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Side Stories 2023: Meaningful Community Activation through Innovative Outreach

Side Stories 2023 Logo

As PR and communications experts, we help our clients articulate stories of the built environment and the people who are shaping it. With our work on the annual Side Stories film festival, we have the unique opportunity to become the architects of a different kind of story – one that marries the built environment, visual arts and support for small businesses in a truly immersive placemaking experience here in RiNo Art District. This special event allows our team to flex all our creative muscles to develop and execute a variety of activation strategies to create a one-of-a-king experience for the community.  

We’re so proud to see how Side Stories was embraced by the community this year and wanted to take you behind the scenes to show you how it all came to life. 


Side Stories Primer 

First, a little background, in case you’re new here: Side Stories is a large format outdoor film installation festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival illuminates RiNo for ten consecutive nights in February/March with the goal of not only showcasing the incredible art being made here in Colorado, but also bringing more foot traffic to the District during the colder winter months, which typically see a dip visitors. This year, five local filmmakers were selected from dozens of entries, and were granted $8,000 to develop their short-film concept around this year’s theme: “What Moves You?” The films were projected on exterior walls of buildings throughout the District and ran on loop from 6-10pm each night.  

Side Stories was founded in 2018 by Fiona Arnold, founder and president of MAINSPRING. The festival is hosted in partnership with MAINSPRING, RiNo Art District, the Martin Family Foundation, Denver Film and the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media and SideCar.  


SideCar + Side Stories 

SideCar has been a proud partner and sponsor of Side Stories since 2019. Our level of support has steadily expanded over the past four years; as the event’s communication team, we manage all event activation and promotion for the festival, as well as provide event organization services for the launch and duration of the festival. This year saw us supporting Side Stories in an even broader communications capacity, with services including: 

  • Media relations  
  • Event organization   
  • Social media management  
  • Brand refresh  
  • Website development    
  • Website maintenance  
  • Sponsor and partnership strategy and execution  
  • Multimedia design   
  • Photography   
  • Videography   
  • Collateral development   


Bringing Community Together 

Community engagement and activation is an integral part of successful, integrated place-making and event planning. Through concentrated outreach efforts, SideCar secured about a dozen local business partnerships for the festival. We developed a two-pronged partnership strategy, leveraging cross-promotional opportunities to bring more people down to the film festival, which, in turn, translated to increased foot traffic and consumer interaction for local shops, restaurants and bars. Our local partners offered generous deals and discounts for Side Stories visitors through in-store and social media engagement tactics, which increased their own online reach while simultaneously bolstering visibility for the festival. 

Translating Online Engagement to In-Person Interaction 

This year, we placed a heavy focus on broadening our reach on social media and converting those interactions to in-person attendance at the festival. The social space was the most impactful channel to not only build pre-event awareness and business partners’ participation, but also to connect the account’s followers directly with the artists and the small businesses we were working with. A mix of strategically timed social media influencer posts and organic interaction between Side Stories, the local business partners and followers increased our online engagement to grow in ways we hadn’t seen in previous years. Overall, we secured sixteen media placements and five social media influencers to spread awareness across channels; our strategy resulted in 1,000+ new followers 30,000+ unique engagements across Side Stories’ social media platforms.  


Digital + IRL Marketing + Wayfinding 

The final promotional strategy involved creating and deploying print and wayfinding assets to raise awareness and support a great experience for attendees. Our online promotional tactics dovetailed into these more tactile assets; we created wall vinyls, posters, holographic stickers and A-Frame boards that featured QR codes to drive traffic to the Side Stories website. We further took advantage of an opportunity to coordinate with ETHDenver for the 2023 BUIDLathon and Festival, which ran for most of the Side Stories’ duration. We worked with ETHDenver to design and develop NFCs to drive awareness to the 10,000+ international visitors who were primarily congregating in RiNo and the surrounding neighborhoods. QR code click insights revealed 3,000+ visitors to the mobile website over the course of the ten-day event. 

Building Side Stories + Building Community 

The success of this event is made possible through the incredible collaboration and dedication of the festival’s sponsors and local business partners. Leveraging traditional outreach tactics and innovative activation strategies, Side Stories saw a big jump in online and in-person engagement than in previous years. We firmly believe that bringing accessible, artistic experiences into public spaces is important in creating vibrant communities. The more local investment and engagement we can create around these events, the better we are able to continually evolve how we provide unique, public activations that bring communities together.  

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