by Chas Withers

August 1, 2016

I’m not a native Clevelander, but having spent pretty much half of my life here I’d say my roots are deep enough for me to claim it as my hometown. And having spent more than half of my career at Dix & Eaton, I can definitely call this my professional home.

So please excuse me if I gush a little about how both of my homes shone during the recent Republican National Convention.

Just as our world champion Cavaliers demonstrated the unified power of a team, Clevelanders defied the critics and showed they could host a major convention and entertain 50,000 people.

In all my years here, I’ve never seen such a successful coalescing of diverse interests around a common purpose.

From Republicans to Democrats, City Hall to corporations, law enforcement to labor unions, construction workers to communicators, hospitality people to shop owners and vendors to volunteers, Clevelanders spent almost two years getting ready for this unique, one-week opportunity to show off their hometown. And were they ever ready when the time came.

Frankly, the July 2014 announcement of our selection as the host city – which came the same week LeBron James announced his return to his (almost) hometown – created a deadline that forced us to get things done. We raised money. Built hotels. Transformed Public Square. For the good of all, we committed to deadlines.

Cynics said we couldn’t do it. But as Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said afterward, “Don’t doubt Cleveland. Never doubt Cleveland.”

When it was showtime, we turned doubters into believers.

Clevelanders’ pride was undoubtedly fueled in part by the fresh momentum of the Cavs’ stunning, come-from-behind championship and the victory celebration that brought hundreds of thousands of delirious fans – not a mere 50,000 convention guests – downtown.

While Convention Week had an entirely different feel than the Cavs’ championship parade and rally, it, too, made an impression on me that will last forever. Being in the thick of it was utterly fascinating:  Every walk of life represented, many of them soaking in the city for the first time, conflicting opinions and positions only feet apart, with something interesting to see around every corner.

Although thousands of downtown workers telecommuted or took vacation to avoid coming into town during the week, many of my D&E colleagues were in the thick of it, too.

At times working under tense circumstances, they interacted with national and international media on downtown streets, created daily pitches on Cleveland’s successes and challenges, followed up with national media on earlier outreach, catalogued and analyzed media coverage, worked the information booths at the convention center, hosted clients in the office, analyzed social media, posted daily blogs on social channels, promoted our firm and more.

All of the members of our outstanding team – veteran communications professionals, junior staff members and interns alike – handled situations they had never before experienced, and may never experience again.

The RNC gave Cleveland an opportunity to dispel misperceptions and showcase its many attributes. It also represented a unique opportunity for our firm to do great work on behalf of many of the region’s most critical organizations in the rarest of spotlights.

We’ve already turned our focus to the challenges ahead and watched the convention circuit move to Philadelphia. We have begun to analyze the opportunities the RNC and the community’s efforts could mean for our region. We have an opportunity to build upon our successes, to leverage the public-private collaborations that helped us improve Cleveland and the region. Interest in Northeast Ohio from a travel and tourism and investment standpoint is most likely at an all-time high. We must press our advantage and communicate our story in ever more innovative and effective ways.

I know this:  I’ve never been prouder of our city and of Dix & Eaton, and Cleveland will march forward with a much-deserved confidence and swagger.

I can’t wait for the Indians’ World Series victory parade…