Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 1 - Community Relations
Middleton Lawn & Pest Control 2007 "What's Bugging You?" Youth Achievement Award

Award of Distinction

Research/Situation Analysis: As Middleton Lawn & Pest Control prepared for the celebration of its 55th Anniversary, the lawn care, termite and pest control company looked for a way to positively impact the community and increase brand awareness in a crowded Florida landscape. As a result, Middleton's agency of record, PUSH, developed a promotion that was unique, proprietary and "ownable" by Middleton to capture mind and market share within the company's existing service territories. To accomplish this, an inaugural youth achievement award program was designed to capture the thoughts of Florida's graduating high school seniors, thereby providing a venue for voices of an often dismissed and unheard group.
The Middleton Lawn & Pest Control "What's Bugging You?" Youth Achievement Award competition was created to honor one winner per participating Florida county with personal recognition by a Middleton branch manager at the winner's school awards ceremony, an Award of Excellence, an iPod Shuffle MP3 player, and a $1,000 award toward college expenses. The competition was open to all high school seniors throughout the 19 Florida counties that Middleton serves - Alachua, Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Marion, Martin, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, and Volusia - encouraging students through pickup in local publications and urgings from their guidance counselors to submit application entries from Oct. 9, 2006 through Jan. 31, 2007. To enter, students had to submit a completed, official application form, a 500 to 700-word essay telling Middleton what was bugging them, a certified sealed copy of their high school transcripts, and a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor, pastor, youth counselor or other community figure.

Objectives: (1) Establish brand awareness of Middleton Lawn & Pest Control among the families of high school students, school administrators and county leadership through the generation of a least 150 total entries in the program's first year, (2) Generate a minimum of18 total positive media hits relating to the program, an average of six hits per media DMA throughout Middleton's service territory, and (3) Execute a successful program that delivered at least a 400 percent return on investment in publicity value.

Implementation: PUSH developed an electronic application form, flyer, script to be read over the schools' PA systems, blurb for inclusion in school newspapers/newsletters, and cover letter that were sent to guidance counselors and principals at approximately 185 public and private schools within the participating counties. In addition, the competition's official entry form and flyer, as well as entry guidelines and a downloadable four-page
Q & A document outlining program details, requirements and examples were made available on the Middleton Web site to assist students in submitting their entries.
On the back-end, comprehensive judging procedures and a standard scoring sheet were created to allow the panel of judges to easily review the essays for topic, grammar and content. The panel consisted of Middleton management, business alliances and volunteer educators who awarded points for the student's citizenship, leadership, teamwork and awards earned in an effort to target high school seniors with interests beyond academics. Once all applications were reviewed and scored by one of five judging teams - comprised of two judges specifically paired to compliment each other's diverse cultural affinities, beliefs and mindsets, thereby negating bias opinions - the scores were averaged to obtain the top 10 entries per county. Judges met a second time to reevaluate the finalists and agree on the winning entries.
The momentum and preparations did not stop once the winners were announced. PUSH created phone scripts and announcement letters to notify the winners of their accomplishments. Thank you letters were also mailed to all non-winning participants. PUSH then coordinated Middleton participation in each of the winners' school award ceremonies, an undertaking that accumulated more than 46 hours in drive-time and approximately 2,700 miles by PUSH team members in a nine-week period. At each event, a scripted Middleton branch manager presented the winning student with his or her prizes, and a PUSH representative captured a commemorative photo that would later accompany one of three district-specific announcement press releases.

Evaluation: The inaugural youth achievement awards competition created brand awareness among its target audiences by generating a total of 214 entries from 17 of the 19 participating counties, which exceeded the previously set objective of 150 desired entries by 43 percent. In addition, PUSH's media relations efforts garnered a total of 31 media hits (to date) that translate to more than $226,351 in adjusted publicity value - surpassing the projected total media hits by 72 percent and yielding a more than 790 percent return on investment in adjusted publicity value.

Budget: The overall budget for the Middleton Lawn & Pest Control "What's Bugging You?" Youth Achievement Award competition totals approximately $36,100*, consisting of roughly $15,300* in agency time and $20,800* in out of pocket expenses that included costs for travel and incidentals, 17 $1,000 scholarship awards, 17 iPod MP3 players, and postage. *Please note that the final project budget will not be reconciled until media relations efforts for the recently distributed winner announcements have concluded.