Awkward family photos a PR hit

Embassy Suites Hotels and AOR Emanate found great synergy in partnering with on an "Awkward Family Vacation Photo Contest."

Awkward family photos a PR hit
Client: Embassy Suites Hotels (McLean, Virginia)
Emanate (New York)
Embassy Suites Hotels Awkward Family Vacation Photo Contest
June – August 2011

Almost everyone can relate to awkward family photos and awkward family vacation moments. Embassy Suites Hotels and AOR Emanate found great synergy in partnering with on an “Awkward Family Vacation Photo Contest.”

“Families are our bread and butter,” says VP of brand marketing John Lee. “We see awkward family moments every day in our hotels. We always try to do something fun and different [for] the summer season. We wanted to drive affinity and awareness among families and create buzz and dialog, particularly on Facebook.”

Consumers submitted photos with captions on Emanate director of consumer marketing Marybeth Clayton says partnering with Awkward Family Photos provided opportunity to tap its “robust membership” and “cross pollinate” audiences. 

The grand prize was 14 nights at any Embassy Suites property and $15,000 cash. Five runners-up won two-night stays and a book created by Awkward Family Photos.

“Perceived value is huge for us, so we push the envelope on prizes,” Lee notes.

The Facebook pages and websites of both companies were used to promote the contest. Media relations and online ads also drove awareness.

The contest, which launched July 13, was announced on Embassy Suites' Facebook page and via press release. General consumer outlets, travel media and bloggers were targeted. 

Submissions and photos from Awkward Family Photos' book were included in pitches and used across online channels to drive entries. 

Twenty finalists were announced August 3. Finalist voting ran through August 9. The team gave finalists tips on local media outreach and on campaigning for themselves on Facebook and Twitter.

Winners were announced August 10. Media outlets in winners' local markets and in key Embassy Suites' markets were pitched.

Contest entries topped 1,300, exceeding Awkward Family Photos' contest entry record by more than 1,000. More than 54,000 people voted on finalists, surpassing the goal of 50,000.

Emanate reports the contest page yielded 19.5 million impressions, and combined Facebook impressions hit 2.1 million. 

The campaign generated 170 stories (nearly 50 million impressions) in outlets such as The Daily Buzz,, and MSNBC/

Results exceeded Lee's expectations in terms of contest engagement and media coverage.

“We anticipated the contest would do really well in social channels,” he says. “The photos translated to a visual story [for media] in ways we didn't necessarily anticipate. They really got the attention of broadcast media.”

The team is preparing to release select fun results from Embassy Suites' annual business travel survey.

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