Client: McGeorge Toyota
Tactics: Media Relations, Social Media
Strategy: Separated McGeorge Toyota from its competitors by helping to raise awareness of distracted driving through the establishment of a scholarship program
Outcomes: More than 1 million impressions, increased brand awareness
In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. About 10% of those drivers were under the age of 20. With this in mind, local automotive dealership McGeorge Toyota leveraged a scholarship program to help build awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.
Primary research was gathered through meetings with the McGeorge Toyota leadership and marketing department to get an idea of topics of importance among their target customers. Additionally, key local organizations or influencers, such as high school counselors and local nonprofit, DriveSmart Virginia, were identified as targets for potential partnerships that could increase awareness of the program.
Secondary research helped to uncover other distracted driving scholarship programs in other parts of the country. One program in particular required a 140-character entry – the length of a tweet – followed by an essay. This unique way to enter for the scholarship ended up being our entry protocol, providing a challenge, but also content that could be used via social media channels to continue awareness.
Research also uncovered a list of high school guidance counselors that were contacted to help spread the word about the program to students. Lastly, we found there were an abundance of website searches for “scholarships in Virginia,” and that web advertising could be used to drive attention and entries to the scholarship program.
With the GOAL of increasing McGeorge Toyota’s brand among potential target audiences (parents, moms, decision makers) who could purchase a vehicle from the dealership in the future, the STRATEGY of heightening awareness of an important topic via a scholarship program was established. The program was also designed to help increase McGeorge Toyota’s brand as a reputable company, increase trustworthiness, and boost awareness.
We named the program: “McGeorge Toyota’s Saving Lives, Supporting Futures, Scholarship Program,” and created logos to assist with brand recognition. We established a budget of $2,500 for website advertising, and $2,000 per-month ($12,000 total for the six-month program) for public relations, media relations, social media content development, and grassroots marketing.
During the planning phase, we also came up with the application process and design. To apply for the scholarship, students submitted a personal statement limited to 140 characters stating, “I pledge to not text and drive because…” From those submissions, ten students were selected to submit an essay extending their explanation of why they will not text and drive.
On April 1, the beginning of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, our team began the first phase by pitching the scholarship story to local media. We continued pitching media outlets throughout the summer, focusing on the problem of distracted driving and McGeorge Toyota’s focus on bringing awareness to the issue. To kick off the program, we secured news stories from all local TV stations, the top daily newspaper in the market and several radio stations.
As we headed into May, we began the second phase of our plan, leveraging the list of high school guidance counselors we uncovered during our research, as well as launching advertising, social media and grassroots marketing campaigns.
Additionally, we created and provided flyers, social media content, press releases and other materials to our influencer/partner DriveSmart Virginia to utilize and help promote the program.
Throughout the program we monitored who entered the scholarship and utilized their 140 character entries to promote the program via social media.
By the end of July, 121 people had entered the scholarship program. Via our efforts, more than 387 people visited the scholarship page on McGeorge Toyota’s website – about a 40 percent conversation rate for those visiting and applying for the scholarship.
Additionally, the relationship established with DriveSmart Virginia resulted in a greater awareness of McGeorge Toyota among its targeted audience, via presentations at the organization’s board of directors meeting and involvement at several events the organization was holding.
Media relations generated 16 news stories, with more than 1 million impressions. We also evaluated our efforts via emails and face-to-face meetings with staff at McGeorge Toyota, where we heard about the results of our success and comments they received from customers.
We were acknowledged for increasing awareness of the dealership in a way that separated it from its competitors in the market, as well as our ability to stay within our pre-determined budget.