing for an ongoing campaign or an event, give yourself plenty of runway before taking off.
  • First things first: Establish a baseline of coverage, and ask your target audiences what information they want or need.
  • Know your primary goal. If you don’t know where you are headed, you won’t know how to get there.

2. Big thinking

  • Develop a strong strategy. Then expand it. You likely made it too small.
  • Identify target communications platforms. Then expand it. You likely didn’t think of them all.
  • Remember, target audiences want content in quick and convenient servings. That includes journalists.

3. Collaboration and vision

  • Leading multi media relations strategies is like conducting an orchestra. Sometimes the music calls for more brass; other times woodwinds must lead the way.
  • Using multiple platforms requires multiple areas of expertise. Collaborate with organizations and professionals proficient in a variety of communications areas.

4. Diverse content in proper proportion

  • The strategy must be multi-dimensional and multi-textured. Few stories are simple. The plans to communicate them should cover a variety of angles.
  • Thought leadership. Straight data. Info-graphics. Video. Audio. All are valuable. None achieves the same goal. Produce those that are most efficient and compelling to convey information to the target audience.

5. A flexible approach to multiple platforms

  • Build relationships with journalists on multiple platforms: print, digital, broadcast, radio, social media.
  • Track which platform is most effective in reaching its targets
  • Adjust as needed.

6. Learn to let go

  • If you produce content that is going to be used, you can’t expect to control it. Sometimes journalists or other targets will take your information and pursue it without your knowledge or control. Sometimes, that is OK. 

The unique strategy and the impact it had is detailed in our new white paper, “How a multi media relations strategy helped catapult Cleveland onto the global stage.” We hope you find it helpful.

David Hertz oversaw Dix & Eaton’s multi media relations strategy leading up to and during the RNC. If you have any questions or comments about this post or the white paper, please feel free to contact him at or 216.241.2145.

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