Entrepreneurs lured to East by cash prize

The East of England has a record of stimulating enterprise, with one of the fastest growing economies in the country. In the first half of 2004, businesses there secured 25 per cent of all venture capital allocated in the UK. But despite these impressive figures there had been a decline in start-up activity in the region.

Campaign Running the Gauntlet
Client East of England Development Agency (EEDA)
PR team In-house, with support from Camargue Communications and Omobono
Timescale May-November 2005
Budget £50,000

Inspired by the BBC's Dragons' Den programme, the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) decided to run a competition to encourage enterprise, in partnership with investment fund company Create and information services firm Library House.

To help entrepreneurs understand what investors want by giving them the knowledge and experience they need to approach financiers. To raise the profile of Create, Library House and the EEDA.

Strategy and Plan
The EEDA's in-house PR team, with support from Camargue and Omobono, approached Cambridge-based Library House founder and Dragons' Den judge Doug Richard. He was asked to help run a regional competition in which businesses would pitch ideas to a panel.

Richard was keen to promote his web-based research tool, The Gauntlet, which helps to analyse whether a business is ripe for investment.

A public competition, Running the Gauntlet, was devised and Create put up £1m in prize money for which small businesses could compete. The campaign was geared towards driving potential entrants to a website, www.runningthegauntlet.com, for information and forms, while The Gauntlet was offered to competitors for free. Google pay-per-click advertising was also used to encourage website visits, while Richard was involved in providing quotes for press releases, appearing for photo opportunities and partaking in media interviews.

Fliers and posters were produced to attract entrants, while journalists in eastern regional press were sent business case studies to facilitate features around the contest.

Fifty entrepreneurs came to pitch their ideas, with ten finalists competing for the cash at an EEDA business conference, which was filmed by the BBC.

Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign generated coverage on the business pages of national newspapers including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent on Sunday. Local papers Cambridge Evening News and East Anglian Daily Times picked up on the story, as did trade titles Regeneration and Renewal, Eureka!, Real Business and the European Journal of Venture Capital.

Broadcast interest came from Working Lunch, Radio 5 Live, the BBC's Look East, Anglia TV and various local radio stations.

In total the campaign notched up 26 mentions on broadcast media and 70 print articles, most of which provided details of the website.

Between May and November the website received 157,849 hits. More than 400 people registered for the competition, while 240 completed the Gauntlet questionnaire. Impressively, nearly £2m worth of investment was pledged to the successful companies by EEDA, Create and Library House.

Cambridge Evening News business editor Jenny Chapman says: 'We gave the campaign a lot of coverage because it was a good idea and was executed very cleverly. It was especially pertinent to us because Richard is a well-known entrepreneur in the area, while there was a lot of money at stake.'

Tina Carne, MD of Four Degrees West, has worked on
the Cornwall Regeneration Project

Prize money of £1m would be good enough to attract media attention on its own, but getting Doug Richard of Dragons' Den on board was a great move by the PR team. Not only did he add credibility, but Richard also gave visibility to the Running the Gauntlet campaign.

Programmes such as Dragons' Den have already shown the potential investment opportunities out there for budding entrepreneurs, while highlighting the consequences of not being fully prepared for a business pitch. Using this formula for Running the Gauntlet made the idea instantly familiar to those who might be interested in entering
the competition.

I think developing a strong campaign that is geared towards driving people to a website is always a good tactic because it allows for effortless evaluation of the initiative via site analysis and statistics. In this case it is clear that the campaign drove people to the site because of the number of hits it received.

The Gauntlet portal, which I believe to have been modelled on the criteria used by investors, allowed the potential entrepreneur to see exactly what was involved and to assess themselves against a virtual investor: therefore the site also acted as a filter. Excellent work.

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