In Fall of 2010, Best Buy Canada (BBy), Canada’s fastest growing retailer of consumer electronics, was about to enter the third year of its flagship community relations campaign, Best in Class Fund (BiCF). A national technology grant program, BiCF was conceived to inspire teachers and students to develop compelling educational projects that advance learning through the integration of technology in the classroom. The cause was of particular importance to BBy as it positions the retailer as an advocate for technology in education while linking its product offering to an improved student experience— a topic near and dear to the hearts of its target consumer, who has school-aged children at home.
To enter, students and teachers work together to develop video submissions that creatively brings their vision of incorporating technology into education to life. The ten best submissions, as judged by BBy and the BiCF Technology Advisory Board (TAB), each receive a CDN$20,000 Best Buy Gift Card as well as guided support from BBy’s Geek Squad, a team of technology installation, maintenance and repair experts, to ensure the winning schools are making the most of the technology purchased by the school.
Since 2008, BBy had issued CDN$500,000 in technology grants to schools across Canada. Yet despite this fact, BiCF had yet to capture the media attention and class submissions that BBy felt the program deserved. Weber Shandwick Canada (WSC) was brought on board as BBy’s public relations agency of record in April 2010 and was tasked to amplify both awareness and engagement with BiCF, which presented WS with the opportunity to demonstrate the ability of a strategic communication campaign to inspire action.
The challenge was BiCF was entering its third year and was hardly “NEW news,” plus there was no planned support for the program beyond a page on the retailer’s web site (which was difficult to find as it was not promoted on the site’s home page) and in-store posters. With an old story, shallow media pool (Canada has a very limited number of media outlets), moderate budget and little marketing support, the team had its work cut out for them.
The objectives established at the outset of the program were:
• Increase the number of submissions by 25% (80 in 2009)
• Increase media coverage by 100% (20 articles in 2009)
• 75% of coverage to include at least one key message
• 50% of coverage to include Geek Squad message
TARGET AUDIENCE OVERVIEW
BBy had established two unique target audiences for BiCF:
• Target Consumer: Men and Women 30 – 55 with children in the home, living in urban and suburban areas; upper middle class with disposable income
• Canadians involved in the education community: teachers, students, parents, administrators and board members
WSC identified media that would reach and influence our target consumer should be considered as a target audience as the program would not be supported by any additional advertising or marketing.
STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT AND PLANNING
To best inform our strategy, we first reviewed the previous years’ strategies, media materials and results provided by the client. Past years had leveraged the results of Canadian teacher surveys which asked if they felt they had sufficient technology in the classroom. The results, though compelling, failed to resonate with media. We knew we had to find a new approach that would grab the media’s attention so that word on the launch of BiCF would be shared.
We conducted research to see who was talking about technology in the classroom and if there were any significant findings regarding its impact on student performance. This included a thorough sweep of the web plus delving into social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.
What we found was startling. A 2009 survey on the use of Integrated Communications Technologies in the classroom conducted by the International Telecommunications Union showed that Canada dropped to 19th place, down ten places from its ninth place standing in 2002, indicating that Canada is losing its competitive edge regarding technology in the classroom. We had our hook.
Next, we needed a spokesperson or spokespeople that could provide both context to Canada’s drop in the rankings and the credibility needed to grab and hold the attention of media, consumer and educators. We decided that this year’s TAB, who would include experts in both technology and education, would also act as spokespeople. To maximize reach and local interest our goal was to find TAB members in the major media centres across Canada— Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
Finally, we determined that a fulsome social media campaign would provide a cost-effective vehicle to share news and build buzz for BiCF in the critical launch timeframe.
As such, the three strategic pillars that formed the foundation of the campaign were as follows:
• Establish the need for BiCF and position Best Buy as an advocate for technology in the classroom
• Make BiCF relevant in the community and beyond through local, credible third-party storytellers
• Generate community-based awareness and grassroots support through social media activities
• Integrate BiCF across all Best Buy media channels
PROGRAM LAUNCH (August – September 2010)
Selection of TAB Spokespeople
• Through our research WSC identified two professors who specialized in technology in education; Dr. David Vogt, Director of Digital Learning Projects for the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education, and Dr. Michele Jacobsen, Chair of Educational Studies in Language, Culture & Technology at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Education, who just issued a study on the benefits of technology in the classroom
• WSC identified two well-regarded and popular technology journalists to round out the TAB. Marc Saltzman, host of CNN’s ‘Tech Time’ and CTV’s ‘Tech Talk’, in Toronto and Francois Charron, regular contributor to ‘Salut Bonjour’ and host of tech blog francoischarron.com, in Montreal
• Drafted a letter inviting potential members to join the TAB, providing information on BiCF, job description and compensation
• Conducted negotiations and secured TAB member
Key Message Development
• Developed key messages forming the foundation for all BiCF communications including media materials, web site copy, social media copy and spokespeople interviews
• Key messages emphasized need for BiCF by leveraging ranking survey and positioned BBy as an advocate
• Developed message regarding Geek Squad to help maximize inclusion in media interviews and coverage
• Conducted key messaging sessions with spokespeople in advance of program launch
Media Materials Development
• Developed program launch Fast Facts and News Release in English and French, posted release to newswire to maximize media coverage
Best Buy Web Site and Social Media Assets
• Worked in partnership with BBy’s web team to develop and post copy re: BiCF to web site
• Requested BBy social media team to create tab for retailer’s Facebook page and provided copy
• Developed Facebook posts and Tweets and provided BBy social media team with calendar for timing
• Worked closely with BBy social media team to ensure that Facebook posts and Tweets from @BBYCANADA were issued per calendar timing
Outreach to Education Community
• Conducted web and Facebook research to identify teacher’s groups, associations, boards of education and other relevant educational bodies
• Reached out on Facebook as Best Buy joined relevant Facebook pages and shared information and links to BiCF
• Created customized emails to key teacher’s groups/boards informing them of BiCF and encouraging entry
• Worked with Drs. Vogt and Jacobsen to create newsletters and blog posts about BiCF that were shared with their colleagues and followers
• Conducted media relations with print, broadcast and online media focusing on tech, lifestyle and education
• Worked with Marc and Francois to promote BiCF through their media vehicles &conducted interviews with all TAB members
WINNERS ANNOUNCEMENT (December 2010)
• Reached out to the ten winning schools to advise of their win and coordinate surprise announcement ceremonies
• Worked with administrators to secure necessary waivers to allow for media coverage of winning children
Media Materials Development
• Developed customized, embargoed announcement news releases for all ten winning schools
• Developed national news release highlighting all winners and posted to Canada newswire
• Worked with BBy teams to update web site
• Issued local news releases under embargo and encouraged media attendance at ceremonies
• Secured Canadian Press photographers to capture event images in three key markets (Toronto, Regina, Winnipeg) and shared with media who could not attend
• Briefed administrators from winning schools in advance of media interviews
• Conducted media follow up to secure coverage
EVALUATION OF SUCCESS
The 2010 BiCF program, supported primarily by PR, was an incredible success far surpassing all program objectives:
• 213% increase in BiCF Submissions (250+), more than three times the year previous (80)
o BBy was so impressed with the number and quality of submissions they added five Honorable Mention grants of $10,000
• 14.6 Million media impressions (CPM 3.08)
o 375% increase in # of features (95 vs 20)
o 10 Million impressions at launch (58 features)
o 4.6 Million impressions with local winner announcements (37 features)
o 25 minutes of broadcast coverage
o 51 branded visuals
o 85 spokesperson quotes
• 100% key message AND Geek Squad inclusion
o 418 Best Buy and 145 Geek Squad mentions
• 362,000 impressions through BBy Facebook posts
• 100,000 Twitter impressions (81 Tweets)