>>CHALLENGE

The catchphrase “Meet Me in Milford” reflects the personality and economic lifeblood of this Oakland County village. It’s all about this town’s vibrant downtown drawing residents and visitors to its shops and restaurants. But the catchphrase ran into a severe “catch” when the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to shut down temporarily. The Milford Downtown Development Authority tasked Franco with figuring out how to encourage people to support the downtown businesses, short of a physical visit.

The answer Franco came up with: Bring Downtown Milford into residents’ homes.

>>APPROACH

First, the Milford DDA needed to communicate to residents they’d soon be able to enjoy the shops and restaurants they love, but in a different way.

The Franco team guided the DDA and business owners in shifting communication online and creating a virtual experience using video.

We used the website as a virtual town square with updates and offerings from businesses to keep the community informed. Social media content shifted from “Meet Me In Milford” to “Milford Meets Online,” sharing virtual offerings, products and at-home activities people could still purchase and experience to bring a sense of Milford to their homes.

All through the months-long quarantine we posted messages of encouragement, hope and the assurance that one day things would return to some version of normalcy. But our main message during this timeframe was to support Milford businesses…and each other.

Done completely virtually, the Franco team created a “See You Soon” video. Business owners submitted cell phone videos of themselves answering three questions. Even the voiceover was completed and recorded remotely by cell phone. We then edited the contributed clips into a comprehensive video and shared it on Downtown Milford’s social media networks. We also emailed the video to the community list and merchants and directed merchants to share on their social channels. The video on Facebook received 319 likes, 38 comments, 170 shares and a reach of nearly 18,000 in less than 24 hours – without any paid advertising!

After the successful video launch, Franco continued to support the Milford DDA through another daunting challenge—finding effective substitutes for several COVID-19 canceled late spring events that reliably drew downtown traffic in the past, including the always popular Ladies Night Out.

Franco supported the Milford community by turning a traditional outdoor shopping event completely virtual. We not only developed a strategy for the virtual event, the Franco team also:

  • Created graphics
  • Received merchant participation
  • Provided Facebook Live best practices training

Using Facebook events, we created a schedule and each merchant went live or posted recorded videos of themselves selling merchandise at their specific time during the Facebook event. Throughout the night, we posted prompts to keep the conversation and entertainment going during breaks, randomly selected winners and gave away $500 in prizes.

When restrictions began to lift and businesses could allow customers back into their stores and dining rooms, Franco helped the DDA shift back to encouraging people to visit, shop and dine downtown in-person, while adhering to recommended safety precautions.

>>RESULTS

See You Soon Video

  • 23 merchants participated
  • 1,800 engagements, 146 comments and 175 shares totaling 23,500 people organically reached
  • Nearly 59% newsletter open rate
  • Anecdotal feedback:
    • “You just made all of Milford feel hopeful! (I watched it three times). Thank you so much for putting this together.”
    • “I am literally crying! What we miss most is YOU! Stay strong! We will be back as soon as we can.”

Facebook “Ladies Night In” Virtual Event

  • 17 merchants participated with two merchants serving as event hosts, resulting in:
    • 43,700 total reach
    • 1,500 responses and 4,700 event page views, all organic
    • Merchants expressed wanting to host the event again, especially during the winter months and two merchants continued with Facebook Live virtual selling events on their own
    • Anecdotal feedback:
    • “Thank you to all of the Milford shops for taking the time to give us a fun night. Can’t wait to see you all in person.” ​
    • “Thank you so much! It was a fun event — and I can’t wait to shop downtown again!​”