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Large communication initiatives need a “village” to succeed – leverage partners and influencers to increase your reach

Posted on Categories BrandonomicsTags

Coordinating thousands of volunteers requires a massive effort, a strong strategy and detailed communications. Robin Tooms interviews Rachel Quan, VP of external operations for the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four Houston Local Organizing Committee.

Robin: Hello and welcome to this edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies. I am Robin Tooms, VP of Strategy at Savage Brands and my guest today is Rachel Quan, VP of External Operations at the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four in Houston. So Rachel, welcome to Brandonomics.

Rachel: Thanks Robin, it’s great to be here today; thank you.

Robin: It’s amazing that it’s almost here, that it’s time, but you have such a large task at the Houston Local organizing committee; you have to find all of these volunteers and promote the need for volunteers for more than 6 official events that start really right around the corner from now. So I’m curious how are tasked with doing that? How are you mobilizing this big team of volunteers?

Rachel: It is quite the task. I think we at times are a little bit overwhelmed by how large a task it’s been. We’re looking for 3,500 plus volunteers and actually I am happy to report that we’re actually over our goal at this point in time; we do have a few positions to fill here towards the end. We approached things a little bit differently this than we did back in 2011; I did the same position back in 2011. We started a lot earlier; we staffed up for the role of Manager of Volunteers a lot earlier and worked very, very diligently at connecting with lots of different companies and organizations, many of whom already have built in volunteer programs for their employees and wanted to just make sure that we got the word out that we really needed volunteers as early as possible. And so it’s been quite the journey trying to find different folks for different tasks and jobs, but it’s gone really well and we’re real excited.

We’ve been really, really honestly proud of my fellow Houstonians for stepping up and being willing to be volunteers and be a part of our big event.

Robin: Well I know as a fellow Houstonian I know that everyone’s motivated to make Houston look the best but that’s a lot of people to communicate to and I’m sure not everyone’s got this on top of mind so give us an example of ways that you communicate to them so they even knew about this opportunity.

Rachel: So a lot of it was making sure that we had great relationships with companies or organizations that already had…

Robin: Local organizations.

Rachel: Local organizations that already had a volunteer base and already encouraged theirs folks, their employees, to be volunteers in the community- and to do it together – so that was part of it. Part of it was that we worked really diligently with our own PR & Marketing team on getting the word out and finding folks out there that were willing to let us go on air and promote our cause. We also launched things pretty loudly. Back it November we had a press conference where we launched our volunteers efforts, where our registration went live online we had a press conference, told everyone about it; brought back some old volunteers from 2011 to talk about a great experience, brought in some familiar faces.

Sam Decker who plays with the Houston Rockets now and has just come off playing in the tournament last year for University of Wisconsin came and talked about what a big deal it was for Houstonians to come out and volunteer and how big of a deal it was for him personally and his family that people came and volunteered at the Final Four, it made his experience as a student athlete all the better. So we had a big press conference and we also had great friends in the press who were willing to push our message out because they want to see Houston do well with large events.

Robin: Well I love – I’m appreciative to hear about the blitz style communications and how important that was – how high profile – and your strategy about getting companies to leverage that pride internally within; that’s a great communication strategy.

Rachel: It worked well. We were really, really impressed with the different companies who wanted to make sure that they as a group volunteered and were a part of things together. I was impressed with the types of – some of them were nonprofit organizations that really wanted to do something together, some of them were some of our large Fortune 500 companies here in Houston who are used to doing things together. Employers who were willing to give time off, if you will, or even in the middle of the work day, you know, we’ll pay you, you come on out with us for a shift with our company and we’ll volunteer together so it was great.

Robin: Great, I appreciate you sharing that.

Rachel: Yeah.

Robin: Thank you. Well this has been another edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies.


Houston is host to the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four. The Houston Local Organizing Committee is the local organization which works with the NCAA on a daily basis to help plan and execute the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four.  Listed below are some of the events and volunteer opportunities that will occur the week of March 30- April 5, 2016 during the Final Four: Final Four Fan Fest, March Madness Music Fest, Final Four Friday, Final Four Dribble, and more.

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