In 2008, Richmond advertising agency owner Brennan Spoonhower decided she wanted to do more for small businesses and nonprofits. She left her marketing and research position at a local TV station and founded Silent Partner Media (SPM). “Our agency was founded to help the ‘little guy,’” said Brennan. “I would see the clients who could afford the large agencies get so much more for their advertising dollars and I wanted to make a difference for small, local business.” With a focus on advertising media strategy, Silent Partner Media was born to the Richmond scene, planning and executing the buying of advertising media for a myriad of businesses and nonprofits.
Fast forward 12 years to these unprecedented times. Public health concerns have shut down or changed the way businesses operate. While unusual and unexpected, the SPM team confronted it head on, understanding what was needed within their sphere.
“The first thing we did was make a plan to ensure the people that worked with us could feel secure,” explained Brennan. With pride she shared that within twenty-four hours she and her co-owner/husband Neil came up with a plan to provide guaranteed work over the next few months of uncertainty. “They were all very appreciative and it shows in the work their doing,” she said.
Next it was on to review the situation for each of their clients. Several clients that are local attractions had to shut down completely. That meant contracted media buys would have to be carefully revised and, in some cases put on an indefinite hold. “It was wonderful to see how amazing our media partners were to work with,” reflected Brennan. She shares that except for one Richmond area media company, everyone was extremely understanding and went out of their way to accommodate our clients as best they could. As for the one that was not as easy to work with, she said, “we worked out a solution with them on behalf of our client and while it wasn’t easy, it was a good reminder to us of how we help and why we exist.” Once the dust settled from all of the media adjustments, it was time for Silent Partner Media to return to its foundation. SPM looked around to find ways they might make a difference for small, local business by offering their knowledge and expertise at no charge. Neil reached out the owners of Chef Lee, a family-owned restaurant in Goochland that was shut down. The restaurant had great food, and a small following, but had not been very community-focused. While they had a Facebook page, the last post was in March of 2015. The owner didn’t even have rights to his own business account. Neil shared “we were able to get him access to the account and take over the Facebook management during the reopening.” Neil’s team also helped develop the curbside service process.
SPM also leaned in to help Hilltop Distillery. “Talk about horrible timing,” recalled Neil. A true family affair, the owners poured everything they had into a state-of-the-art distillery and tasting room. The timing of the pandemic made it so the Goochland distillery had to shut their doors just two weeks after their soft opening.” SPM worked with Hilltop to set up their Facebook business and ads pages. They also did some training on regular posting and how to run ads.
Feeling they were doing some good things for great businesses, they hoped to kick it up a notch to have a greater impact. So, SPM approached the Goochland Chamber of Commerce and offered to produce a set of high-quality videos featuring chamber members impacted by the pandemic. These were businesses that needed to get the word out that they are open and to share how much they appreciate all of the support from the community. SPM also worked with the Chamber to help develop a media plan to effectively push out the videos to the community via social media. So far, the response has been excellent.
“What is exciting about this is we are going in and showing businesses what they can do for themselves. Things that can be sustained moving forward,” Neil shares. Brennan offered, “This kind of service is why I jumped out of my comfort zone and started an agency during a recession. Service that helps small businesses get their message out. The question was never whether we were going to support local business during this pandemic. It was how much can we do.”