From Dallas we headed up to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we spent a couple of days at my Aunt Donna’s house (making my “aunts-stayed-with-count” on this trip 3 for 3) and took some time to work on our press kit. With more highway behind than in front of us, it was time to get a move on promoting the Project, finding our audience and finding a gallery publisher. So with a couple of days to get our feet under ourselves before the next scheduled event (a watch party in Memphis for the first of the presidential debate) we got down to the task of media relations.
This turned out to be much more difficult than either of us had imagined. Promoting ourselves to the main steam media was going to pose a particular challenge, as it was pointed out to us that all Obama related news stories have to be balanced by equal coverage for McCain. So although we did continue to work on the media kit, we decided to also tackle PR grassroots style… We made a general appeal to everyone we’ve met along the way, challenging them to share the Project with their friends and write about it in their blogs.
By the time we were leaving Hot Springs I was beginning to feel a cold coming on, and when we arrived at our friend Carol’s Home in Memphis it was clear that some convalescing would soon be in order. But fist I had to power through our photo shoot at a Presidential Debate Party that night. This party was different from all the other events we’ve attended for the project, because it was not strictly an Obama event. Joelle and Mike were hosting the watch party at their home in South Bluffs, a gated community in downtown Memphis, and had invited friends of Democrat as well as Republican persuasion to engage in a civil viewing of, and conversation about the broadcast. I don’t think I hid my surprise very well when Joelle told me that she and Mike were actually still undecided as to how they would be voting.
But I needn’t have worried about there being enough democrats at the event, because soon the second story deck, where we were set up, was flooded with avid Obama supporters. At one point a Republican made his way up and reported of the packed living room down stairs, “It’s like a funeral down there.” He went on to explain that, “this is the South, nobody wants to offend anyone!”
So the discussion portion of the evening wasn’t quite as spirited as she has expected, but after the debate Joelle informed me that she was ready to have her picture taken as our newest Obama supporter. She told me she was 95% on board with Obama before, but that that night’s debate had pushed her over the edge.
The next morning I was completely sick, but on the bright side the results of our grassroots media experiment were beginning pour in, to the complete astonishment of both Rob and me. With prominent entries in several blogs that day, traffic to the site soon spiked by almost 2000%!
It took me a couple days of rest, being well looked after by Rob and Carol, but I was soon on the mend. And none too soon, because Carol was having some extensive construction done to her kitchen. I had hoped to find an event to shoot in Alabama, but after several options fell through, we decided stay one more night in Memphis and spend the day catching up on administrative tasks before leaving for our next stop in Atlanta. But getting any work done amidst the caos of construction was out of the question, so we headed to a local coffee shop. It was there that I overheard the neighboring table talking about the local political climate, and when I interrupted them to tell them about the project, we learned that they were from the local Public Radio station. After a bit of discussion it was decided that we should head over to the station to tape an interview! A week that started out with zero media exposure shaped up pretty well after all!