Rebuilding Momentum: 1 BILLION Impressions for Chattanooga

By Sybil Topel and Josué Vega

“Rebuilding momentum” is the mantra that drove our marketing communications work from July 2020-June 2021. From national headlines to local radio shows and video info meetings, our work centered on fostering recovery and growth for Chattanooga and Hamilton County businesses after a difficult year. 

Guess what? We rebuilt that momentum and shot through the roof--this year, we hit 1 billion news impressions for Chattanooga.

You read that right: 1 billion.

To put this in perspective, if those news articles had been advertisements, it would have cost more than $5.2 million. Reaching out through public relations and earned media work also meant the information shared was more credible to our key audiences: investors, site selectors, and people looking for best jobs. Additionally, it gave us more visibility and credibility as a place for people to invest, expand, and re-locate.

Why is the number 1 billion so special? It’s nearly twice as many media impressions than we’ve ever reached before in a year (Plus, it’s a fun number to share!).  It’s a 1:44 return on investment (ROI), compared with the prior year’s 1:20 ROI.

Few people know it might take two calls or 200 touchpoints over several years to earn one editorial media placement. So why do it? Why go through all that trouble? 

To build momentum. So people know we are here and open for business. So that when site selectors and hiring decision-makers look for the best places to invest, they know to include Chattanooga and Hamilton County at the top of their lists. It’s another way that our public relations outreach rolls out the red carpet for investors, site selectors, and top talent. 

Once a key message takes hold in the national consciousness, it has the potential to build – especially when we continue to promote it. In October 2020, Timeout.com named Chattanooga, Tennessee “the best place to work from home in the country.” Then Zillow ran with it. In February 2021, the pace skyrocketed when PC Mag declared Chattanooga “The Best Work-From-Home City.”  Then Forbes picked up the PC Mag article--talk about rebuilding momentum! We turned the editorial space race to our own advantage.  

Since then, the Chattanooga Chamber marketing communications professionals and the experts at Chattanooga Tourism Co. have been strategically working more closely to make a difference. In March, Business Insider touted Chattanooga Tennessee as one of four cities leading the way in supporting Black business owners.  Travel & Leisure’s June 2021 headline declared Chattanooga, Tennessee, the best place to work from home. The latter headline was the outcome of work by both teams, and we know you loved the resulting headline as much as we did: “Why This Tennessee City is the Ultimate Work from Home Destination for Remote Workers” (No secret here – lightning fast internet service counted big-time, followed by cozy cafes, green spaces, and outdoor destinations such as Rock City.).  

But we did more to increase our momentum. We also invested in more outreach and support for all area startups by launching StartingBlockChattanooga.com, a one-stop-shop for local entrepreneurs and small business owners. In 2021, the site attracted nearly 8,000 entrepreneurs from Chattanooga to communities as far away as Texas and Wyoming. Entrepreneurs and start-ups have been enjoying StartingBlockChattanooga.com for its free, easy access to vital assistance, resources, and information about how to start a business in Chattanooga and why it’s a good idea. 

One of our Chattanooga Climbs goals includes increasing access to capital and resources. To our great joy, high growth companies FreightWaves (July 2020) and Branch Technology (Dec 2020) both announced major rounds of investment. While we’re certainly not taking credit for their work, we were delighted to amplify their fantastic news with national media outreach. 

All this momentum built up to—BOOM—1 billion news impressions. And yet that’s not all that’s been going on this year. We’ll be talking more about the 1 billion impressions and other exciting developments in Chattanooga at our online 2021 Chattanooga Chamber Annual Meeting on August 23 at 2:00 p.m. Presented via Youtube with Elliott Davis and Chattanooga Gas, the meeting will hit the highlights of the Chattanooga Chamber's 2020-21 accomplishments, including our ongoing response to the pandemic, and look ahead to what the next year holds as Valoria Armstrong, American Water, passes responsibility of Chamber Board Chair to Miller & Martin's Jim Haley. We'll also hear from Chattanooga Chamber President & CEO Christy Gillenwater and recognize outstanding Chamber volunteers by presenting our Council of the Year Award, Council Membership Growth Award, and Ambassador of the Year recognition. If you’re a dedicated member and ever-growing fan of Chattanooga, you won’t want to miss this event!