“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.” The words were superimposed in a funky font over a happy person of unknown gender jumping up and out of frame, into the sunshine. It was a Facebook post like many others, a positive message in a weary world. I have many friends on the social channel who regularly post messages of positivity like this, some earnest, some trite, all better than the alternative.
“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.”
“Easier read than done,” I thought.
We had just wrapped on a video shoot in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and that image on Facebook was one of the first things I saw while scanning my phone on our way back to the VFC’s studio.
The video shoot was for a campaign designed to uplift Pottstown, Pennsylvania. To showcase the positive things about the town and, like the Facebook post instructs, distance it from negativity. The creative shoot featured a drone and several hundred of Pottstown’s business and community leaders yelling in unison about loving Pottstown.
Prior to the drone shot, where we shut down traffic at one of the Borough’s busiest intersections, we staged all of the participants on each of the four corners. So, around 50 or so local employees—all wearing the same bright blue campaign t-shirts—gathered on the corners and then walked out into the center of the intersection, looked up at the drone and cheered, “I PICK POTTSTOWN!”
VFC designed the campaign with our client, Pottstown Area Industrial Development—the economic development organization for the Borough—and we were there in force directing the shoot. We had a VFC employee on each corner to manage the participants.
We installed big chalk boards at each corner for people to write the reasons why they picked Pottstown or, what they valued about the town. Some of the answers were quite inspiring. It will take some time to edit and complete the video and to develop content for a website and social campaign to promote the I Pick Pottstown message, but the shoot was a success…we were inspired by the attitude of all of the participants.
After the shoot was over, however, each of the “corner captains” reported a run in with negativity that was a reality check. It wasn’t from any of the participants, but from passersby who felt compelled to offer unsolicited opinion…
“…you think a video is going to change anything in this town? No $@%&ing way!”
“…I wake up to the sound of gunfire every night, no one is going to pick Potttstown!”
“…there is nothing here for anyone, why are you even doing this?”
Real comments from real people.
Not people who were involved in the video shoot, not community leaders, not contributors to positivity, hope and possibility but people, nonetheless, who had an opinion that they were compelled to share.
When you break it down, you have to wonder why people are negative and wonder still why it’s important for them to share their opinion. It’s the easy road, pointing out things that need fixing. The challenge is strategizing and executing a plan to fix what’s broken. Those are the people we need to lift up…the ones that are making an effort.
And so much negativity is hyperbole or, as the kids like to say, fake news. Judging by his costume, the individual awakened by nightly gunfire could have been suffering from PTSD. Whatever anyone says—and it’s really easy to check for yourself with a quick bike ride through the Borough—the overwhelming majority of Pottstown is a really nice place in which to live and work. That’s why we introduced the tagline, Pioneers of the Good Life. There’s an extremely good life to be had in Pottstown, Pennsylvania for those businesses and residents who make the effort.
Pottstown, PA has some identifiable cheerleaders who are really amazing people. Some own businesses and some are just dedicated residents, but you see them out there supporting every effort with a positivity that is infectious. Unpaid people who believe, like we do, that enough positivity can actually make a difference.
But there are many, many more people like the passersby. They’re in every town and they’re certainly all over the Internet taking every opportunity to be a dark cloud. The town’s daily newspaper, the venerable Pottstown Mercury’s most discussed content is from the Sound Off section where negativity is elevated to an art form. Admittedly, reading some of the ramblings can be a compelling, if peculiar, diversion. Like a circus sideshow, people on a mission might be curious about prevalent complaining as an oddity, but in the end it’s just noise.
The negative people at the video shoot today, on the Internet, in the newspaper, in your life…they’re all just passersby.
Is a video going to change anything? Probably not. Not by itself anyway, but it’s an effort and it’s evidence of people trying…trying to make a positive difference. And the video is a symbol of positivity. It’s hundreds of people with one common connection—from the school district superintendent to hospital administrators, from the self employed to whole office groups—coming together to bring about positive change.
Soon we’ll be releasing a video that showcases business owners and community leaders coming together to represent a town that has a lot going for it. During the video shoot there was some negative noise, but we were all too busy to focus on it. Even in considering the commentary in retrospect, we’re much more inclined to agree that beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.