Future Feature: Spreading the Word
Here is a sneak preview of an article featured in our annual Alaska Native special section, available in our upcoming September 2020 issue
Aleyna Gosuk in Togiak is featured in BBNC’s new campaign.
When Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) first aired TV commercials featuring the tagline, “A Place That’s Always Been,” the reaction was surprising. Not only because they received numerous accolades and marketing awards for the campaign but because, at the time, it was rare for Alaska Native corporations to market themselves through the media.
“Prior to us launching the campaign eight years ago, Alaska Native corporations weren’t known for promoting themselves in the public beyond reaching out to our own shareholders,” explains BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin.
“Some of the elders on our board were concerned that everyone—from the state and federal government, to resource developers, to commercial fishermen and recreational users—had plans for Bristol Bay, so we decided that we needed to create a voice for ourselves,” he adds. “We wanted everyone to understand the value of our culture, our land holdings, and our region.”
In the case of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), its foray into outside media gained attention when the corporation decided to update a cultural orientation video, which led to the airing of the now award-winning True North, The Story of ASRC documentary. The film features the history of ASRC and offers viewers an authentic view into the Iñupiat way of life.
“When I began assembling the footage, it became clear to me that we should steer away from a typical educational corporation video and present it as a longer format piece,” says ASRC Senior Director of Communications Ty Hardt. “Our original goal was to educate the public about ASRC’s humble beginnings and how a well-defined vision based on Iñupiat values created a successful for-profit corporation that exists for the long-term benefit of its people. Telling it in a very personalized, inspirational way reinforced our message and brand.”
Creating Award-winning Campaigns
Having rebranded a few years prior with a new logo and other marketing components, BBNC was open to the idea of sharing its story through mass media channels.
“We started an ad campaign that included print, television, and ultimately social media,” says Metrokin. “Our TV ads’ vivid, simple, disciplined message seemed to attract people the most.
“The tagline is now quoted regularly by our shareholders and has even been said by multiple former governors,” he adds. “Is it a household phrase? I’ll leave that to others to decide.”
One of the more surprising takeaways from the campaign, according to Metrokin, is that those who have seen the TV spots remember more than what was actually said.
“We have a thriving culture, history, and economy in Bristol Bay, but at the time these aired, the proposed Pebble Mine posed an underlying threat to the region,” he says. “While we never uttered the words Pebble Mine, not even once, when we ask people what they recall, they talk about the mine.”
BBNC’s internal communications team worked with the public relations firm Strategies 360, as well as a number of skilled photographers and videographers. “Their collective talent knocked it out of the park,” says Metrokin, adding that not a day goes by when he doesn’t hear from people commenting positively on the campaign.
In the past eight years, BBNC’s media marketing has focused on a variety of themes including courage, balance, culture, and heritage.
“In the early days, we knew we wanted to build upon our brand and impress upon folks who and what we were,” says Metrokin. “Not a lot of people get to come out to Bristol Bay, so we wanted to find a way to bring it to them. Lots of people in the state watch TV, so we thought this was a good way to bring Bristol Bay to Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, and other Alaskan communities.”
BBNC is currently in the process of creating a new campaign that will feature the tagline, “More Than a Corporation.”
“The term ‘corporation’ has a negative connotation to some folks, and we want people to understand that we are about more than profits and the bottom line,” says Metrokin. “We focus on our community, culture, the diversity of our workforce, and being good stewards of our land base. While we are not hiding the fact that we are a for-profit, tax-paying corporation, our entire history has been about supporting our people and all of the residents of Alaska.”
Read more about the efforts Alaska Native corporations are making to tell the story of their brand and their people in the upcoming September 2020 edition of Alaska Business.
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