And, as Chris Bruno, director of economic development for Fairfax City says, “Being a small city means we get to think large — quickly. Nimble is our middle name.”
So, when it was recently announced that the Washington Mystics would play their WNBA home championship games in Fairfax City at George Mason University — all due to renovations at D.C.’s Capital One Arena — Bruno and his team quickly launched into action. “We strategized how some of the city’s restaurants could benefit from a windfall of upwards of 10,000 extra people in town for an elite game,” he says.
His team brainstormed with the city’s communications director and the Mystics’ PR personnel to roll out marketing efforts that included signage in Old Town Square and a special proclamation by the mayor in front of a huge audience during a council meeting (declaring Fairfax “Mystics City”). The parks and recreation department even turned the city’s fountains “Mystics Red.”
Because members of the city’s communications and marketing team are used to working hand-in-hand with economic development, the planning and execution of the campaign took less than an hour. “For any major event or PR effort in the city right now, one of the things on our checklist is local business,” says Mike McCarthy, the city’s communications and marketing director. “Whether it’s something like the Mystics’ championship run or a big city event with thousands of people, we always ask how we can shine the spotlight on companies located here.”
For their part, Bruno’s team worked with local restaurants to quickly set up viewing parties, pre-game happy hours and post-game discounts for patrons who showed their Mystics ticket stub. The event garnered thousands of social-media impressions and a story in the Washington Post, which also listed the participating restaurants, their addresses and the special they offered fans.
While the Mystics didn’t win the WNBA championship, Bruno says the experience was a big win for the city. “This was another example of how our economic and development team can identify an opportunity and quickly act on it to help the business community,” he says. “Businesses, large and small, benefit from how quickly we can move with little red tape. It’s a source of pride for us, and it goes beyond special events — it’s truly how we work with local businesses from the day they decide to open in Fairfax City.”