It’s in the hole! Our personal Cinderella story

Dittoe dominates the BMW Championship scorecard, helping client Western Golf Association win PGA TOUR tournament of the year honor

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. It looks like a mirac-…It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!” – “Caddyshack”

Back in February, Dittoe Public Relations faced long odds. It had submitted a proposal to be the local media relations firm of record for the Western Golf Association (WGA), which would host the BMW Championship PGA TOUR event at Crooked Stick Golf Course in Carmel, Ind., seven months later.

Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy. Phil Mickelson. For one week in September golf’s biggest names would turn Central Indiana into the sport’s Mecca. Dittoe, a small boutique firm, had never landed a client with such a wide impact – in the sports world, on the Hoosier economy – as the WGA and its tournament.

Dittoe would go on to beat the odds and win the bid to represent the WGA and the BMW Championship, breaking through barriers in traditional and new media along the way. The greatest reward came just last week, when the PGA TOUR named the BMW Championship its tournament of the year.

It’s our Cinderella story.

Dittoe’s overriding task was to increase local awareness of the tournament through media relations. It was a formidable job: The 2012 BMW Championship marked the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship that the PGA TOUR had competed in Indiana. And since 1962, the BMW Championship (previously known as the Western Open) had been held outside greater Chicago only once.

Professional golf, unlike basketball and football and auto racing, was not on Hoosiers’ collective conscience.

Thorough analysis of the Indianapolis market and regional media landscape set the stage for success. Dittoe’s personalized pitching led to more than 1,100 pieces of media coverage. In total, the BMW Championship witnessed more than 1.14 billion impressions in print and online media.

Traditional media, it turned out, wasn’t Dittoe’s only strength.

Social media would emerge as an important tool in engaging Hoosiers about the BMW Championship, and Dittoe’s unique approach wowed WGA officials. Just like with traditional media, social media had its challenges; namely, the BMW Championship Twitter handle was left practically dormant for years.

To generate buzz, Dittoe created the “Place the Pin” promotion, a sweepstakes that took place on Twitter and in the real world. Eighteen “Place the Pin” pin flag exhibits were placed in locations around Indianapolis and Carmel. During an 18-day span, participants were asked to tweet photos of themselves at the various exhibits in a scavenger hunt-style format to win daily prizes of ticket giveaways that culminated in a grand prize of a VIP ticket package. Also, a flag signed by four of golf’s biggest names – Tiger Woods, 2011 BMW Championship winner Justin Rose, Camilo Villegas and Dustin Johnson – was given away in a “Capture the Flag” contest to cap the promotion.

Be careful not to underestimate the power of social media.

“Place the Pin” drew more than 700 local participants and increased the @BMWchamps’ Twitter handle Klout score from 17 to 64 – in less than three weeks’ time. Additionally, a redemption promo code that was part of the promotion led to more than $10,000 in ticket revenue.

Here are a few takeaways that might help with your next social media project:

  • Make the prize relevant to the client. Don’t host an iPad giveaway unless your client sells cases for iPads. Giving away a prize that has nothing to do with your client might help increase your following in the short term, but they will be the wrong kinds of fans.
  • Consider the barrier to entry. How much effort does someone need to put in to win or enter your contest? Don’t make contests difficult unless the prize you’re offering is worth the effort.
  • People love participation trophies. If possible, make sure that everyone who enters your contest or sweepstakes gets something. Coupons or online offers are best since you avoid the hassle of shipping a physical item.
  • Use participants to spread the word. Plan your contest so participants are forced to share their entries with their friends and followers.

The BMW Championship drew more than 140,000 spectators to Crooked Stick Golf Club, making it one of the top-attended PGA TOUR events in 2012. Through traditional media outreach and modern social media strategies, Dittoe dominated the scorecard in publicizing and sparking engagement.

It’s our Cinderella story.

Dance Like A Fool

She looked awesome in that early ‘90s lavender gown that barely revealed the polish on her yellow pumps – yet more than enough of an opening to fuel the imagination of her pimply-faced date.  Her bangs were teased just high enough to nearly incite a jealousy-fueled riot in the Aqua Net aisle at Wal-Mart a few hours later. The corsage squeezed her tiny wrist, practically launching her onto the dance floor in a blurry wisp of stale red and white carnations.  And man could she move.

But for a few brief moments, before she shredded the “Running Man” and before the ill-fitting tiara proclaiming her queen of the freshman dance wrapped around her head in an awkward embrace of rhinestone angst, she represented rejection. Shrill, Vanilla Ice-voice inducing pain aimed at the gut.

Why did she embody such torture to be compared to the worst in White Boy rap? Because, at the last moment, after her date had clipped on the hand-me-down tie and tucked it underneath the previously-worn beige vest that rested underneath the oversized jacket of his Goodwill suit, she called to say she would not be arriving at the dance in his arms. The corsage fell from his hand. He was crushed.

But he would have redemption among his peers. Her bony hand in his sweaty palm at midnight felt like jewels that might slip away with the slightest tug – for he was king of the freshman dance.

The same awkward ritual plays out in modern-day PR offices around the world. Flacks spend hours crafting the perfect pitch with the hopes of luring that sequined journalist to the dance floor, only to be flirted with – sometimes outright rejected, inducing epic mascara runs  – and left wondering if their date will show. But when he does, he gleams like Deney Terrio (look him up kids) and spins their PR dreams to all corners of the media world, their client gladly clapping in the background while clasping a stogie.

It’s a tumultuous relationship. Fifteen years spent in the bowels of a newspaper – the last nine in the newsroom of a major metro – saw the dance played out on every stage imaginable.  From the journalist’s perspective, it begins with annoyance, because, like that skinny rail of a freshman weighed down with Coke-bottle glasses, the PR pro might as well not even exist. The truth hurts like a bad 90s ballad.

PR pros would do best to not take it personally. They wail in pain, “Why won’t this (expletive) reporter respond to my emails? Why is this (expletive) ignoring me? This. Is. A. Great. (Expletive). Story!” The beating of breast commences. The truth? Your story sucks worse than White Lion’s “When the Children Cry.” And like that crappy ballad, your pitch took up four minutes of valuable time and singed ears.

The news hole has shrunk. Air time has been squeezed. As a PR pro, you have to realize that reporters get exponentially more emails than requests you receive to brainstorm ways to publicize your clients.

Think outside the dance floor. Remember that scene in “Back to the Future” when Marty McFly’s image is slowly fading from the photo? That’s traditional journalism. Be the smacker that George McFly plants on Lorraine at the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance to resurrect Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” electricity by offering digital/social media avenues, like video easily attached to a website. The news cycle has evolved, so capitalize on the social media-driven world of people checking smart phones before the early morning bathroom break. The best part of waking up is your client’s news alert.

Like the king who overcame rejection, do not take a reporter’s distaste of you personally.

At the end of the night, with his second-hand suit crumpled in a heap near his Sega Genesis game console, the freshman king of the dance stared at his bedroom ceiling. Vanilla Ice was a distant memory. He could still feel the queen’s soft lips on his cheek, the pat of classmates’ hands on his back.

Rejection can be so sweet.