Training Series Offers Marketing Tips for Prizes & Challenges

Oct 28, 2015
Light bulb with drawing of various business and strategy imagery

Marketing and public education is an essential part of any successful prize competition.

The good news for federal agencies working with tight budgets is that both can be accomplished without breaking the bank.

“We have found other ways than spending a lot of money,” said Denice Shaw, senior advisor to the Chief Innovation Officer at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Shaw joined two marketing experts from XPRIZE, October 20, for the latest webinar in the Expert Training Series: How to Design & Operate Prizes to Maximize Success, a seven-part educational forum on incentivized prize competitions.

Designed for the federal challenge and prize community, the online series is a collaboration between GSA’s and DigitalGov University.

The marketing of challenges helps recruit and motivate participants, bolsters the brand of partners or sponsors, and excites the public.

Developing and executing a multifaceted marketing campaign may seem daunting, especially when government agencies may lack the resources XPRIZE might have for marketing, Shaw said.

EPA uses websites, conferences, flyers and social media to spread the word, Shaw explained, adding the agency has accomplished its goals by looking internally for individuals who can carry out key marketing and outreach functions.

“If you are resourceful within your organization, you’d be surprised where you can find someone,” she said.

Choosing effective, diverse organizations to partner with also extends outreach.

EPA is working with National Geographic and the Department of Education to launch a challenge for students to visualize harmful nutrients in water. Each group brought new ways to share messages about the upcoming challenge to their different communities and distribution lists, Shaw said.

A solid communications plan will ensure that all partners are on the same page, she added.

That communications planning needs to be part of any prize competition from the get-go, said Yvonne Cooper, senior director of marketing and communications for XPRIZE.

“The earlier marketing is involved, the better,” she said.

Citizen teams and partner organizations can help reach into communities known and unknown, said Alan Zack, senior director of marketing and education for XPRIZE.

Case in point: the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, a global competition to equip consumers with the power to make their own health diagnoses using mobile technology.

This challenge coincides with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the television series that popularized the idea of a handheld device used for sensor scanning and data analysis. XPRIZE is tapping into the excitement leading up to the anniversary.

“We turned 40 million Trekkies into advocates,” said Zack, who also stressed the importance of public education programs that help spread the word.

“Yes, we are ultimately trying to have teams compete to solve a grand challenge, but more importantly we want to educate society on the purpose of the grand challenge,” he said.

Advice from the Experts

The trio of experts offered advice on every aspect of marketing and public outreach. For more details, watch and listen to the entire webinar.

For now, here’s a sampling of tips from the panel:

  • Know your audience and set targeted objectives for number and type of partners and participating teams.
  • Develop tailored messages based on audiences. Keep it simple, impactful, and memorable.
  • Create social media kits for teams and partners. Tap key influencers.
  • Focus press coverage around four events – launch, prototype testing, announcement of finalists, and prize awards.
  • Position participating teams as heroes. Tell their unique stories through blogs, videos, and prototype displays.
  • Use public education programs to introduce challenges to new audiences and engage stakeholders at all levels.

Next up in the Expert Training Series is Module 5: Legal Considerations for Prizes.

This webinar will take place November 12 from 3-4 p.m., ET. Stay tuned for more details.