NonProfit PR Awards: Event PR: <$50,000 Budget

Campaign: Hillsides Foster Soles

Winner: Hillsides

The statistics surrounding foster care in America are staggering: More than 500,000 children are in foster care nationwide, with more than 102,000 in California alone. What’s more, 40% of former foster care youths end up homeless within 18 months of discharge.

To combat this rampant problem, Hillsides—a foster care children’s charity in Pasadena, Calif.—sought to generate interest within the entertainment industry. The hook: Foster Soles, an online auction in which the public would be able to buy shoes donated (and autographed) by a host of celebrities.

To generate interest in Foster Soles, the team conducted aggressive media outreach, with specific tactics including an interactive online media kit, social media presences on MySpace and Facebook, an e-mail newsletter and a landing page on Hillsides’ Web site with tracking identification. Each individual effort was fully optimized with strategic keywords.

Then, the team tapped into Hillsides board members and volunteers who had celebrity connections. A board-sponsored kickoff event was the crown jewel of promotion efforts.

Thanks to the team’s effective communications strategy, Foster Soles received 68 pairs of autographed shoes from the likes of Elton John, Billy Joel and Denzel Washington. The efforts also resulted in a 76% increase in traffic to Hillsides’ Web site, and $9,500 in funds for its residential program.

Honorable Mentions:

American Speech Language Hearing Association: Listen to Your Buds Safe Listening Concert Series—The ASLHA taught first and second graders how to use technology like mp3 players without damaging their hearing at a concert events in Chicago and D.C. The events were so successful, the team planned two more for the fall of 2009.

Cleveland Clinic: Face Transplant Announcement—To publicize its completion of the first near-total face transplant in the U.S., the Cleveland Clinic executed a media strategy that included a series of press conference and downloadable B-roll, increasing awareness while helping to protect the patient’s privacy.

Comcast Washington State: Voluntweetup All About Nonprofits—Comcast execs hosted a Voluntweetup event aimed at nonprofits as part of Comcast Cares Day. The event was attended by 200 nonprofit execs, who learned how to effectively use social media to benefit their causes.

Coyne PR & Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management: Out of this World Results for Cornell University’s Global Forum—The team relied on social media outlets to increase publicity around Cornell’s Global Forum, ultimately driving attendance from top tier media and, in turn, generating significant coverage.

Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.: With Love, Philadelphia, XOXO—To maintain a steady stream of visitors to Philly during the recession, GPTMC delivered a marketing campaign that featured 60+ love letters written from the city to specific travel groups. The city’s hotel occupancy increased 6% over the previous year’s numbers.

Merritt Group & Brainfood: Adding Sizzle to the Summer with the Brainfood Grill-Off 2009—The team held the grill-off to support Brainfood’s healthy-living mission by having participants engage in friendly cooking competitions. The event raised $60,000, a 25% increase over the previous year’s grill-off.