CAMPAIGNS: Contest Promotion - 'Pitch-off' piques press interest

Client: MoneyHunt (Norwalk, CT)

Client: MoneyHunt (Norwalk, CT)

Client: MoneyHunt (Norwalk, CT)

PR Team: Gregory FCA (Ardmore, PA)

Campaign: 'Wow, What a Great Idea' Contest

Time Frame: April to August 2000

Budget: Less than dollars 1 million



After airing every week for three years on 150 PBS stations across the country, the MoneyHunt TV show, which features budding entrepreneurs presenting their ideas to a panel of business experts, had already built up a substantial nationwide audience. However, when show creator and co-founder Miles Spencer decided to revamp and redesign the show's accompanying Web site into an all-encompassing portal for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, he needed to build a buzz surrounding the show that would lure both loyal viewers and non-viewers online. He turned to longtime PR agency of record Gregory FCA for a stroke of creative genius.



Strategy

Spencer and Gregory FCA president Greg Matusky developed the idea for a contest that would both drive traffic to the Web site and stir up heaps of media coverage for Spencer's company and TV show. The concept was for MoneyHunt to sponsor what essentially boiled down to a bake-off between two sets of entrepreneurs pitching their ideas for a start-up (and plans for making money from the venture). The panel of business experts and VCs would then select one winning team on-air, awarding that start-up an equity investment of dollars 100,000.



Tactics

The team worried whether media would take the contest seriously and as a legitimate news story - especially for those who hadn't seen the show before. To that end, it put together press kits that contained tapes of past episodes, copies of Miles Spencers' book on small business and background information about the company and program.

Publicity for the promotion occurred in steps. In May, Gregory FCA announced the contest with a press release that acted as a call for entries. This release went out to targeted business press, online business media, business and general drive-time radio and journalists covering quirky, human-interest beats. Three more press releases went out in the next two months: one aimed at drawing entrants to audition at VC fairs in local markets, another announcing the selection of finalists for the final pitch-off and a media alert regarding the airing of the episode in which the winner would be announced. A final press release went out the day of the broadcast announcing the winner: a Sacramento, CA-area start-up called CampusEngine.com, which partners with college newspapers to transform their Web sites into campus Internet portals offering Web publishing, free e-mail, online classifieds, chat and breaking news.



Results

As might have been expected, media big and small lapped up the MoneyHunt pitch-off. Between 20 and 30 publications covered the opening announcement for the contest, and after the winner was announced, everyone from the Los Angeles Times and The New York Post to the San Francisco Chronicle ran stories of the triumphant entrepreneur.

Traffic to the site experienced a spike the day of the broadcast announcing the winner, attracting several thousand hits. It also helped spur a marked increase in online applications to appear on future shows. In addition, the media coverage led to expressed interest from several potential sponsors and possible strategic partners.

On a less tangible level, client Miles Spencer believes the promotion 'managed to emphasize that the two most important ingredients to entrepreneurial success are capital and exposure.'



Future

The promotion's success has inspired MoneyHunt and FCA to repeat the contest at least once more and perhaps even make it a regular feature.



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