Blogging finally pays the rent for someone

Here’s a piece I wrote for Ragan.com about a blogger who won a free year of rent in exchange for blogging about her experience:

Published: 7/29/2010

How a video contest boosted new condos, gave a blogger a home
By Ari B. Adler

‘I Love Detroit’ competition draws global interest in the city’s comeback efforts

The number of bloggers in the world has grown dramatically over the past few years, but there aren’t too many who can say it helps them pay the rent. Brandi Keeler of Detroit can, though, at least for a year.

Keeler, an advertising and design major at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, won the Garden Court Condominiums’ “I Love Detroit” video contest. That means she will be living rent-free in a downtown condo in exchange for her blog posts chronicling her participation in the city’s culture, dining and sporting events.

Identity Marketing & Public Relations in Bingham Farms, Mich., was the agency that worked with Garden Court on the 30-day contest, which was developed to raise awareness for the recently renovated condominiums. Using traditional media, new media and events to create buzz for the contest, Identity also was getting people talking about the condos and the city of Detroit.

“The contest clearly struck a nerve with people who have a passion for the city of Detroit. There are some incredible advocates for the city, and this was an ideal platform for them,” said Andrea Trapani, senior account executive and Identity’s architect behind the concept. “We knew the contest would be something different, but it definitely exceeded our expectations in regard to the quantity and overall creative quality of the videos submitted.”

The contest launched in late May with an appearance on FOX 2 Detroit by David Farbman of Garden Court. By the end of the contest in late June, more than 60 two-minute videos had been submitted from around the world, with 53 making the final cut. More than 300 people also joined the special Ning community that Identity had established for the contest. A panel of local personalities and bloggers judged the videos.

“Since this was unlike anything the client has done before, we did not set any specific expectations regarding how many videos would be submitted,” Trapani said. “We knew that by leveraging social media channels, as well as the traditional media, that the overall brand exposure would be broad and meaningful.”

According to Identity, the contest resulted in more than 48,000 page views and more than 23,000 views for the videos that were submitted. The promotion resulted in 15 online stories posted by traditional media and bloggers within 20 days, and there were more than 300 tweets sent using the hashtag #ilovedetroit. Perhaps most important to Identity’s client, however, is that the contest resulted in generating more inquiries from people interested in buying the condominiums.

“The overall positive responses shared from contestants on the site was inspiring,” Trapani said.  “They supported and complimented each other’s videos. New connections were made, and many have continued past the end of the contest. On multiple occasions, we heard, ‘It doesn’t matter if I win; I’m so happy to have the chance to connect with others and share my story.’”

Trapani said she considers the contest and the promotional idea to be a success and, with lessons learned in hand, the potential for similar campaigns is high. That raises the question, however, of how many of these can succeed before they are too common to draw the attention that Garden Court did.

Brandon Chesnutt, social media director at Identity, says there will always be a market for them.

“Just hearing the phrase, ‘enter for a chance to win,’ creates a unique level of excitement,” he said. “What organizations really need to start thinking about is what happens after the contest. How do they continue to engage the audience without an incentive in place? There should be a plan to keep the buzz going until their next call for entries.”

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