April '14

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rv-pro.com April 2014 • RV PRo • 17 years? Undoubtedly continuing to explain what great new products are around to ben- efit our enjoyment of the great outdoors. But beyond that, and to exactly how, I'm glad younger people get to figure it out and I don't have to," she muses. The 'Dean of RV Publicists' Another veteran player in promoting the RV industry is BJ ompson. If there were such a title as "Dean of RV Publicists," that title would surely go to ompson, longtime agency owner and supporter of the Go RVing Coalition, who has been invigorating the RV industry for 45 years. ompson started with Holiday Ram- bler in 1969 and formed his own agency, BJ ompson & Associates Inc., in 1979. He is a fixture in the Michiana business community that encompasses the RV cap- ital. His clients have included Dometic and KZ RV, to name just a few. ompson, now in his mid-60s, down- plays his role in the industry and for the purposes of this story, wants to stress, "I feel like I'm just a thread in the fabric. ere are a lot of notable threads in the fabric. And advertising and PR people are a small part of the whole effort." For the record, ompson is a 35-year RVIA member and Association leader, having served for 29 years as its Public Relations Committee chairman. He is a founding member of the Go RVing Coali- tion and received both the RVIA National Service Award in 1986 and RVIA Distin- guished Service to the RV Industry Award in 1995. In his role with RVIA, ompson has devised and led numerous national RV promotional campaigns. For those outside the RV capital, ompson is most notice- able every year when he takes a prominent role at the Outlook Breakfast that tips off the annual National RV Trade Show in Louisville. He was inducted into the RV/ MH Hall of Fame in 2005. Thompson was an early proponent of industry promotion and blended his voice with that of other forward-looking thinkers such as Tom Corson, Tom Faludy, Gary LaBella and Dave Humphreys to improve getting the RV message out to the public. In those early years, before the Go RVing concept took shape, promoting the industry wasn't universally popular. One of the most vocal opponents, ompson recalls, was Eldon L. Smith, CEO of then industry leader Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. "Eldon dug in his heels more than a little bit," ompson says. "I give a lot of credit to Elden, even though he was very vociferous against the program. Ulti- mately, rather than fracture the industry, he saw the greater benefit of it unifying the industry, even against his personal wishes." It was a major hurdle crossed. "Once we found our funding and got people all together and figured out the regular funding mechanism, it worked," ompson says. Thompson likens the RV industry to "mom and apple pie." He adds, "It's easy to feel genuinely committed to what the RV industry has to offer. For a long time I have really felt good being part of the industry." nary global contact list with some 45,000 names, of which about 2,500 have ties to the domestic RV industry. Just keeping the list up to date is virtually a fulltime job. She and Kelly Flory, the firm's general manager and "chariot driver," attend trade shows to keep their company's name top of mind in the RV industry. "We try to help businesses expose their products to the widest possible audience," Martin explains. "At the end of the fiscal year, what counts is the bottom line, not fancy awards or distinctions. We are very cognizant our clients want us to help them sell more products to the consuming public and at the same time elevate the awareness of the activity in the industry to audiences that normally wouldn't talk about RVing." e advent of social media has affected the way her industry does business, but she concedes that her agency remains very traditional in one sense. "Our clients are asking many, many more questions," she says. "However, we don't manage social media at all in our agency. We let other people do it. We will feed them all the info, but we're down and dirty publicity; we've never been on the leading edge of anything and frankly, that is by design. We have to stay affordable for our smaller clients and we know how to be very efficient in what we do." The traditional way of doing things in these changing times has not hurt the agency, Martin maintains. "Even within the last five years of hor- rible economic news, we as an agency continued to add new clients, and new businesses were put into motion. It is still rewarding. ere are new people coming into the industry with new ideas and things to do. There is always an influx of new blood and ideas. at's what America was built on," she says. Martin admits she is cutting back on her personal involvement in the agency and realizes a younger generation will be dictating the agency's future. Change is rampant in her industry and she's uncertain where it's headed in the long term. "Where will my company be in five If there were such a title as "Dean of RV Publicists," that title would surely go to BJ Thompson, longtime agency owner of BJ Thompson & Associates and strong supporter of the Go RVing Coalition. Thompson is pictured here addressing attendees at an RV Industry Association function. RVPApr.indd 17 3/19/14 3:14 PM

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