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Jumping in the deep end on an audacious project is scary, no matter how invested or excited you are about it. Such was the case for me when we launched the contest to award one New England-based company a year of free marketing services.

I rode out some generic “How dare you?” self-talk. The most terrifying of which was the classic inverse “Field of Dreams” scenario: “What if nobody enters?” So, I pulled a full-on Annie Potts in “Ghostbusters” when the first entry came in: “WE GOT ONE!”

 

That took care of the first problem. However, the next challenge was how to get the word out to companies across New England, whether they’ve heard of Savoir Faire or not. Ideally, we want a robust pool of entrants to choose our finalists from.

We kicked off the campaign in our Points of Interest email on June 14, but that was singing to the choir (and a small choir at that). One of our goals for the entire program is to grow that list so we can build greater visibility and awareness around New England. That’s where our first entrant came from.

Next came an email to our larger Savoir Faire list, people not subscribed to the bi-weekly Points of Interest publication. That was roughly 350 people. Within two hours, we had three more entries. And another sigh of relief from me.

I sent an announcement to the local Chamber of Commerce for inclusion in their printed newsletter to members. That’s going out in July, so there will be a little lag time before we get any feedback on that.

I also researched other Chambers of Commerce throughout New England and compiled a list of executive directors with email addresses. An email to this group of people talked about the opportunity for a company in their community and asked them to share it in an upcoming communication to their membership.

We have two former journalists on the team, so a press release and media outreach was a no-brainer. However, we had to acknowledge that the story had two sides.

One side of the story is about Savoir Faire running this crazy campaign. Why were we doing it? What’s it about?

The other side, and the more important one for getting the word out, was about the opportunity and potential value for businesses across New England. We wanted media outlets to see this as a good opportunity for companies in their audience, and that the press would help us spread the word.

See for yourself by looking at the two versions:

We built a list of print, radio and TV media as well as bloggers and business-focused freelance writers throughout New England. Then we tiered out the distribution. Non-daily publications received the announcement first, on June 20, since these publications would need more lead time. Dailies, TV and radio programs would get the announcement a couple weeks later, on July 11, considering they had much shorter lead times – while still leaving them several weeks to fit the story in.

True media relations is a tricky thing. Reporters and editors at media outlets of all types are overworked – newsrooms have shrunk in recent years – and the sheer volume of crap they have to wade through in their inboxes is enough to jade even the most reasonable people.

Our first email to the non-dailies was a lot like that proverbial tree falling in the woods: we didn’t hear a thing. So, in our follow up email, we played with the subject line a little and sassed it up a bit, hoping to generate some interest.

We also started promotion on our social media platforms as well, using graphics and photos, and got some shares that helped spread the announcement to new networks.

The press release was also published to upwards of a dozen free online PR websites as well as PRWeb.

I endured a second round of “How dare you?” self talk when it was time to send the announcement out to several of my own personal networks. I chose to be brave, so I took a deep breath and hit send.

I’m glad we gave ourselves a significant entry period. One advisor who I bounced the idea off of suggested cutting the entry period to something much smaller to generate a sense of timeliness and imperative. However, if we did that we would have significantly cut into our ability to promote the program to a variety of audiences.

With a larger team, maybe we could have hit this hard all at once. But, with only two of us working to get the word out to a variety of audiences, I found the chance to focus on different groups in waves was beneficial.

Thus far, our efforts seem to be paying off and the entries are trickling in. As we move further into July, I’m hoping the trickle turns to a steady stream and we end up with a large pool of entrants to choose from.

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