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Snapshots from downtown

These past several days, a Dix & Eaton strategic communications team fanned out across the city to represent clients, support Cleveland and maximize the communications opportunities associated with the RNC. In some sense, readers of this blog have joined us in this effort.

Now that the RNC is over, we asked our colleagues to recount a notable memory from the experience. Here are their responses:

As my mother would attest, since I was little, I have always been a news junkie.  As a child, I would voluntarily sit through “60 Minutes” and other news programs on a regular basis. So, to see thousands of journalists descend upon our city and watch them work behind the scenes was a thrill to me. And to be a part of helping them with whatever they needed while they were here, and to tell our clients’ and Cleveland’s stories to the world, was extremely gratifying. It was a pleasure to experience this alongside my smart, fun and creative colleagues during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I had the pleasure to help with the rollout of Cleveland’s new Public Square just weeks before the RNC. The Square is to be a gathering place and a space for the community to congregate. To see it being used this past week as a bastion for free speech and filled with people from all walks of life was a thrill.

While many predicted violence, riots and extreme protests, the exact opposite was true. Yes, there were a couple of heated moments, but the majority of the time, people came together in The Square, put aside their differences and created a festival-type atmosphere. People with signs, puppets, performing artists, kids with bubbles and more filled The Square, and the hundreds of law enforcement officers who were there to protect and keep order interacted and had fun with all of them. All in all, it was a huge success and The Square not only survived, it thrived.

  ̶  Amy McGahan

Given the recent tragedies in our country and around the world, it’s no surprise that many media, delegates, spectators and Clevelanders anxiously anticipated the potential of violence during the RNC. Luckily, the week was peaceful and, as The Washington Post put it so well, visitors “got a block party instead.”

This in itself is extremely notable, but what was most noteworthy to me, as a communications professional, was how the Cleveland Police Department used social media to help fuel this narrative, by reducing fear and embracing positivity.

Throughout the week,  the police department shared continuous updates on its Twitter account and Facebook page. The department also provided Periscope live feeds and helicopter photos of protests, creating a unique vantage point. The department also shared photos of visitors thanking officers and real-time safety alert updates via social media.

The Verge reporter Jordan Golson stated it best:  “It’s encouraging to watch a streaming video involving the police and not see tanks in the streets or unjust acts of violence. It’s a not so subtle attempt by police to literally share their view with the people they’re sworn to protect.”

  ̶  Megan Stinn

It was thrilling to see the TODAY Show filmed live. As a huge fan of the show, I previously attended a live taping on the plaza in New York City, but it was more meaningful to see the show filmed in my hometown. From watching the stage being built at the Corner Alley on East 4th Street the week before the convention, to standing outside for the final live broadcast on Thursday, it was a lot of fun to see Cleveland shine in front of a national audience. I enjoyed learning about how the TODAY Show produces its show on the road and seeing the anchors rave about Cleveland’s food, atmosphere and people. 

  ̶  Hanna Moore

Thinking back on the last two years of planning that went into this week, it’s hard to believe it’s already over. Having been involved in media outreach from the start, a highlight for me this week was interacting with journalists in the Media Center and seeing the volume of reporters set up on the floor of the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, as well as along East 4th Street and in other downtown locations. The positive coverage of our city was so rewarding to see. It was especially exciting to join in on the fun and attend events hosted by The Atlantic Live and the TODAY Show.

  ̶  Angela Almasy

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Washington, D.C.’s,  Newseum, in conjunction with the RNC,  presented a one-of-a-kind exhibit – “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics”  ̶  creating a blend of news, history and music all wrapped into one experience. Some colleagues and I got the opportunity to tour the exhibit and, let me tell you, it is a must see.

During the RNC, we helped provide the Rock Hall with social media support  to help promote the exhibit, as well as the museum’s free admission week and national media opportunities. In addition to day-to-day content help, our team also lent a hand in special RNC-related projects such as a CBS This Morning Instagram takeover and Stupor Tuesday Huffington Post Comedy Twitter chat.  

The “Louder Than Words” exhibit will be on display at the Rock Hall until November 27. It will then make a trip to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to open January 13, 2017, ahead of the Presidential Inauguration. Be sure to stop by and check it out before it’s gone!

  ̶  Angela Martin

Many milestones and preparations made it possible for Cleveland to host the RNC so seamlessly. One of the most astounding images was seeing the police, highway patrol and U.S. Secret Service unite to keep the city safe. What was more impressive was seeing how citizens treated visiting law enforcement throughout the week. I witnessed officers participating in yoga on East 4th, playing ping-pong in Public Square and receiving hugs and words of thanks from grateful Clevelanders. Along with the excitement of the RNC, those are sights I will never forget.

  ̶  Brooke Hollowell

My most notable memory of the RNC was the first day, Monday, July 18. I had no idea what to expect. The sheer size and publicity that the RNC attracted was unlike anything I had seen, particularly for the usually overlooked city of Cleveland. For the first time, I was on the other side of the TV screen and that felt pretty darn cool.

We had the likes of MSNBC, Twitter, the Washington Post and CNN setting up shop, taking over our restaurants and transforming the narrow street of East 4th  into a media hub. It felt surreal. Walking through the crowds and speaking with reporters stirred something inside me; I felt proud to be a Clevelander.

  ̶  Annie Ames

By many accounts, this week was to be one of fear and violence. I read reports using phrases like “civil war” and “apocalypse” to describe the upcoming RNC. At work, I made a spreadsheet of all of the protest groups converging on the city, and I considered staying home. I’m very glad I didn’t.

This week in Cleveland ­– within the context of expected violence and tragedy – I saw people coming together. I saw people of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds and perspectives making their opinions heard. I saw people on both sides of divisive issues communicating peaceably.  I saw them hugging, sharing food and taking selfies. On the streets of our city, I saw the diversity of the American people. That’s the amazing thing to me.

While we’re told that America is a melting pot, I had never seen so many people from so many walks of life in one place speaking their minds openly, and being heard. Years from now, I may not remember which politicians or celebrities I saw walking around town, but I will remember that, poised on a backdrop of high tension, Cleveland rose above.

 ̶  Carly Bartels 

When I look back on the week, I’m reminded of a famous line from  the movie The Graduate in which a family friend of Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman,  says he has just one word of advice: “plastics.”  My one word for this week is “bicycles.”  In fact, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams mentioned today in his press conference the importance of these 300 new “assets” the force now owns and plans to use going forward.  I saw the rapid response of the 10-bike clusters.  I saw them form fences with the bikes to control the crowds.  I even heard one police captain explaining another benefit of the bikes over horses. To paraphrase:  The bikes don’t…well, they don’t leave a mess to clean up.

  ̶  Dave Loomis

Dix & Eaton worked for some time with a number of clients to prepare for the communications opportunities and challenges the RNC presented. In some cases, the preparations began in July 2014, when Cleveland won the selection to host the convention. So Sunday night, as I walked north on East 9th Street toward the “Rock the Night in CLE” welcome celebration for delegates, media and local supporters along Lake Erie, I was both excited and a bit nervous.

Suddenly, my colleague Dave Loomis and I were caught up in a fairly aggressive protest march. They, too, were walking toward the waterfront. We inched along beside them and observed. To a large extent, the protesters were orderly as they exercised their First Amendment rights. The security officers were outstanding. They kept the peace and remained professional.

Later, more than 10,000 people enjoyed a wonderful night at the North Coast Harbor by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center and Voinovich Park. The weather was fabulous and delegates were clearly enjoying themselves. Some national and international media were conducting interviews, but a majority took the time to savor the moment. 

After a concert by Three Dog Night,  fireworks lit the sky. The city’s skyline was striking. Stephen Colbert walked down from the Rock Hall to mingle. It was a powerful night that set the stage for Cleveland’s weeklong success.

This week represented an opportunity for Cleveland to educate the nation and the world about its ongoing resurgence. Cleveland hit it out of the park.

  ̶  David Hertz

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