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April 16, 2008

Oh, Johnny …

Heidi StrandYou may have heard Oshkosh’s exciting news … Johnny Depp is in town filming his newest movie Public Enemies.

That’s right! Our little sleeper-of-a-town has become a Universal Studios hub and our downtown has become a scene from the 1930’s when Dillinger was king.

Why do you care – you ask? Because this three-week venture is an amazing story of how to garner excellent press and build great public relations. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an A-list celeb on call either, but if we take his sauve, sex symbol out of the mix for a moment, there are still lessons to be learned.

Approximately three weeks ago, the location team pulled to the New Moon Cafe. I won’t bore you with all the timeline details – you can read about it all you want at The Northwestern – our daily rag.

What was impressive from the get-go, was not the obvious ‘you’re not from here’ as any good Oshkoshkian notices, but the immediate integration of the location team into our brat-loving culture. Mark, the locations team leader, began building relationships with the downtown businesses and setting the proverbial stage with his tone and open attitude.

There wasn’t the ‘hey … we’re from Hollywood and will be needed to be catered to’ that you may expect. Far from it, in fact.

Mark set to learn all the business owners’ names; invited some to watch his personal film collection; shopped at the local coffee shop daily; and, told his team to do the same.

But, that’s not all folks!

What made a public relations believer out of me was the commitment that the entire production team had to purchasing and hiring locally. Naturally, the snow machine that was used on our airport grounds for the first day of shooting had to be brought in special, but all of the construction materials, the gallons upon gallons of paint, the glass windows, the antique hardware … all was purchased locally. And, most was installed by our very own townies.

Yeah, I know it’s also probably more cost effective for the movie folks to do that, too. But, they really went the extra mile.

Needless to say, I’m not the only one who has noticed this subtle strategy to ingratiate. When you literally close down a Main St. for 10 days, someone is bound to complain … but there will most assuredly be fewer complaints if the businesses are financially compensated and treated with the utmost respect.

I’m impressed (which frankly takes a lot). And, Johnny hadn’t even arrived yet on his personal jet!

But, when he did, my expectations continued to be shot out of the water. I guess I thought the worst … Johnny doesn’t need to be nice or to greet the crowd. But, that’s exactly what he did.

And, the teenage girls went crazy! And, a few of the older girls, too. 🙂

The filming is scheduled to end this week, but their goodwill efforts will remain a positive buzz throughout our community. It didn’t take much for the production crews to worm their way into our hearts … a few cups of purchased coffee, a wave of the hand to the crowds, and a sincere effort to be sensitive to our small businesses who needed to cater to their regular customers during this affair.

Thanks guys! Come back anytime!