Drive-by shootings, playground drug sales, classmates with hit lists: the schoolyard, a place that we once regarded as a safe refuge is rapidly becoming the front line for the daily battles that children face. Hitachi, Ltd. saw this change-taking place and sought to do something about it. To that end H&K created the Hitachi Safety Scholarship Program.
“Rewarding Community Commitment” was the theme for the sixth annual scholarship competition, designed to encourage students to take an interest in keeping their schools and communities safe. H&K administered the scholarship program on behalf of Hitachi, awarding college-bound high school seniors for the development of a community safety plan. The program sought to reaffirm the commitment of Hitachi, Ltd. to the communities in which it is based. This year’s program was expanded to include a Northern California region in addition to the original two Southern California regions.
CHALLENGE OR OPPORTUNITY
The primary opprtunities and challenges for this program were threefold. First, to position Hitachi, Ltd. as a responsible, concerned, and active community member. Secondly, to create an opportunity to partner with local leaders and media professionals to judge the competition; thereby creating long-lasting, postive relationships with active and influencial community members. Finally, to help encourage local youth to become involved in community issues and pursure higher educational goals. An additional challenge this year was to break into a new region and widen the scope of students reached by the program.
Position Hitachi as a proactive community leader
Engage Hitachi employees in the campaign
Encourage students to think about safety issues affecting their community while helping them achieve their educational goals
Strengthen Hitachi’s ties to community leaders, community members and the media
The scholarship plan required H&K to research and build a distribution/promotion network to reach eligible high school students in the three regions targeted by Hitachi. H&K created a short survey to be distributed to the semi finalists and finalists from the 2000 program. In this survey H&K was able to gauge which methods of placement, marketing, and promotion were the most effective and if the students felt the prize money was fairly distributed. H&K utilized this data to alter and augment the program where necessary, to maximize the programs value to Hitachi and to the students.
Breaking into a new region in Northern California gave the H&K team the opportunity to take a fresh look at targeting students and the methods of information distribution for the program. Furthermore, H&K identified and recommended the best strategic community partners for Hitachi to work with in the judging of scholarship semi-finalists.
The work behind the scholarship program began nearly a year in advance. To keep Hitachi updated on the progress of the process, H&K distributed an activity report to the client twice a month. The planning phase of the program was crucial to its success. H&K created a detailed, specific timeline that was strictly followed to ensure that all needs and deadlines were met in a timely manner.
At the beginning of the school year, H&K sent materials to high school principals and scholarship coordinators at both public and private schools to reach eligible high school seniors. In the beginning of the year, partnerships with local print and broadcast media outlets and local law enforcement agencies were solicited, appropriate venues in each region selected and finalists notified. After the oral presentations and awards ceremonies in the spring, H&K conducted a wide reaching media campaign to celebrate the winners of the scholarship and lay a foundation of support for the next contest.
Reach out to students, college/career center staff, and campus scholarship offices through school principals
Strengthen media and community ties by including local elected officials, law enforcement members, past scholarship recipients and members of the local media in the selection of scholarship winners
Engage local Hitachi employees in their communities by utilizing them in the selection process
H&K began the application distribution process in November of 2000 and set the finalist review for the last two weeks of April and the first week of June 2001. Post-event quarter page print ads were placed in three separate business journals. Initially, the plan had been to place these ads in advance of the event; H&K chose instead to place the ads after the event and focus on the grand prizewinner in each area.
Another change made midstream was the addition of several web sites, where students could download the application from their computer. This suggestion was made by several high school principals, and it turned out to be a great method for reaching additional applicants.
H&K successfully reaffirmed the commitment of Hitachi to the communities in which it is based and highlighted Hitachi’s commitment to education and public safety in California. In particular, scholarship applicants focused on the issue of school violence—the most pressing topics of the 2000-2001 school year.
Hitachi employees enjoyed acting as judges, emcees and attendees at each of the three award ceremonies.
The Hitachi Safety Scholarship Program impacted both deserving youth and the communities in which they lived. Three students received $5,000 each to attend college and 12 semi-finalists received $1,000 for their efforts, in addition to a surprise VCR given to all of the recipients.
The program generated significant coverage by media throughout the areas in which the scholarship recipients lived. Los Angeles event coverage included hits in Rafu Shimpo, California Crusador, Cultural News, KNX-AM News Radio, and the Los Angeles Daily News. Coverage of the Orange County event was the most significant, receiving hits in The Local News, The Orange County Business Journal, Orange County News, The Daily Pilot, Orange County Register, KFWV-AM News Radio, KNX-AM News Radio, U.S. Japan News, Bridge USA, and Rafu Shimpo. Finally the Northern California ceremony received coverage in Yomiuri America, Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, U.S. Japan Business News, Cultural News, and the San Mateo Times.