Jon Maynard and staff work behind the scenes to polish the image of Oxford, Ole Miss, in the national press
By Michael Harrelson, editor, HottyToddy.com
The national press can’t seem to get enough of Oxford and Ole Miss.
Popular mass media stars such as Fox News anchor Shepard Smith sing the praises of home game weekends in the Grove, while celebrity sports announcers single out Square restaurants such as City Grocery and other iconic bars and eateries for on-air attention on an almost routine basis.
The latest installment came just last week, when NBC Nightly News spotlighted the attractiveness of Oxford and The University of Mississippi as a retirement community in a prime time segment seen by millions of viewers on television and online.
Indeed, the recent list of national publications to profile Oxford’s entertainment and cultural attractions, National Signing Day activities that tracked the Rebel’s top-five recruiting efforts and special events such as the annual Double Decker Festival is lengthy, and would include The New York Times, ESPN, the Association of Destination Management Executives International, Time magazine, and many other mass media outlets.
Oxford and Ole Miss now bask in the national spotlight, rather than chafe under the withering images of its segregated past, and perhaps no one in the north Mississippi home of Nobel-Prize-winning author William Faulkner appreciates the great reviews better than the Oxford and Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation.
“It did not happen overnight,” said Jon Maynard, executive vice president of the EDF, referring to efforts by him and predecessor, Christy Knapp, that recently resulted in Oxford being named one of the top retirement communities in America.
“We’ve had a retiree attraction program since 1992,” says the just retired Knapp, who held the EDF position that Maynard now hold for 12 years. “We have worked through that to recruit retirees to Oxford and publicize the quality of life that we have here.”
Along with the task of recruiting new industry and business to the city and county, Maynard and Knapp say that an important part of what they do at the EDF involves working with media producers and editors to help them find sources and meet their deadlines.
“We treat inquiries from the media just like we would an economic development project,” Knapp says.
In the case of the retirement community report on NBC, Knapp said the EDF planted the seeds for the network coverage with an earlier interview she conducted, one that was later read online by NBC producer Jane Derenowski. “The media is a tight-knit group, and they all talk to each other and read each other.”
Not only did Maynard’s office help the freelance crew and editor hired by NBC for the segment to find recent retirees in Oxford who enjoyed attending sports events and the many cultural events that the city offers free of charge, but staffers also pitched in to ensure that the B-Roll footage filmed by the crew got to the FedEx drop off point to reach editors in New York City on time. Knapp herself went even further, appearing on camera at the home of a retired Oxford newcomer near the end of the segment.
Although Maynard said the EDF won’t have a handle on the actual effectiveness of the more than two minutes of national coverage until later, he noted that similar paid advertising on a network would be prohibitively expensive.
“It is better than paid advertising, because it comes across as a third-party endorsement,” he said. “It’s the disinterested press, not a sales pitch.”
Watch the NBC video at Oxford and Ole Miss Profiled on NBC.