BUZZ creator Michael Hemphill featured in Valley Business FRONT 532 900 Michael Hemphill

BUZZ creator Michael Hemphill featured in Valley Business FRONT

Two weeks ago, Tom Field, publisher of Valley Business FRONT, called to say he wanted to put me on the cover of the December issue. I was of course honored, but also prepared when the issue finally arrived.

What truly surprised and touched me were Tom’s words inside.

Hemphill started his marketing and development support business for nonprofits right when COVID-19 hit … he’s our FRONTList leader because of the creative and noble strategies he culled to produce one of the best entrepreneurial pursuits we’ve covered.

At the very time many would think there is no way to capitalize on community service organizations (who are always challenged and were often already struggling), Hemphill completely re-crafted an idea from Roanoke’s AAF advertising club (Createathon) where collaboration is used to develop publicity and awareness and fundraising to bolster and completely upgrade select nonprofits.

Specifically, his Buzz television show (on Blue Ridge PBS; third season), documentary, podcast, and other communications (from his journalism experience) serve as the main production to accomplish the upgrades and move organizations a big step up. The majority of funding comes from sponsors and intense, hard-earned connections.

It’s public service, indeed; but it’s also a business, no question. Well-deserved of our spotlight.

Valley Business FRONT – December 2022

None of this would have been possible without you and the many partners we’re fortunate to have in our Hive:

  • AAF Roanoke’s incredible marketing pros;
  • Our production partner: Dan Mirolli Photography;
  • Our broadcast partners Blue Ridge PBS and WFIR;
  • Countless sponsors and donors who believe in our cause;
  • And of course the nonprofits we’re privileged to feature in each episode of our TV and radio show.

So in this season of thankfulness, I thank you all – and Valley Business FRONT – for supporting our mission!

Michael Hemphill
Creator & Host

BUZZ features FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge in Episode 26 900 600 Michael Hemphill

BUZZ features FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge in Episode 26

As originally broadcast November 30, 2022, on Blue Ridge PBS …

For much of its history, FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge focused its efforts on helping the National Park Service maintain vistas and hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. But in 2020 the National Park Service ended the partnership, inspiring FRIENDS to pivot and expand its mission beyond the parkway to the communities of the Blue Ridge from Waynesboro, Va., to Asheville, N.C.

That pivot includes celebrating the region’s musical heritage by hosting the first-ever Blue Ridge Jamboree, an annual event with multiple shows in the communities where FRIENDS chapters are located. The 2022-23 Jamboree features “Doc Watson at 100” with performances by Wayne Henderson, Jack Lawrence, T. Michael Coleman and Jack Hinshelwood.

New to BUZZ, Big Lick Entertainment donates its time and expertise to help plan and promote the Jamboree.

Funding for this episode comes from Mast General Store, Partners in Financial Planning, and Appalachian Power.

25th BUZZ stars West End Center + 5Points Creative 900 503 Michael Hemphill

25th BUZZ stars West End Center + 5Points Creative

As originally broadcast Oct. 19, 2022, on Blue Ridge PBS …

In the 1970s during summers and after school, children often wandered the streets without supervision of Roanoke’s West End, a neighborhood defined by poverty and crime, vacant lots and vandalized buildings. But then a group of churches and civic groups came together to establish West End Center as a safe haven — and more importantly, hope — for the neighborhood children.​

Today, West End Center serves about 150 children each year, providing them and their families with low-cost academic enrichment, wellness programs and leadership training to become productive, responsible adults.

BUZZ partner 5Points Creative returns to provide a comprehensive marketing package to promote West End Center to a wider audience.

Funding for this episode comes from the Louise R. Lester Foundation and Freedom First Credit Union.

More buzz for BUZZ in Roanoke Times 713 447 Michael Hemphill

More buzz for BUZZ in Roanoke Times

Editorial: A public service project in Roanoke that benefits public services

The Roanoke Times | October 2, 2022

One perk of Michael Hemphill’s public service project is that he got to spend time with some of the best examples of “Man’s Best Friend” that anyone could ask for.

A former Roanoke Times reporter who also worked for several Roanoke Valley nonprofits, Hemphill is the founder and host of the locally produced television show “Buzz,” which airs 7 p.m. Wednesdays on Blue Ridge PBS and which you can also find on the YouTube channel Buzz4Good.

In the most recent “Buzz” episode, which premiered Sept. 21, Hemphill and his crew and associates paid visits to Saint Francis Service Dogs, the Hollins area nonprofit that trains service dogs to assist people with many different types of disabilities.

Alongside the interviews conducted with Executive Director Cabell Youell, board members and staff, the show spends time with a few of the 150 Virginians throughout the state that the dogs help.

One of those stops introduces the viewer to 37-year-old Felipe Aquino, who has cerebral palsy, his mother Lindsey and Felipe’s “best friend” Brutus.

Aquino and his mother describe how Brutus both helps in ways one might expect from a service dog — such as delivering money to the counter when Aquino makes a purchase — and in ways you might not think of, such as simply making people who approach Aquino more aware of his presence so they don’t blithely walk right into his wheelchair.

Hemphill also indulges in some canine-centric puns that are real, um, howlers, such has describing the show’s intentions to help make Saint Francis’ big annual fundraiser, Barks ’n’ Rec, “paws-itively fur-nomenal.”

“Buzz” means to be a version of the makeover show, in which a person gets a new fashion look or a house gets a remodel.

What Hemphill’s show does, though, is connect a local nonprofit with a local advertising company that provides a pro bono marketing boost. In this instance, “Buzz” brought in LeadPoint Digital marketing director Carrie Cousins (another Roanoke Times alum) to design a social media campaign.

Theater premieres, time travel

The next episode, No. 25, premieres Oct. 19 with a watch party at Roanoke’s Grandin Theatre, as has been the case with previous episodes. The next focus of “Buzz” will be West End Center for Youth on Patterson Avenue Southwest, which for more than four decades has run summer and after school programs for children from disadvantaged neighborhoods. The center is getting marketing assistance from 5Points Creative.

The “Buzz” concept grew out of Hemphill’s own nonprofit career — specifically, when he was the Science Museum of Western Virginia’s marketing manager. Museum staff came up with an idea for a 5k-ish fundraiser run with a couple of science-y twists. The “Time Traveler Pi-Miler” involved running 3.14 miles during the Daylight Saving Time change in November. The race began at 1:50 a.m., just before clocks were scheduled to “fall back,” so runners finished the race at an earlier time than they began.

“We didn’t really have any money at that time to promote the race.” The American Advertising Federation of Roanoke, a membership-based organization of the region’s advertising and marketing talent, had an annual event called “CreateAthon” in which members would come together and take on various nonprofit projects, executing them over the course of a 24-hour period. “There was a team that produced, over that 24 hour all-nighter, a 30 second TV commercial that got to be aired on one of the local TV stations. It was a cool commercial, and we ended up having 300 runners for our inaugural event at 1:50 a.m. on a frigid November morning.”

That experience shaped the “Buzz” conceit. Hemphill developed the show in partnership with the Roanoke advertising federation. The federation’s members are already regularly working pro bono with regional nonprofits. “They’re already doing this. My goal was to essentially give them a little buzz as well.”

Some more buzz for ‘Buzz’

There’s no limit to the show’s topics, Hemphill said. “Nonprofits literally do everything and so each episode can be a radically different story. You can go from the ballet to a homeless shelter to service animals to a food bank to brain injury services, and we’ve done all of those.”

Beyond the show’s advertising makeovers, “Buzz” works as an excellent promotional tool in its own right. As just one example, if you want to see a sweeping overview of the astonishing variety to be found in the Roanoke Valley’s art scene, you can’t really outdo the March 23 episode of “Buzz,” full of footage and interviews from the Roanoke Arts Pop! festival that took place inside the Taubman Museum of Art — the result of a partnership with the Roanoke Culture Endowment that will see “Buzz” producing a total of six episodes revolving around arts and culture organizations and events.

“Nonprofit organizations are absolutely vital and absolutely under appreciated, not only in our region, but in every region,” Hemphill said. Nonprofits are often told to operate more like a business, to find some way to be self sufficient, but that’s not a realistic expectation when you consider what nonprofits exist to do. “I’m sorry, there’s no money to be made in helping the homeless. There’s no money to be made in feeding a family that otherwise couldn’t afford to eat.” Nor can anyone build a business empire “teaching kids how to be exceptional ballet dancers or having a zoo on top of Mill Mountain.”

In some other countries, the government provides these services, funded by higher taxes. The U.S. has nonprofits supported by philanthropy, but those organizations often go unrecognized. “I’m passionate about nonprofits and want to feature them on this TV show, which hopefully elevates their status in the public’s eye,” Hemphill said. “So they get more buzz.”

“Buzz” is a terrific public service in its own right, and we’re more than happy to give this worthy project a bit more buzz ourselves.

BUZZ nominated for Kendig Arts & Culture Award 900 524 Michael Hemphill

BUZZ nominated for Kendig Arts & Culture Award

Definitely the “who?” in this Who’s Who list of 2022 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards Nominees … but we are buzzing by this surprising honor.

Founded in 1985, the Kendig Awards is a programmatic offering between Roanoke College and Hollins University honoring:

  • Individual Artist
  • Arts and/or Cultural Organization
  • Individual or Business Arts Supporter

This year’s nominees:

  • Michael Hemphill: “a true believer in partnership, collaboration, and lifting up the arts community in Virginia’s Blue Ridge through his company Buzz4good.”
  • Seth Davis “has inspired thousands of children and teenagers with the gift of music.
  • Doug Jackson: “long-serving and faithful ally of the arts … invested in finding ways to make the arts compelling and accessible to all.”
  • Michael Mansfield: “director, actor, guest artist and designer, and teacher whose talents have been experienced by every theatre in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.”
  • Sandra Meythaler: “choreographer, dancer, and teacher who has been at the helm of Roanoke Ballet Theatre since 2007.”
  • Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir “has served the people of the Roanoke Valley for 34 years by meeting the musical needs of our young people.”

We look forward to celebrating with these exceptional artists at the awards reception Oct. 11!