I was a big fan of Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, so I'm quite familiar with stories about political chicanery and election-fixing in the Windy City.
So it was amusing for me two weeks ago to watch the results of a poll on PlasticsNews.com that asked readers, “Would you prefer to attend NPE 2012 in Chicago or Orlando, Fla.?”
Voting was unusually heavy early in the week, which wasn't surprising, considering the high level of interest in the plastics industry in this question.
Then, suddenly, the folks at Chicago's McCormick Place convention center discovered the poll, and they called out the troops to get out the vote.
When we took down the poll Oct. 26 (we always keep our polls up for one week), a total of 2,912 people had voted. Chicago won in a landslide, with 68 percent of the vote.
To put that into perspective, our previous record for a Web poll was 854 votes back in 2004, when we asked readers who they preferred in the presidential election (Bush beat Kerry in the poll, as he did in the election).
On top of that, before the Chicago people discovered this latest poll, Orlando was winning.
I commented on the poll results a few times on The Plastics Blog, initially crediting Kathy Knusta, project coordinator for Chicago's Metropolitan Pier and Ex- position Authority (which owns McCormick Place) with the get-out-the-vote effort.
But later in the week, I heard from Meghan Risch, director of public relations for the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau, who shined some more light on the effort.
“As you can see from your latest poll, Chicago is very passionate about its meetings and convention industry,” she wrote. “It's social media at its best,” Risch explained.
On Oct. 21, she posted a discussion highlighting the Plastics News poll on LinkedIn.com, in a members-only group for the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau.
More than 600 of the convention bureau's 1,100 members are part of the LinkedIn group.
“That, coupled with the CCTB staff and McCormick Place staff, definitely contributed to a spike in votes — we're committed to keeping [NPE] in Chicago,” Risch said.
The effort quickly expanded far beyond plastics, or even the convention and tourism folks.
Within a few days, PN Editor Robert Grace and I were fielding comments from people in Chicago who had no connection at all to NPE, but who were asked to vote in our poll.
Isn't it interesting how Risch used social media to generate such a quick and overwhelming response to a timely question? There's a lesson there for all the B2B marketing pros in the plastics industry.
The poll results don't bother me. The survey is unscientific, so readers should always take it with a grain of salt.
It's interesting to see how people feel, and to get a rough idea of what issues readers consider important.
In this case, many Plastics News readers are very interested in the debate — as are the hundreds of non-plastics industry voters.
Look at it this way — Chicago's convention officials are putting on a full-court press to keep NPE — just like Orlando's did when they made their presentation to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s national board.
If Royko was still pounding out his daily column, I imagine he'd have a debate with his regular foil, Slats Grobnik, about the merits of Chicago vs. Orlando.
And they'd both pooh-pooh Orlando for failing to step up to the plate and match Chicago's effort.
Loepp is Plastics News' managing editor and author of The Plastics Blog.