Taking a cue from the American Idol craze, the School Nutrition Association (SNA), a nonprofit membership association composed of school food-service directors and employees, was looking to incorporate a voting event into its annual National School Lunch Week.
Arriving at the idea of a "Vote for School Lunch" contest, in which students could choose their favorite healthy school lunch option, it hired The Kotchen Group (TKG) to help promote the contest.
With an abundance of nutritional eating stories circulating in the media, TKG wanted to position the campaign in relation to the news. To maximize coverage, it determined 10 markets in which to focus media efforts, and schools within those markets were encouraged to participate in media-friendly activities, such as costume contests and speeches. "It was a way to give our members and their students some ownership over the choices out there for lunch," says Erik Peterson, SNA director of public awareness.
TKG gave schools a press kit to distribute to local media and pitched stories to family-friendly publications to drum up excitement in their readers. It also went after a different media segment by coordinating a field report from a lunch given by the SNA's government affairs group, in which members of Congress were offered samples of the five candidates. "The core thing was to help people understand the reality of the nutritional benefits of school lunch," says Elizabeth Cowles, senior associate at TKG.
Votes totaled more than 250,000, and publicity created more than 17 million media impressions. The winner, Pete Pizza, with his wheat crust and low-fat cheese, provided the SNA with an intro for talking about the healthy changes in traditional lunch items.
TKG has been retained for School Lunch Week 2007, set to feature a new iteration of the contest.
School Nutrition Association
PR team: School Nutrition Association (Alexandria, VA) and The Kotchen Group (West Hartford, CT)
Campaign: Vote for School Lunch
Duration: April to October 2006