Teacher contest impacts community, drives $9K annual revenue

Holland Sentinel secures multi-month revenue, increases database, and promotes community engagement with year-long contest

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The Holland Sentinel is a paper out of Holland, Mich., with circulation of about 12,500. In the second year of its Amazing Teachers contest, the paper's team wanted to improve on an already successful campaign – Amazing Teachers. The goal of the contest was to create goodwill within the community, grow the email database, and drive sponsorship revenue month after month.

The team designed this teacher of the month contest to be a year-long campaign. With a kick-off in August, the contest asks readers to submit a special teacher in their community and include a short description of what sets the teacher apart. Each month a panel of Holland Sentinel staff would look through the nominations and select the month's top teacher.

The paper was able to secure a sponsorship from Gentex, a local auto parts manufacturer and major employer in the area. Since Gentex frequently employs local graduating high schoolers, the company was excited about the opportunity to align itself with this education-focused contest.

But the team at the Holland Sentinel wanted to do more to give back to the community's teachers. The staff decided to wrap-up the contest with a big event in May honoring the winning teachers as well as the nominees. At the event, the paper awarded the winning teachers with plaques and each teacher also received $200 for school supplies.

As the title sponsor of the Teacher of the Month contest, Gentex's sponsorship package included prominent placement of its logo on all contest collateral – both digital and in-print. The company's logo was featured heavily throughout the event and on the winner's plaques. It also was given time to speak at the event. In addition to Gentex, the Holland Sentinel also secured multiple supporting sponsorships for the event.

To promote the contest, the paper had a robust strategy. It used email and website ads, as well as the print publication. Each month, the paper published a special piece about the winning teacher. Not only was this great content for readers, but it also drove more people to the ongoing contest.

One of the paper's favorite opportunities for promotion was the chance to feature the winning teachers in a national festival parade in town. Each teacher rode in a car decked out with a large banner announcing that he or she was the Teacher of the Month and also including branding to direct readers to the contest.

Last year, the paper secured $9,000 in revenue from its title and supporting sponsorships. It also had nearly a 50 percent opt-in rate for its email database and received more than 100 teacher submissions.

But beyond all that, the staff has been able to make a meaningful, lasting impact on the teachers in the community. The paper has gotten so many responses from teachers just like this one, "I was beyond blessed by our night at the Holland Civic Center for the Amazing Teacher Banquet! ... I continue to be humbled by the recognition. The whole night was simply perfect!"

The response to the contest has been outstanding, and the staff has big plans to outdo themselves with year three.

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or matt@secondstreet.com

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