Baby, You’re a Firework: Insider Secrets From Wawa Welcome America

July 11, 2017

Happy #July11thPhilly!

OK, that doesn’t really work as well as #July4thPhilly, but bear with us a little. A few of us Blasters are still debriefing from working one of our favorite events of the year, the citywide six-day July 4th festival we all know, love and deeply cherish like it’s our own beautiful child: Wawa Welcome America, baby.

Your friendly neighborhood Blasters Anaïs, Marc, Toni, Raf, and Matt took to the streets for six days, highlighting more than 50 events that culminated in a fantastic concert on the Ben Franklin Parkway featuring Mary J. Blige and Boyz II Men, plus some stunning-as-always fireworks. Simply put, we love working this project.

But this year, as we had a few new tricks up our sleeves, we also learned a lot. Below, soak in our Blasters’ key takeaways, learnings, successes, challenges and a whole lot more.


Know your role. If it’s more than a one-man show, then make sure all team members are aware of their roles at each point of the event. If you’ve got a two person team, have one person capturing content and the other curating and publishing your story. If you’ve got more hands on deck, have multiple people capturing various angles or even multiple events, while one person hangs back in the “command center” in a publishing and engagement role. This ensures that team members can solely focus on capturing content and that your story has a cohesive look and feel.

Get familiar with your technology well in advance. For example, you should know Instagram like the back of your hand well before your event coverage if Instagram is a major portion of your strategy. Understand every feature. 

In a six-day festival with more than 50 events, you can’t cover everything. Strategize coverage according to factors like: speakers, sponsors, and attendance. If an event is guaranteed to draw a large crowd, people at home are more than likely interested as well.

Make yourself known. Befriend security guards, maintenance people, camera operators, interns—anyone who might come in handy once things really get moving. These people are also the ones who will (or won’t) grant you access to backstage or private areas, so it’s best to be on their good side.

Embrace the elements. You can’t stop the rain (or consequential delays). Roll with the punches and use your storytelling to update your audience, and even weave said punches into your content when appropriate. 


Having a small team but with a lot to cover. It was great to have Toni and Matt as additional support whenever we had to go over lots of coverage. If there is a need for more staff to help out in the future, it is best to keep it within the same circle of people. It’s best to have a small group who is familiar with what is going on rather than adding more staff members and using up time to fill them in on the events and how things work.

You may not have all the answers immediately. Sometimes I would get tripped up on questions that people would ask us on social media or even in person. It was helpful to have Anaïs and the client keep everyone updated on new information given by the WWA team so everyone can be on the same page. That kind of communication is absolutely critical from an engagement perspective. 

Inclusion is critical. Of course we cannot control the programming and events available for a Spanish-speaking audience, but it was a great experience being a part of the communication tool this year. I found it beneficial to provide Spanish content for the Welcome America audience and connecting with people who would attend WWA events. Even during Party on the Parkway, there was a little section dedicated for the Latino community and through conversations I know how most of the attendees liked the movement of inclusivity.


Do it for the ‘gram. Don’t be afraid to do some crazy stuff to get a shot. I dove in front of people from the press to capture Boyz II Men handing out flowers to some lucky audience members during the July 4th Concert. Have no shame.

Improvise when necessary. Improvising can be sometimes hard to do when you have a set plan, but it can also be very necessary if something pops up out of the blue. We would have missed a HUGE opportunity if we didn’t go off the grid a bit and capture things as they happened in live action/create content on the spot. (example: Ben Franklin posing behind the bar during Stoli’s Red, White and Brunch).


Develop content that will serve your audience, first and foremost. See below. One content series our team developed featured daily schedule graphics that Wawa Welcome America shared across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, creating a drumbeat of information that users came to expect and look forward to throughout the duration of the festival. These were highly shareable (and were picked up by major media outlets) and further pollinated Philadelphia’s larger social media landscape with Wawa Welcome America messaging.

Keep your cool. Especially from an engagement perspective, sometimes festival scheduling will not go according to plan, and this may lead to a social media audience looking for answers and updates. It’s important to remember to keep a straight face even in the digital realm and remain polite and professional to all inquiring parties, regardless of the tone you are met with.

Entertain yourself, entertain your audience. This is a tenet that applies to all of our creative work at ChatterBlast, but the most effective creative comes from an inspired creator. Take the opportunity to make yourself laugh or smile in the work that you’re producing and it’s nearly guaranteed that you’ll be producing overall better work.


Storytelling is key. It’s no secret that social is essentially a form of storytelling, and I think a key to our success this year was that our team worked very hard to to keep that in mind. We told big stories, micro stories, and everything in between. Our goal was to turn Wawa Welcome America into a saga. I think we accomplished that, especially by using the Instagram Stories function so powerfully and effectively. Our usage of live video also played a very big role.

Give your sponsors some love. All events were FREE, and the money to pay for those millions of hoagies, hamburgers and for megawatt talent like Mary J. Blige, Kidz Bop and Boyz II Men comes from sponsors who dedicate their time and wallets to making July 4th special for Philadelphia families. The sponsors, from Wawa to Hoffman Design to Waste Management to Visit Philly, all need to be recognized for their efforts. If you do not work hard at carefully nuancing your sponsor information into your storytelling, it can kill your feeds. Very quickly.



Overall, we can’t stress enough that in order to successfully elevate a multi-day event through social media, you just really have to have fun. Can’t cut that one any other way, to be quite honest. A big shoutout is owed to the entire Welcome America team as well as every supporting sponsor for everyone’s efforts for what was a brilliant #July4thPhilly. Until next year!