Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 1 - Community Relations
Operation Skate
The Axia Team

Award of Distinction

Research/Situation Analysis: AXIA founder Jason Mudd offered agency services to Operation Skate (OS), a group of concerned parents who wanted to create a community skate park. The group lacked fundraising experience and marketing leadership. Research: AXIA conducted primary, secondary, formal and informal research. The agency reviewed Web sites for facts, trends, safety tips and techniques, and interviewed public safety officials and appointed officials in surrounding communities, including a neighboring town that had successfully launched a skate park. AXIA reviewed books, a video on community skate parks for appropriate background, regulations and best practices. Target Audiences: The group desired to build financial, in-kind volunteer and political support among decision-makers, such as major corporations, service-companies, parents, youth, media, etc., in order to get the park built.

Objectives: 1. Create awareness of the need for a skate park by earning three articles in the local newspaper and by making presentations to three civic groups. 2. Increase credibility of OS by gaining 501(c)3 status. 3. Increase volunteer base by 50 percent, from less than 100 to 150 volunteers. 4. Increase financial support from less than $2,500 to more than $250,000 in cash donations and in-kind services.

Implementation: 1. AXIA proposed that PR was the most efficient way to obtain the stated objectives and the most powerful strategy because of the need to create and maintain critical relationships with key publics. News releases and support letters were written, phone calls were made, and meetings were held to build awareness and garner donations. The agency scheduled and promoted public meetings and showed a video promoting the value of a community skate park. The local cable affiliate played the video twice weekly on the public access channel. 2. The agency secured pro bono legal counsel to help secure 501(c)3 status through the IRS. Fliers, brochures and a Web site were created and promoted. Nationally recognized professional skateboarders provided promotional and auction material and endorsed the effort. 3. The agency helped organize operations and used weekly e-mail messages and recorded telephone message blasts to keep volunteers and stake holders informed of upcoming events and needs. AXIA created a Friends of the Skate Park program, which allowed volunteers to earn first-rights to the park and a package of stickers, shirts and other items, including access to a newsletter and volunteering opportunities. 4. The agency created and produced monthly fundraising events to generate momentum and awareness for the cause. Such events included a celebrity grocery bagging day for tips; and holding a “Fellowship of the Board: Surfers Unite for Operation Skate” surf contest, “Pirate Pedal” bike race, 5k run-walk, skate contests and car washes.

AXIA also organized Skate Night at six local restaurants for 10 percent of the entree price donated to OS, “Skate and a Haircut” where $2 from every haircut would be donated to OS, and “Skate-N- Sketti,” a spaghetti dinner featuring a comedian and an auction with all materials donated from AXIA contacts. Wal-Mart also matched up to $1,000 worth of donations collected in front of their store, and another Wal-Mart donated $2,000 for its grand opening. The agency gained approval to place a dozen collection jars at quick-service restaurants and scheduled speaking engagements to present its needs to the community — including presentations to Builders, Rotary, Kiwanis and Optimist organizations.

Evaluation: On Nov. 5, 2006, the skate park was opened to a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds, including local celebrities. 1. Thousands of dollars of coverage was earned, including coverage on local ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates plus print articles in The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union (front page), Jacksonville Business Journal, Nassau Neighbors and Fernandina Beach News-Leader. The OS message was presented to seven different civic, professional and government organizations that all came forward to support. OS received 501(c)3 status from the IRS in 2004. Within 30 days, AXIA increased OS’s volunteer base by more than 100 percent – from fewer than 100 to more than 200. Within 30 days of getting involved, AXIA doubled OS’s income from less than $2,500 to more than $8,000. With grant applications and donations from corporations, individuals, municipal and state recreation grants, and in-kind sponsors, the challenge of raising more than a quarter-million dollars and erecting a skate park was a reality.

Budget: AXIA offered to provide its services on a pro bono basis. OS agreed to cover AXIA’s out-of-pocket expenses up to 20 percent (actual was $4,170) of the income that the agency helped raise through special events and sponsorships. The agency donated more than 1,500 hours (or $112,500) of services to OS over 38 months; most were donated in the first 18 months. The video was provided free by a non-profit focused on building community support for skate parks.