An e-mail was sent to The Brunswick News on Jan. 6 with information about Tuesday’s announcement about the Top 5 finalists with a chance to appear on the TV show “Small Business Revolution.”
The “confidential” message said, “The Historic town of Brunswick, Georgia will advance as a Top 5 Finalist town where it will be up to the public to vote number one to receive a transformation and become the featured small town on Season 5.”
The purpose of the message was explained by Erin Blanton, with Fast Horse Media Relations.
“I’m reaching out to get the ball rolling on coverage for The Brunswick News ahead of the announcement on Jan. 14,” Blanton said in the message. “This message is confidential, and will not be made public until January 14.”
The News held on to the embargoed information without spilling the secret. But when the finalist were announced online at 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, Brunswick was not among the five finalists. Benica, Calif.; Fredonia, N.Y.; Livingston, Mont.; Spearfish, S.D. and The Dalles, Ore., were the cities selected.
A crowd of more than 40 people gathered at Daddy Cate’s Coffee before the announcement, with lots of optimism the city would make the cut. Business leaders were so optimistic they planned to immediately post a link online to make it easy for people to find the site to cast their votes for Brunswick and to encourage people to vote daily to bolster the city’s chances.
Business leaders were hoping Brunswick would win the vote and be featured in an eight-episode documentary, with the added bonus of earning a $500,000 award for brick and mortar work and in-kind marketing for individual businesses in the community.
After the announcement Tuesday morning, The News contacted the public relations company that sent the email and got the following response from Mike Keliher, group account director for Fast Horse.
“Sorry for the confusion this caused,” he wrote in his response. “Our team typically sends out embargoed information to media in each community in preparation for the Top 5 announcement. Unfortunately miscommunication between our team members ultimately led to Brunswick mistakenly being included on the Top 5 list when in fact that was not supposed to be the case. We sincerely apologize for the error.”
After the announcement, several business leaders were shown the email. Donna Davis, a local businesswoman and one of the organizers to be featured on the TV show, contacted the producers for an explanation. She got a response from Cameron Potts, vice president of corporate communications for Deluxe Corporation, the TV show’s producers.
“This information you shared below is something we were totally unaware of, and we apologize for this mistake,” Potts said. “This note should have never been sent. The PR agency we contract with to help with media relations sent this confidential note by mistake to The Brunswick News. Unfortunately, in this case, a communication error by that team led to this inaccurate message. We know this is upsetting, and we apologize for the confusion.”
Despite the disappointment, city business leaders were encouraged by the quick way the entire downtown community embraced the opportunity to show their optimism in the city’s future — with or without the help of Small Business Revolution.
Mathew Hill, the city’s downtown development director, said it was great experience, even if Brunswick didn’t make the cut.
“It drew a lot of attention by people who don’t know downtown Brunswick,” he said. “It showed the community can work together for something.”
Susan Bates, owner of Tipsy McSways restaurant in downtown Brunswick, said the chance to be on the TV show helped galvanize the business community.
“It got everybody on the same page and let people express their love for downtown Brunswick” she said. “It gave us the opportunity to be proud of things. There’s momentum in downtown Brunswick with or without Small Business Revolution.”