The Broyles Award was established in 1996 to recognize college football’s top assistant coach. Each year, five finalists are selected from approximately 1,500 assistant coaches representing the 129 Division One (D1) college football programs across the country. Since its inception, The Communications Group (ComGroup) has served as the public relations partner for the Broyles Award. Our PR and media relations role includes the following tactics: news release writing, press conference planning and management, media pitching with local, statewide and national media, website management and design and print production of the award’s brochure. The ComGroup team offered these services throughout the year, but the bulk of our work on the Broyles Award comes in the last two months of the year. Our team is heavily involved in PR leading up to, during and following the presentation ceremony, annually held on the second Tuesday of December.
In order to receive and maintain media and public interest each year, ComGroup conducts primary research. The primary research comes in the forms of media tracking and media analysis. As well as qualitative research through observations made during each award campaign. The information received affects how ComGroup’s PR specialists conduct media relations for the award.
After analyzing the results of the primary research, ComGroup moved forward with developing the plan for the 2017 award. The first step was determining the target audiences. Based on the nature of the award, the primary audience was sports media, which included local and statewide media, national media (ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports) football-related websites and university and college sports news outlets. University outlets included the represented universities’ media relations departments for interaction with their active and alumni students.
The goal of this campaign was to increase awareness of the Broyles Award at the local and national levels with the objective of generating at least 10 percent more in-depth media coverage and awareness for the upcoming Broyles Award banquet held in Little Rock, Arkansas. To achieve this objective, five releases were written and distributed to the members of the local, statewide and national media who were part of our target audience.
A second objective was increasing awareness of the Broyles Award on their Facebook and Twitter channels in the month leading up to the award’s ceremony.
The 2017 Broyles Award campaign kicked off in August with the distribution of the first news release, which announced the addition of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Bob Stoops and Steve Spurrier to the selection committee. The selection committee selects five finalists from the list of nominees before ultimately selecting a winner. The campaign ran through December 5 following the distribution of the release announcing the winner of the award.
The second release distributed announced the 56 assistant coaches nominated. The third release announced the fifteen semi-finalists, and the fourth release announced the five finalists.
The release announcing additions to the selection committee in August provided Broyles Award coverage at the beginning of the football season. The next three releases were distributed in November. The first fell two weeks before Thanksgiving and the following release was distributed Thanksgiving morning. Distributing the two releases so close to the holiday provided an opportunity for increased discussion during sportscasts and newscasts, especially as games featuring teams with nominees and semi-finalists aired.
Along with the holiday, there were several discussions already surrounding open head coaching positions at the D1 level. Many candidates were part of the Broyles Award discussions. Every mention of a coach included a mention of their nomination for the Broyles Award. As a result, the Broyles Award was increasing awareness, as well as recognition of the significance of the award.
The finalists release was written and distributed after the final five were selected by the committee. The release provided additional build up ahead of the awards ceremony by providing another opportunity for exposure at the national level. Each release also provided an opportunity to update the Broyles Award website, which ComGroup managed.
Along with writing and distributing news releases, other tactics included press conference planning and management, website management and the design and production of the award’s brochure.
An obstacle we had to overcome was the live broadcast of the awards ceremony across the country, which had not been done before. The release announcing the winner required advanced scheduling in order to have a greater impact over a post on social media announcing the winner. As a result, PR Newswire received the release ahead of mass distribution in order to reach key media outlets before social announcements and the live announcement.
Another obstacle to overcome was the number of releases distributed. In previous years, releases announcing the nominees, finalists and winner were distributed. For the 2017 award, we also distributed a release announcing the semi-finalists. We overcame the obstacle of over-saturating the media with releases about the Broyles Award through selecting key dates and times for distribution. Because of the number of high-profile nominees involved in new head coaching conversations, the increased number of releases helped keep the Broyles Award in the media because of its connection to these coaches.
The Broyles Award media campaign covered more than the award ceremony, additions to the selection committee and who was nominated. Prior to the ceremony, Frank Broyles, the award’s namesake, passed away. The ComGroup team worked with the award’s organization and Broyles Foundation to release an official statement via the website and social media channels announcing his passing.
Headshots of the five finalists were sent to their respective universities the morning of the award ceremony to gain awareness prior to the ceremony’s start. A headshot of the winner was included in the corresponding release.
Downloadable versions of the releases were available through a link embedded in the Constant Contact version to proactively combat any possible formatting difficulties. Our email service for distribution provided a powerful analytics report that allowed our team to instantaneously and accurately track and assess the results of the releases.
Regarding budget, ComGroup committed more to manage media relations for the 2017 Broyles Award season over a five-month period.
The five press releases: selection committee additions, nominees, semi-finalists, finalists and winner of the 2017 Broyles Award were distributed to 3,877 sports media contacts on August 28, November 8, November 21, November 27 and December 5. The average email open rate of 29% is almost triple the industry average for PR firms.
The Broyles Award Twitter saw a 2,303 percent increase in impressions, a 273 percent increase in profile visits and a 193 percent increase in mentions between November 7 and December 5. Between November 1 and December 19, the Broyles Award Facebook received 198 new page likes with 1,741 engaged users, reached 25,654 users, and earned 38,899 total impressions. The campaign received more than 250 pieces of coverage at the local, state and national levels across multiple platforms, at least a 25 percent increase from the previous year. These results showed growth in awareness of the overall award and its significance to the D1 community.
ComGroup learned distributing multiple releases in one month over the same subject, can have a positive impact on a campaign if distribution dates are strategically planned. ComGroup also learned active communication between the creative and PR departments make working together easier when managing a websites and distributing news releases. Once a release went out, corresponding information went live. Strong communication allowed for quick, high quality content to be live at a moment’s notice.