The little project that could

September 12, 2010

You can’t predict how people will use something new. The Internet began as a way for scientists to exchange information, but its early growth was driven by pornography. Broadband Internet has brought tremendous communications technology into virtually every home. Facebook and a few other social media take credit for the election of U.S. President Barrack Obama by mobilizing an otherwise-fragmented base and pulling in millions of small donations. Surveys and online polls have sprung up to take advantage of new marketing opportunities in the medium. One of these promotions is a summertime poll by the World Fishing Network to select the Ultimate Fishing Town in Canada.

I encountered Seeley’s Bay Newsletter publisher Liz Huff at a picnic this summer where she told me about the Seeley’s Bay bid for the WFN title. She took the time this week to bring Review-Mirror readers up to date:

“Liz Rudd, co-owner of Seeley’s Bay Retirement Home, first noticed the contest. She and local crafter Edwina McMaster told me about it and I submitted the first nomination for our town on the World Fishing Network site. We thought it was a great idea. We ARE a great fishing town, we need the $25K prize for fishing improvements, and hey, it’s way more fun than writing grant applications.

“Roger White of Rideau Breeze Marina got on board quickly and started filing supporting nominations on-line at the WFN site. Dale Moore, owner of The Nest Egg, a popular ice cream shop in our village, got very excited about it. She made a big sign for her bulletin board and prodded us all to put up posters around town.

“The WFN TV site encouraged people to load up videos as well as photos to support their nominations, so we made a little video featuring Shane White, son of Roger and Tracey White. With Shane’s words, ‘I want to help the fish,’ we realized that we had found our goal – and our spokesman.

“By the time the nominations phase ended, Seeley’s Bay had more supporting nominations than any other place in Canada: 147 different online submissions. Next came a public voting round in which of all the towns that had received a nomination competed. WFN announced that they would put the top two towns from the each of the West, Ontario, and the Maritimes, plus four wild-card towns, onto the final ballot of 10.

“During the second round we had hopes that we might be able to charm our way into a wild-card spot. We didn’t think we had much of a chance of landing in the top two in Ontario, given that big places like Ottawa, Kingston, Windsor and Thunder Bay were all in the running.

“But our local fishing fans were mobilizing (Postmistress Karen Simpson, Councillor Kellington, Mayor Kinsella, the Legion, the Lions Club, First Impressions Committee, etc.).  More and more people were giving us permission to vote on their behalf, and before long many of us were staying up late, entering long lists of email votes on behalf of family, friends and other fans of Seeley’s Bay.

“And lo and behold, we actually ended round two in the #2 spot in all of Ontario. Only Nestor Falls beat us, from way up in the north-west corner of the province near the Manitoba border. Nestor Falls is the base camp for over 20 fly-in fishing lodges. We figure they were able to mobilize a lot of votes because all of the lodges have long contact lists of clients, and they really are dependent on fishing – totally.

“Over the next week while we waited to see for sure we were in the top ten, we tried to work on planning a campaign. We know that without the support of neighbouring towns in eastern Ontario we don’t have a chance. In fact we really need support from the Greater Toronto area. The towns across Canada that had piled up the most votes by the end of round two were Port Alberni BC, and Dauphin, Manitoba. We could see from online research that they both had great local support from their papers and TV stations. So we have been madly trying to figure out how to get people in eastern Ontario to log on and vote for us.

“Now we are indeed in the final ten. It’s a big fight. We have had great support from CTV Ottawa, CBC Ottawa, CKWS Kingston and the Review Mirror, but we need MORE.

“If Eastern Ontario residents would log on and vote for us as often as every 12 hours between now and Sept 28, we could beat the West and show fishing fans across North America that Eastern Ontario has some of the finest fishing in the country. The winning town will win $25,000 for a project of their choice and be the subject of a half-hour show on the World Fishing Network, which claims 42 million viewers across North America.”

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