By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Last year, Roger Beahm realized the marketing materials his Greensboro ad firm was creating for free for United Way of Forsyth County delivered a different message from the workplace-drive materials his employees were getting from United Way of Greater Greensboro.
So this year, asked if his firm would develop materials for the Greensboro drive, Beahm suggested the two United Ways team up.
The result is a single Triad marketing campaign that also includes United Way of Greater High Point.
“We are all trying to accomplish the same thing, from the standpoint of United Way, which is to unite people and services to accomplish what matters most in our community,” says Beahm, chairman and CEO of CoyneBeahmShouse.
In addition to a single theme, “Together we do what matters,” and a single set of materials all three United Ways will use in their workplace campaigns, the firm is developing a five-minute video, 30-second TV and radio spots, and billboard and newspapers ads.
“Our ability to run those will be driven by the availability of marketing funds of each United Way,” says Beahm, whose firm’s pro bono work for Forsyth’s United Way grew out of a request from a client, Fran Creighton, executive vice president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in Winston-Salem and a board member at Forsyth’s United Way.
Neil Belenky, president of Greensboro’s United Way, says the joint effort reflects the fact that the Triad has become a single market, with many people commuting between communities, and with local media outlets serving the entire region.
“The fact that there are three United Ways is a function of history, it’s not a function of natural geography, and the media is regional, it’s not local any more,” he says. “So you end up sending conflicting messages” to donors and to nonprofits that receive United Way support.
Bobby Smith, president and CEO of United Way of Greater High Point and a former Greensboro United Way staffer, says the three United Ways in the mid-1980s to early 90s worked together on joint marketing themes, public-service announcements and events.
This year’s combined effort also will produce cost savings because many of the materials can be printed at the same time, with minimal typesetting changes, says Beahm, who also has secured donations of paper from several printers that are producing the materials.
The collaboration could expand next year to other local United Ways, including those in Alamance, Davie and Davidson counties, says John Conrad, communications director for Forsyth’s United Way.
Despite the marketing collaboration, however, United Way officials say it is not a first step to a merger.
“We’re like any other kind of business,” Conrad says. “To get the three of us to do the same thing is hard.”
Belenky says donors, who have driven United Way consolidation in other communities like the Triangle, have not created “compelling pressure” for a merger.
The joint marketing effort reflects a “need for cooperation” among the three Triad communities that “supercedes even the United Ways themselves,” Beahm says.
“The provincialism that has tended to exist in the past,” he says, “has held the Triad back from being able to move forward competitively in North Carolina relative to the Triangle or Charlotte.”