First-Time Ballot Leads to Massive $250K for Paper

by Chris Zoeller Post and Courier

Case Study Highlights

  • $250,000 revenue for paper
  • 200,000 votes cast by 21,000 registered users
  • Ballot creates new advertising relationships

*Editor’s Note: This citywide metro ballot was a winner in the 2016 Second Street Awards.

The Idea

The Post and Courier is a 65,000 circulation paper out of Charleston, SC. We’ve been running promotions and interactive content for years, but had never before tackled a major citywide ballot. We had high hopes for our first-ever Charleston’s Choice ballot, and even though we’d never done one before, we knew this ballot presented a big opportunity for revenue and engagement, so we wanted to lay out a clear plan from the start.

First Time Charleston's Choice Ballot

The Execution

We wanted to ensure Charleston’s Choice was inclusive for every business in our market. This way we knew everyone of our readers would find a category they were passionate about and we would have an almost unlimited list of potential sponsorship opportunities.

We divided the ballot into twelve groups including Arts & Entertainment, Food & Dining, Pets, and Professional Services. Within each group, users could pick their favorites from a variety of categories. Our Just for Kids group contained nearly fifteen categories like Birthday Party Services, Daycare Centers, and Summer Day Camps. The Local Shopping group had over 35 categories including Bicycle Shop, Formal Wear Store, Office Supply Store, and Wine Shop.

Twelve Groups with Hundreds of Categories

When it came to setting up our campaign, we divided it into three phases. Not only would this provide a long period of promotion and exposure for all our merchants, but it also maximized our own opportunity for revenue.

Phases One and Two – Nomination & Voting
We started the Charleston’s Choice ballot with a nomination phase and voting phase lasting about six weeks. During this time, we encouraged readers to nominate and vote for all their favorite local businesses and services.

Ads Encourage Users to Participate

There were a huge number of local businesses competing on our ballot, and we wanted to be able to leverage them to help promote it. We created a Promotional Toolkit containing a variety of downloadable pieces each business could customize and use including social media images, printable posters, and short url links to take their followers directly to their category.

Promotional Kit for Merchants

As businesses received nominations, our Post and Courier sales team was able to reach out to them for ballot sponsorship opportunities during the voting phase. Businesses could be featured at the top or as a siderail ad of their individual category on the ballot page as well with print ads in the paper. As thousands of local businesses were nominated, our sponsorship revenue potential grew with each new nomination.

Businesses Could Customize Ads

We were shocked by the number of businesses requesting votes and nominations from their own followers. It was exciting to see the entire community rally behind our Charleston’s Choice ballot, and overwhelming to see how important winning was to our local community businesses.

Businesses Promoted on Social

Phase Three – Celebration

We didn’t want the excitement of Charleston’s Choice to end with the announcement of the winners, so we prepared to launch two more major initiatives: a major event and a print special section.

The community’s response to the event was outstanding, and winning businesses were thrilled to be able to attend.

450 People Attended Event

Plus, we were also able to leverage the event as another opportunity for potential revenue as we sold a variety of event sponsorships.

Event Allowed for More Sponsorship Revenue

Not only were we able to present all the winners with an award recognizing their accomplishment, but we were also able to highlight many of the local businesses as well. From the catering and drinks to entertainment and decor, many of the winning businesses were on display during the event itself.

Event a Huge Hit with Community

Our highly anticipated print special section was also a big hit with the community. Many local businesses snapped photos of their names to post on social media, while even more had the special section framed to hang at their location.

Special Section Displayed Winners

The Results

When all was said and done, the results of our first-ever Charleston’s Choice ballot were unbelievable. 6,000 businesses were nominated. 200,000 votes were cast by 21,000 registered users. And over 450 community members attended the celebration event.

Beyond this massive engagement with our community, this was a huge win for the Post and Courier as well. With over 220 advertisers throughout the three phases, our paper secured over $250,000 revenue coming from digital ads, print ads, and event sponsorships.

For our first-ever ballot, we couldn’t be more delighted with the results. We knew this could be a big opportunity for us, but this was beyond our expectations, and we cannot wait to launch our second year.

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