Heading digital media for client MPCA/Brad Krevoy Television at the first ever fan-con for their hit Hallmark Channel series When Calls The Heart was both a challenge and a joy
By Nicole Hansen, President, GGE and Founder of eBrandgelize Digital
Last June, while setting up branded social media pages for our newest web design and online branding client, MPCA/Brad Krevoy Television, I checked to see if anyone was tweeting about one of its produced shows that was airing that night called When Calls the Heart. I noticed something I had never seen before from clients who had live events happening on Twitter: people were not only tweeting about the show, but they were having conversations. These fans calling themselves #Hearties were so actively working to get the show to trend that I made a point to mention it to Brad Krevoy the next time we spoke. He credited the #Hearties with getting the show a second season. He also tasked me with getting to know them and to find a way to give back.
Over the following months, I worked on behalf of Brad Krevoy with Brian Bird, the show’s executive producer and fan ambassador, as he brought me up to speed on how the fans were creating their own #HeartiesParties. He explained that a group of Hearties were creating a Heartie-Con, a fan convention for a hundred or so of the 31,000 members of the private Facebook group “Fans of Hallmark Chanel’s When Calls the Heart.” When Brian announced the event to the group, I saw that a single email address was given for people to register — not an easy way to manage an event. Brian connected me with the organizers and we suggested setting up an EventBrite page, courtesy of MPCA. The advantages included e-tickets, mass messaging of guests, and an easy to manage registration process.
During the planning process, I was blown away by the planning committee’s resourcefulness. The event sold out in an hour at $100/ticket. The ladies on the event committee made gift bags and swag by hand, using the show as inspiration. I shouldn’t have been surprised; I was tasked by Brian and Brad to transport fan-made woven blankets and personalized doilies to deliver to the stars on the set from one amazing fan. It seems many of these ladies, aged 16-75, were inspired by the show to produce their own 1910’s-era arts and crafts, so the homemade swag were definitely on-brand for this event. On MPCA/BKTV’s behalf, GGE created more tech-driven goodies, including Hallmark Channel-Hearties-branded flash drives, loaded with deleted scenes, family-friendly coloring pages commissioned from a popular #HeartieArt creator, Brie Schmida, and 10 social media marketing action items that the fans can do to bring in new viewers for season 3.
Leading up to the event, many fans voiced their desire for MPCA/BKTV to run a Periscope live stream for them. After weeks of promising that @MPCA_Film would be periscoping from #HFR2016, I had to out myself as the person who would be hosting the broadcasts. When I got to the first event in Vancouver, the Hycroft House High Tea, I did a brief introduction on my own Periscope of walking into Hycroft as a fellow Heartie (yes, I’ve been converted) and meeting the Hearties admins and event planners in person for the first time. Viewers then stayed tuned to @MPCA_Film for more periscopes of the event. Whenever I streamed stars meeting and speaking to the fans and on the broadcasts, you could hear the chirps, as attending Hearties were notified that MPCA/BKTV was streaming. We watched the hearts (likes) grow from only 1 to over 55,000 by the end of the weekend.
Before the event, we were tasked with lending technical and design support to the developer of the #Hearties fan website, to help make the site mobile-ready from the outset, with more social network integration for all things #Hearties. At the event, it was so gratifying to receive hugs and thanks for both the website upgrade and our online Twitter conversations with Hearties. They were also grateful for likes and retweets of fans’ posts, and especially for the Periscope streaming. Their Hearties friends who could not attend were thrilled to be meeting the attendees via the broadcasts! It was pure love for MPCA/BKTV to be supporting and appreciating their fans and meant the world to us. We also conducted video interviews of fans and produced a video interview (in collaboration with Edify Media) of the executive producers as assets for future stories in the press and on social media.
All in all, the entire event was like attending a real family reunion. People I was introduced to from a distance, over digital media, came to the event from all over. It was like being surrounded by distant relatives from all around the world: my cousins, aunts, uncles and even a family representing with 3 generations from infants to grandparents. Spending time with the matriarch of all things Hearties, best-selling author Janette Oke, who wrote the books that inspired the series When Calls the Heart, reminded me why I loved my own churchgoing, humble and hard-working grandmother so much. They were all just good people coming together and supporting family-friendly entertainment, which in a world of violence and superheroes on TV put me right back to be a little girl watching Little House on the Prairie and then pretending I was Laura Ingalls Wilder. These fans just wanted to go back to a simpler time, and did it by supporting their show and connecting both online and at this amazing event.