Today, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 68 children (and 1 in 42 boys) is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)*, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. In contrast, programs that serve children with ASD are limited. The ones that do exist are often expensive and out of reach for many families.
Bringing together the tremendous need for programs to serve children with autism and their idea about a food festival centered around beignets, Amy and Sherwood Collins started the Tres Doux Foundation which celebrates and enhances the lives of children with developmental delays and disabilities by presenting them as whole beings, and to support organizations that do the same. Through this foundation, they created the first ever Beignet Fest. Amy and Sherwood turned to Gambel Communications, where Amy works as vice president, to launch the festival and drive awareness of the cause that prompted the festival’s creation.
Gambel Communications worked with Beignet Fest to introduce the new festival to the local and regional market and tell the story behind its creation. The Gambel Communications team planned and organized a press conference on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 to announce the festival.
For the press event (and for use online via Beignet Fest’s website and social media), the Gambel Communications team produced a video that featured the Collins family in their home, telling the story of why they created the festival. They also created a robust press kit offering background and details on the festival.
The press conference was held at Urban South, a craft brewery which served as the beer sponsor for Beignet Fest. Festival founders, Amy and Sherwood, opened the event by sharing their excitement about the new festival and introduced the video. After the video, Amy and Sherwood stood with both their children and pulled down a covered banner to reveal the name and nature of the new festival.
Following the momentum created by the announcement press conference, Gambel Communications continued its media outreach leading up to the inaugural festival on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
On site the day of the festival, Gambel Communications coordinated interviews by local television stations, bloggers and print reporters. The Gambel team also facilitated the “best beignet” contest with celebrity judges and disseminated information on the winners. Finally, Gambel provided social media support utilizing “Facebook live” to post scenes from the fest.
The first-ever Beignet Fest garnered significant media coverage from national outlets such as Travel + Leisure and Thrillist to local television favorite, WWL-TV, which did a live broadcast from the press conference during its noon news.
Other media highlights include:
Full feature stories on the announcement by both major newspapers in the market, both of which posted the story on their websites and social media feeds garnering significant engagement by locals and tourists
Television coverage by all four local TV stations for the announcement, as well as a noon live broadcast by the CBS affiliate
A three-page spread in The New Orleans Advocate’s Friday entertainment section the day before the festival
Cooking segments on two local TV morning shows and a weekend show feature on a third television station
Significant social media coverage which extended traditional earned media coverage
The objectives of the project were exceeded, and each of the communications objectives were achieved:
Approximately 10,000 people attended the festival, nearly double the goal of 6,000 people.
In December 2016, the Tres Doux Foundation awarded $25,000 in grants – two-and-a-half times the amount it anticipated for the first year!