PR Team: Korbel (Guerneville, CA) and Edelman (Chicago) Campaign: Korbel Perfect Proposal Contest Time Frame: June 2002 - February 2003 Budget: Over $600,000The question of how to pop the question may prompt endless wringing of hands and churning of stomachs, but unlike weddings and marriage, the art of the marriage proposal isn't a subject that's been exhausted by the media. Edelman was surprised to find this through its brand-awareness efforts for champagne maker Korbel, a client for more than 20 years. Now the firm was trying to make Korbel a newsmaker not just in the key selling seasons near the holidays, but year round. Strategy Romance, of course, is something for all seasons, and romance is just what the PR teams wanted to be associated with the brand. "Proposals are a relatively untapped area," says Susu Block, VP for consumer brands at Edelman. "We've had trouble in the past finding information on proposals and engagements. You hear so much about actual weddings, but we were able to find relatively little information [on engagements], which indicated to us that we knew we were going in the right direction in terms of providing the media with something they don't have access to." The team sought to establish Korbel's bubbly as the official champagne of romance, as well as create general awareness of the brand. Tactics A joint Korbel-Edelman brainstorming session yielded what would become the Korbel Perfect Proposal Contest, where participants would submit their most creative thoughts on how to propose. More than half a year separated the announcement of the contest and the unveiling of the winners, during which Edelman used a variety of approaches to reach the media. In addition, it's not easy to cut through the contest clutter, and Block knew that creating a new competition alone wouldn't necessarily lead to a bonanza of press attention. "In general, it's hard to get contests coverage unless you're taking new information to the media, such as statistics," she says. "The idea behind the campaign was to wrap news of Korbel in a larger story that's interesting to consumers." The news that Korbel and Edelman brought to the press was the christening of the last three months of the year as "proposal season." This, which comprised the second phase of media outreach, was based on research that one-third of marriage proposals occur between October and December. Edelman issued a news release, titled "The Top Ten Mistakes Men Make When Proposing," and conducted a satellite radio tour. "Our information was always part of larger stories on proposals," says Block. "This was our way of making Korbel a proposal authority." As the centerpiece of the third phase, the winners were revealed in an exclusive, six-minute bit on the Today show just before Valentine's Day. This was followed by a national announcement, as well as local media blitzes in the winners' hometown. Finally, Edelman supplemented the buzz surrounding the announcement of the winner with a news release on "The Top Ten Signs He's About to Pop the Question." Results The campaign resulted in more than 1,000 placements and 90 million media impressions, exceeding the team's goals by 26%. During the period of the campaign, Block says that sales of Korbel increased by 6%. Future The contest will take place again next year, but with a twist. "The initial target was men, but we were blown away by research that showed us women are also interested in proposals," says Margie Healy, Korbel's director of PR. Block expects that the inaugural experience will make the initiative's second go-around a lot more efficient. "With stories from last year, you can make it visual and give the media examples of what the outcome of the contest can be," she says.