At Refresh PR, we like to think we have the courage to be different and put our reputation on the line when others perhaps wouldn’t, in order to achieve great things. There couldn’t be a better example of this than when in 2016, we decided to take the plunge to own and run the Heating Installer Awards.
Running the awards was an unknown but exciting move into awards management from a team previously focused solely on PR. Fast forward four years and the Heating Installers Awards has established itself as the award for installers across the UK to win, with a number of high profile organisations from across the industry signing up as sponsors year-on-year.
The awards in a nutshell:
The awards were established to raise the credibility and celebrate achievements of plumbers and heating installers across the UK, and create a positive talking point and promote excellent service which can often go unrecognised. Following a national call out for entries, 11 regional winners are selected by a panel of industry experts and installers. These 11 regional winners then go through to the final round, which includes a technical challenge and public vote, with the national winner announced at leading trade exhibition, Installer, in May each year.
With the 2017/18 awards programme (our third year) we were striving to make the awards bigger and better than in previous years, without changing too much of a formula we could see was working. We better utilised influencers within the industry and maximised relationships which we’d nurtured over previous years, in order to increase our social presence. We also invited previous winners to sit on the judging panel, adding credibility and increasing installer engagement.
Having listened to feedback from our sponsors we also gained the support of influential third parties to increase the credibility of the awards and achieve even wider support from the industry.
Understanding the audience:
Despite running the campaign for four years, the fast changing media landscape means it’s crucial for us to carry out research each year to ensure we’re using the best means and channels to reach our target audiences – installers, potential/current sponsors and third parties (ie trade associations).
- Installers: We know that heating installers and plumbers work long hours and spend considerable time on-site making them difficult to reach, meaning our activity has to be engaging in order to have any impact. For that reason, the entry process needs to be quick and simple. Many work on their own, so social media is increasingly where they go for advice, company, and general banter. We know that key influencers exist, in fact, two previous winners are now well-renowned in the sector and therefore were able to help us.
- Sponsors: In order to fund the awards (they are completely free to enter and attend for installers), we need to secure ongoing support from sponsors, so the awards must continue to work harder than any rival scheme for them. With increasingly tight budgets in a sector facing ongoing uncertainty, value for money is more important than ever for this audience. We have to prove that our awards scheme is an effective way of reaching installers
- Trade associations/relevant third-party organisations: This audience is approached regularly with requests, so we needed to prove the value of being associated with our awards scheme versus the many rivals.
Translating into an effective strategy:
Using the insights we gathered, as well as further desk research and creative sessions, we designed an integrated communications strategy which was designed to increase awareness among the target audiences and build campaign credibility.
In order to provide high-profile, high-value brand exposure for sponsors and increase the reach of the awards, we created an eight-month integrated campaign spanning October 2018-May 2019. Activity included a regularly updated awards website, ongoing PR (of course, our bread and butter!), social media (Twitter and Facebook for 17/18 but in 18/19, we introduced You Tube and Instagram), email marketing, direct engagement at key events such as PHEX and PlumbExpo, influencer engagement, a judging day, and a longstanding media partnership with leading trade magazine, Installer. As part of the media partnership – which the team negotiated free-of-charge – the winner’s announcement was held live on the main stage at Installer2018.
Real business benefits:
As with all campaigns, we measure the success by actual business benefits rather than outputs and activity delivered. Having negotiated prizes with real business benefits for installers including a trip to Denmark to visit Danfoss HQ, a boiler worth £1000+, product hampers worth £thousands, and product and asbestos training, the awards attracted a record number of entries and awareness.
Sponsors benefitted from networking opportunities with other sponsors, as well as direct contact with the winners, enabling them to gift product with a view to converting them to become brand advocates. In addition, we achieved almost 600k twitter impressions and over 165 sponsor mentions were generated in the media, resulting in 189m OTS.
The campaign also supported us in achieving an influx of new enquiries from construction sector clients and a number of new client wins, contributing towards the agency’s revenue growth for YE April 2018.
A risky move?
Many we speak to question why we took this on. It’s a risk, out of our comfort zone and ultimately, we need to secure sponsors in order to fund the awards each year otherwise we take a significant financial hit. Ultimately it came down to confidence in a great idea, belief that we had the skills and contacts to make it work – year after a year – and a genuine passion for the industry we work in. We couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve created and look forward to many more years of the Heating Installer Awards to come.
Sophie Smith, Account Director of Refresh PR