Advice from USAID on Prize Competition Communication Strategies

Sep 29, 2014
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A well-developed communications plan is critical to the success of a challenge competition, but too often it is one item managers leave to consider at the end of prize design. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Jarah Meador shared the Desal Prize plan and results in the September 16 webinar, “Why Your Gov Prize Competition Needs a Communications Strategy.”

Consider the following advice and insight for help with planning your own challenge.

Before Your Challenge Launches
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USAID estimated that 25% of the communications work on their challenge occurred pre-launch. For example, they spent a lot of time writing copy that others could easily use to help promote the challenge. Here are a few more of USAID’s tips:

  • Figure out who your target audience is and the most effective ways to reach them is the first step in communications planning. One idea is to find a newsletter with a lot of subscribers. Provide pre-written content the newsletter staff can use to promote your challenge. You can research this on your own, or hire a communications firm to help.
  • Think about who the influencers are in the field related to your challenge. Influencers are famous people who care about the issue. Reach out to them and provide pre-written content.
  • Develop a content calendar to help you remember to keep promoting your challenge. Remember to have different content each time in your emails, tweets and blog posts.
  • Think about features that will be impactful on your challenge website, like adding LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter buttons. USAID found that a lot of people engaged in the Desal Prize were active on Twitter, so they installed a live feed.
  • Consider attending conferences in the related industry. Distribute handouts, or ask that a one pager be included in the conference materials.
  • Time your challenge to launch around another heavily publicized event. USAID’s Desal Prize launched on World Water Day.

During Your Challenge

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    Keep referring back to your content calendar, so you remember to keep promoting your challenge.
    • Help promote other competing challenges. People who are not eligible for one challenge may be eligible to enter yours, and vice versa.
    • Draft a press release highlighting the winners of the challenge. Mention where they are from so local news outlets will run a story. Be sure to emphasize how the winning ideas are transformational.

Ways to Measure the Overall Success of Your Challenge and Prize Competition

Where did the ideas come from? Same people or new people? USAID found that 50% of the ideas in their challenge came from the developing world. These are the people they are trying to help, so the ideas may be easier to implement.

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Number of people engaged. 6,000 participants were engaged during USAID’s challenge. 1,942 of those were email subscribers. You might want to compare this with the number of people engaged in your issue before your challenge, and see if the engagement continues to climb after the challenge. Check your Web analytics and see how many times key documents were viewed or downloaded. Email delivery tools can help you determine how many people opened the emails and clicked on the links in them.

How many submitted ideas were submitted? Make an estimate of how many ideas you are likely to get, and see if you exceed it.

How many ideas are implemented, or being implemented? USAID knows that 200 new solutions are in testing, field trials or being scaled. And 65%of those involved in implementing the solutions are people who’ve never worked with USAID before. This is one of the key benefits of challenge and prize competitions: Increasing the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations, and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge of national or international significance.

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