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Public Relations Firm Hired To Help Promote Edgewater Regionally And Beyond

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Photo: Edgewater Chamber

It’s the kind of story you never want to have to write, or to manage. But there it was: Lincoln Square Lanes, a well-loved bowling alley and sports bar, was shooting flames.

It was the middle of the night on Aug. 31, 2015, and it took Chicago firefighters nearly two hours, according to the Chicago Tribune, to get the extra-alarm blaze under control. The pain didn’t end with the fire’s final tamped out embers, either. Gutted, the bowling alley was forced to close. The hardware store below it, Matty K’s, also sustained damage. And fellow neighborhood business owners? They were understandably stunned.

Meanwhile, Lisa Ripson, a former broadcast news producer who spent nine years at NBC’s Chicago affiliate, WMAQ-TV, was far from asleep on this story. It was the middle of the night, but she was already crafting messages for the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, which her firm, Ripson Communications, has represented since 2008. The messages aimed to help the Chamber’s members be better prepared for media requests and interviews in the wake of the fire at 4874 N. Lincoln Ave. They also sought to reassure businesses and the neighborhood that the Chamber was aware of the fire and was doing what it could to help. 

As someone who has been on the news side of reporting public safety stories like the Lincoln Square Lanes fire, Ripson knew what her former fellow journalists would want to know. But that also meant she knew what the business owners would need, too. Her company helped make the Chamber director available for interviews. It also coordinated interviews for those businesses that wanted to talk to media, and for those that did not want to talk to the media immediately. Ripson Communications also handled media requests directed at companies that perhaps did not want to comment at all.

“It was really tragic,” she said on Friday. “They were watching their livelihoods literally (go) up in flames … We were an asset to the businesses and also to the media, as well.”

Ripson started her public relations business in 2007, becoming an intermediary between clients and media for crisis management stories like the Lincoln Square Lanes blaze, and also for more feel-good stories. Her company has represented grocery stores, restaurants, real estate, medical and not-for-profit organizations, as well as clients in other areas. And now, Ripson Communications’ latest client is the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber is led by a board of directors, and we are trying to raise the profile of (Edgewater), to raise awareness of Edgewater as a community as a whole,” said Ally Brisbin, marketing and events manager for the Chamber.

“One of our goals is to have our business owners be known as experts in their fields as well,” she added. “Ripson has a great track record of helping other business communities and Chambers tell their stories, so we are feeling really confident in our partnership. Our overarching goal is to raise awareness of Edgewater in the city and the region and beyond.”

The Chamber sent a request for proposal in September to various public relations companies in Chicago, including notice in its weekly Friday newsletters, Brisbin said. Roughly five or six companies responded, and the Chamber staff made a shortlist of the best possible contenders, contacting references, narrowing the group to two or three. Those on the shortlist then made presentations to the Chamber’s board of directors, which, after discussion, awarded the one-year contract to Ripson Communications for $24,000, Brisbin said.

Some details are still being worked out as to the types of stories that the public relations company will work with media to promote, Ripson said, but the overall goal is to bring more people to Edgewater. One focus, for instance, will be on entertainment.

Brisbin said this is the first time that the Chamber has hired a public relations company to help promote Edgewater. While Ripson and Chris Comes, executive vice president of the company, will both work to generate story ideas and communicate with media, Brisbin’s team will still be in charge of the Chamber’s weekly emailed newsletter. Ripson Communications will focus on external communications, Ripson said.

According to the Ripson Communications website, Comes has been a seasoned public relations and marketing professional for nearly 20 years, working most recently for Clearwire as its national director of media relations.

Ripson’s public relations experience goes beyond her time as a producer for broadcast news. Before starting her business, she was a senior account supervisor with Edelman, which her website describes as the world’s largest independent public relations firm. While there, she helped craft and shape messaging for Whirlpool Corp. and Banco Popular.

Ripson Communications has worked with other Chambers in Chicago and the Chicago area besides the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber. The company provided the public relations push for the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce’s City Made Fest in 2015. Another client in 2015 was the Clark Street Special Service Area (SSA), which is managed by the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, and the La Grange, Illinois, Business Association.

“We are just super excited and honored to be chosen to lead the PR efforts for the Edgewater Chamber,” she added.


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