An event that started as an international conference has inspired a citizens’ movement that is nurturing innovation on both sides of the border.
We have been involved since the birth of Tijuana Innovadora in October of 2010, serving as the critical public relations link to the English-language news media, as well as the Latino media in Spanish. As part of the communications team, we provided a wide range of services that introduced the concept of innovation in Tijuana to audiences in the U.S. and set a foundation for San Diego and Tijuana civic and business leaders to work together to prosper as a region on “the intelligent frontier.”
That first conference was incredibly ambitious — two weeks of showcasing the innovation in technology, health, business and culture occurring in Tijuana.
However, the city was just starting to emerge from a high-profile cycle of drug violence that had driven tourists away and crushed local residents’ pride.
The organizers’ goals were to inform local residents about all the cutting-edge work being done in Tijuana to boost their morale and to show foreigners that it was safe to visit Tijuana. So why not throw an innovation party and invite the founders of Wikipedia and Twitter and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore?
These amazing speakers and more than 100 other ones indeed came, drawing thousands of people to the conference venue, Tijuana’s iconic Cultural Center. There they sat in on lectures and keynote addresses and toured a colorful expo, where dozens of companies displayed their innovative products.
We were selected to be the public relations representatives for the conference in Southern California. Our job was to attract media interest in the event and its underlying themes. We wrote press releases, organized press conferences in San Diego and met with key journalists, editors and news directors. We took San Diego-area journalists on a tour of Tijuana’s most innovative sites, including the Welch Allyn plant that produces medical devices and Culinary Art School.
We also wrote stories about the innovative industries in Tijuana that were published in the conference’s bilingual website and shared widely.
Promoting an event in Tijuana — despite the big-name speakers — was challenging, given the city’s reputation. We personally invited media friends to cover this groundbreaking event, and were gratified when many did so.
We had a great partner in “Pely” Guevara, the CEO of Red Corp. Alliances, who led the marketing efforts north of the border. Working together, we rocked!
We generated more than 100 stories about the conference in print, electronic and online formats, published either as previews as well as during the mega event.
Two years later the conference’s organizing committee invited us back for the 2012 edition, whose theme was cross-border collaboration and innovation. They tapped us to promote the conference to the U.S.-based general market and Latino media and generate English-language news stories highlighting innovation for the website.
We were given another important assignment: entice leaders from San Diego County to attend the conference at least one day. That meant cultivating friendships with CEOs, elected officials, university presidents, among others, and delivering them to the conference. And it also meant coordinating all the logistics for these visits, including transportation across the border.
The city was still a tough pitch, though the violence had ebbed considerably.
We worked with the conference’s Tijuana-based PR agency and designers to develop the right content and messaging in English to attract north-of-the border conference-goers. We developed marketing pieces, which included street banners displayed in downtown San Diego, the first time these signs had promoted an event outside the city.
Organizers added two alternate events to the conference that have become famous in their own right: Batalla Culinaria, an “Iron-Chef”-style competition featuring San Diego’s and Tijuana’s best chefs; and Innovamoda, a dazzling fashion show that showcases emerging designers.
We organized press conferences to promote these elements. We held one for Spanish-language media at the Mingei Museum at Balboa Park. And another one, in downtown San Diego, for the general market. Virtually all major general market and Latino news outlets covered these events.
We took one of these press events to the streets, with a dance troupe performing the conference’s signature dance, “Pa’ Bailar,” and conference co-founder José Galico answering questions while walking on the sidewalk above the Innovadora banners.
During the conference itself, we took several busloads of leaders from the San Diego area to the conference, where they attended lectures and keynote addresses and visited the colorful expo. In the evenings, they were able to relax and network in a rooftop patio, overlooking the city’s Rio Zone, while sampling the Baja Med cuisine.
Thousands again turned out for the conference, including
For the 2014 edition, organizers celebrated the contributions Mexican immigrants had made to the United States. They lined-up a variety of such success stories, from Johns Hopkins brain surgeon “Dr. Q” (Alfredo Quiñones-Hijonosa) to César Millán, the “Dog Whisperer.”
We again promoted the conference to the general market and Latino media, and provided the English-language content for the website. We held one of our press conferences at Común Kitchen, whose chef-owner, Chad White, was a Batalla Culinaria star.
During the conference itself, we covered the main talks for the website and posted to its social media channels. It was great to have these newer platforms available to give a glimpse of the content and color of the amazing talks and workshops.
We were honored to be asked to organize and emcee one of the panel discussions, highlighting the contributions of women leaders in the Tijuana area. The amazing panel included the founder of the the iconic spa in Tecate, the driving force of a non-profit organization that raises money for children with cancer and a top television producer. They shared their passion and insights for success, a personally enriching experience for us.
Tijuana Innovadora has evolved into movement whose goal is to promote innovation throughout the year with special events on both sides of the border. We continue to support this works, which has been hailed across Mexico for its model of engaging citizens to promote their region instead of waiting for some official entity to do it. As the co-founder of the conference, Mr. Galicot, says at then end of every meeting: ¡Sí se puede!