Division: A
Category: 9 – Special Events
Entry Title: Southwest Florida Chapter 2010 Local Image Awards

Research/Situation Analysis: The Southwest Florida Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) was founded in 1985 and serves Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties. With nearly 100 members, it is a thriving, successful chapter that encourages professional development and recognition. The Image Awards competition is conducted annually by FPRA to recognize outstanding public relations programs in Florida and to promote the development of PR professionalism in our state. One of our chapter member benefits is holding Local Image Awards to recognize the very best work in the PR field in Southwest Florida, and this year marked the 24th annual Image Awards program. The Lee County Port Authority (LCPA) PR team is very active in the chapter and its board, and was chosen as the committee for the 2010 Local Image Awards. To begin, we participated on state conference calls, read the state Image Handbook and researched past Image events by reviewing chapter binders for information about budget, venue selection, banquet details and attendance. Research showed that, on average, enthusiasm about the annual Image program had declined. This was visible in entries submitted and banquet attendance, with attendees primarily being board members, or those who submitted an entry. Audience: Chapter members and non-members in the PR, marketing and communications fields in SW Florida and their clients/organizations

Objectives: 1) To develop a fun, unique theme to brand and market the Southwest Florida Chapter’s 2010 Local Image Awards that would generate interest and draw an attendance of at least 50 people. 2) To break-even financially with smart, realistic planning, using our own resources and reaching out to partners for cash sponsorship of at least $250 and in-kind donations with a cash value of at least $1,500. 3) To have at least 25 entries submitted for the Image Awards competition. 4) To limit the use of paper and printing to no more than 20 percent of all materials, not only to save on costs, but also to wisely use valuable resources.    

Implementation: The LCPA PR team works for the region’s commercial and general aviation airports, so we decided to creatively weave aviation into the entire program. We developed the theme, “Soaring to New Heights” and designed a special logo to brand the event. Communicating early and often was a strategy used to combat excuses for not entering due to lack of time or knowledge, and to entice participation in all or part of the program. Therefore, we wrote messages and tips about Image with clever aviation references leading up to the event in the monthly e-newsletter. As another incentive or value to attendees – and to draw more attention to the event – we decided to have door prizes. We collected 11 items ranging from gift certificates to two free round-trip tickets anywhere on AirTran Airways! Our team designed professional sponsorship materials and reached out to members and business partners for cash or in-kind donations. We were able to secure eight sponsors including major companies like Paragon Flight Training, AirTran and Bob Evans. We selected a unique venue for the banquet – the Paragon airplane hangar at Page Field General Aviation Airport. All planning and set-up work for the event was done in-house, including buying wine and flowers, decorating, preparing the agenda/program, writing the script – even manning the “flight attendant” drink cart and clearing tables – all with the intention to control costs and still have a great event. A boarding pass with seat assignment for each attendee was designed in-house to resemble AirTran’s and also served as a receipt for the event. To wrap up, we distributed an electronic survey to acquire feedback on the event and to provide a roadmap for next year’s committee.  

Evaluation: 1) We chose an innovative and unique theme of “Soaring to New Heights” and designed a logo and all collateral materials with this brand in-house. We were able to incorporate the theme into all Image communications as well as throughout the event program – from the venue, to decorations, costumes, set up, prizes, video clips and script. 89 people attended the banquet – the most participants since 2000, and 178 percent more than our goal. In survey feedback, which had a response rate of 34 percent, our theme was rated 4.78 out of 5 and the overall value of the event was 4.44 out of 5. Written comments on the survey said the event was “top notch,” “entertaining,” “it was a fun night,” and “enjoyed every aspect,” to name a few. In addition, 96.7 percent of attendees thought the event was worthwhile and reflected positively on FPRA. A bonus return from the event was that two non-members expressed interest in joining FPRA. 2) We exceeded our total financial objective to break-even and netted $898.17 for the chapter. In addition, we surpassed our cash sponsorship goal and brought in $400, a $150 surplus. Our in-kind sponsorships were valued at $3,700 and exceeded our goal by 246 percent. 3) 32 entries were submitted for this year’s Image competition – the most since 2005 and 128 percent more than planned. 4) We went “green” and utilized technology to the fullest extent with 97 percent of communications sent electronically and distributed via e-mail, chapter e-newsletters, social media outlets and Web site. There were only two printed pieces (3 percent!) - a boarding pass/event program and our script for the banquet.

Expenses $3,582.85, Income $4,481.02, Net $898.17 [Design, graphics and 100 hours of staff time with a donated value of $4,000] See budget tab for details.