Our daily shopping choices: a super-simple way to boost local economy amid COVID-19 era

During this COVID-19 era, any trip through the commercial corridors of Oak Park, Illinois—my community along the western border of Chicago—has revealed its potential as a post-apocalyptic movie set.

But here in my town—and wherever you are, within your community—there is a simple mathematical principle that empowers us to revise the script: shop locally, as much and as often as possible.

The “multiplier effect,” powerfully displayed.

In explaining the multiplier effect of local independent businesses, the American Independent Business Alliance states, “The multiplier results from the fact that independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses (or locally-owned franchises). In other words, going local creates more local wealth and jobs.”

In Oak Park, partly to blame for our ghost-town vibe is extensive road and infrastructure work coursing right through the heart of the community. Given the current state of business distress, with little traffic anyhow, our village leaders have wisely accelerated those efforts. That full-speed-ahead approach, sort of like quickly ripping off a bandage to hasten the pain, is about the only lemonade to come out of this historically humongous lemon.

Efforts to preserve physical health through the COVID era have had major side-effects, not the least of which is a business community with numerous members who find themselves on mercantile life support. It is a condition that prevails across the entire country. Solving the United States’ problems is well beyond any one local group’s capacity to remedy. However, any community grappling on the commercial home front can take steps to minimize the damage in their own backyard, and then turn the tide.

For those in and around Oak Park, not every dollar can be expended within our few square miles. However, making a conscious decision to allocate a few more pennies per dollar can make a meaningful difference, especially when considering the multiplier effect. A decade ago, that philosophy was at the heart of my role for two years as marketing coordinator of “Shop the Village.”

It takes a courageous man (or at least a brazen PR guy) to wear red boots, mask and cape in front of a flower shop–or anywhere else for that matter.

A coordinated initiative supported by the Village of Oak Park, Downtown Oak Park and other business districts, Shop the Village was a marketing arm for dozens of businesses partaking in the campaign the first year (spanning three months before and after the year-end holidays). The next year, 2009, building on lessons gleaned from that first year, we engaged a “Super Shopper Spotter” campaign. It featured a super-hero character played by yours truly.

This is not a proposal to bring back that Caped Crusader of Commerce. You do not need to put on big red boots or have campy humor to recognize that shopping locally is a practical, powerful way for us all to serve our own best interests. It is through our daily choices that we each have a super-simple, super-heroic role to play.

Related Posts:
Super Shopper Spotter’ Picks Up Steam
In Oak Park, Helping to `Shop the Village’

On October 16th in Oak Park: “PR Secrets From a Media Insider”

Since 2001, associations and companies across the United States have hired Matt Baron of Inside Edge PR to train thousands of journalists, publicists and other professionals to develop immediately applicable, improved story-telling skills.

 

On Tuesday, Oct. 16th, through an Oak Park – River Forest (OPRF) Chamber of Commerce Lunch and Learn at Adam Doe State Farm, he brings PR Secrets From a Media Insider. In this practical workshop, rooted in the rapidly evolving communications landscape, Matt teaches how to:

• Craft compelling, publication-ready news releases
• Establish yourself as an expert in your field
• Use social media to expand your communications reach
• Secure media coverage that leads to greater profits

To register, contact Mark Walden at mwalden@oprfchamber.org.

Sharing the Story of StorySlam: A Benefit for Farther Foundation

Honored to be serving as the emcee, and to be providing some media relations support, for StorySlam: A Benefit for Farther Foundation. It’s coming up fast–on Thursday, October 11th, at FitzGerald’s Nightclub.

Tickets are $50 and include food and all the entertainment. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.fartherfoundation.org or call 708-497-7240.

Founded in 2008, the Oak Park-based organization has supported 221 students–mostly high school sophomores and juniors from Chicago and nearby suburbs–who have traveled to 27 states and 32 countries.

Farther Foundation enables students from economically disadvantaged circumstances participate in life-changing educational travel programs. While traveling, students interact with people from diverse backgrounds, become immersed in new cultures and experiences, learn and develop skills and engage in community service.

See the news release at the Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal.

Related Posts:
From Magazine to Video, My Two-Year Journey With the NIU Foundation
Mancini’s Promotion Exceeds Expectations, Raises $1,800 for Hephzibah

A Wonderful PR Moment: Oak Park Bank Wins Our Hearts, Then Business, With Screening

The triumphant scene from
It’s A Wonderful Life

Last Saturday, It’s A Wonderful Life played at the Lake Theater in downtown Oak Park.

Sponsored by Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, which is situated directly across the street from the elegant theater, it was a free screening.

It also made for brilliant PR.

Call us sentimental saps, but my wife, Bridgett, and I were deeply moved by the classic film. (We were also shocked to discover that it was the first time either one of us had seen it from start to finish.)

In recent months, we’ve been mulling the idea of moving our money from JP Morgan Chase (or “Chase” for short) to Community Bank. Our resolve would only increase when, every time we went in with a question, Chase personnel would use the opportunity to try to sell us products we don’t need, rather than simply provide fast, attentive customer service.

Located just down the street from Community Bank, Chase is the latest in a series of titanic institutions occupying the northeast corner of Lake and Marion streets in the heart of Oak Park.

For the past 15 years, we had gone along for the ride, whether the sign on the door read First Chicago or Bank One or Chase. We tolerated little “mistakes” such as the time, just in the last year, when Bridgett noticed the bank had more than halved the interest rate on our savings account.

Oops!

Makes you wonder how many other accounts got shorted–and if miscues involving a too-high interest rate ever befall Chase.

Our decision to flee Chase has been made easier by Chase itself. Beyond the prior clumsy efforts to sell, rather than serve, us, an employee two weeks ago linked our debit card to a just-closed account. Three phone calls later, including one on a Sunday to a customer service rep, Bridgett cleaned up that mess.

All of which brings us to this past Saturday afternoon. Moments after we emerged from the Lake Theater, red-eyed from our tears that flowed throughout the movie, Bridgett deposited a check at Community Bank. It was on behalf of an association of which she is treasurer, and we chuckled about wanting to move, that very day, our personal funds there, too.

On Monday, on the heels of It’s a Wonderful Life, we began the transition. The movie, including Community Bank’s civic-minded role in its screening, has doubtlessly hastened our pace.

To be fair, I am sure that Chase has many wonderful, caring professionals. I wish the bank great success. But, at least in Oak Park, it has a ways to go in seizing opportunities to genuinely nurture relationships and engender trust.

Community Bank, on the other hand, seems to really get it. At a time when monolithic banks, and their greedy, tight-fisted ways, are high atop the list of citizens’ Reasons to Get Angry, it’s especially powerful to associate your company with a story whose central message teems with community, integrity and love.

Of course, you’ve got to be able to back it all up with action. The ball–and our money–is now in Community Bank’s court.

Related Posts:
The Sugar Beet Co-Op: A Marketing Model in Setting Proper Expectations
In the Midst of the Donald Sterling Debacle: 3 PR Observations: Reputation, Audio & Timing
It’s A Wonderful Life’ Flashback: My Chicago Trib Story on Karolyn Grimes, aka ZuZu Bailey

Cross-Marketing Makes Good Business Sense; But Have You Alerted Prospects To the Details?

Have you created cross-marketing opportunities for your enterprise?

And if so, have you told your customers, and prospects, about this great way to drive traffic in both directions? If not, or if are limiting your exposure (such as telling only those who walk into your business), then you are severely, and needlessly, diminishing your marketing message.

Below you can see a brief video recounting what one Inside Edge PR client, Allstate of Oak Park, has done with a next-door business, the historic and regionally renowned Petersen’s Ice Cream shop on Chicago Avenue.