Breaking Down Our Best in Show

How we brought “Real Fun” to real life in the PR space

We may have won “Best in Show” at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Southeastern Wisconsin Paragon Awards for our “Real Fun” campaign, but the true prize was how much fun we had making it.
Plus the trophy.
The Award of Excellence was given for our work on our client Travel Wisconsin’s “Real Fun” influencer campaign. Collectively, LC swept six awards at the 2017 banquet. One for every day of the week we put in our blood, sweat and (minimal) tears. Sundays, we lay low.
Travel Wisconsin’s “Real Fun” influencer campaign created partnerships with industry influencers and took place during summer and fall of 2016. The campaign helped grow Travel Wisconsin’s Instagram followers by 122 percent from 14,705 in May to 41,357 in December, generating more than 80,000 social media engagements. That’s a lot of likes.
The PRSA Paragon Awards is an annual award banquet that recognizes outstanding public relations work and honors creative and strategic excellence. Local public relations and advertising agencies submit their work to the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter and are judged by an alternate chapter of PRSA for their work in media relations, social media, integrated communications, internal communications and more.
The Goal
The idea for the “Real Fun” initiative came after reading a Longwoods International study, which provides return on investment research for the tourism industry. The study found tourists choose destinations based on “fun” and, lucky for us, Wisconsin was ranked as the “most fun” vacation destination in the Midwest.
Our objective for this campaign was simple: Secure five, high-profile national Instagram influencers to serve as Wisconsin brand ambassadors with our $20,000 budget. The influencers would capture and share “Real Fun” moments to garner 50,000 engagements (likes and comments) over summer and fall, boost @travelwisconsin traffic and grow Instagram followers from 14,705 in May to 25,000 by December. The target audience had two areas: social media travel influencers and their audience of travel enthusiasts.  
Research and Planning
As long as travelers have been traveling, they’ve been chronicling their journeys. With the explosion of social media, influencers are now able to showcase their experiences on a constantly evolving platform, for a constantly growing audience, hungry to live vicariously through their adventures. Rather than focus solely on traditional media, LC decided to hop on the Insta-bandwagon and create partnerships with travel influencers who had growing communities of engaged followers.
After extensive digging into the  Instagram and blogosphere, we chose the top travel influencers with at least 10,000 followers and a 2-3 percent engagement rate. Then, we found the best destinations in Wisconsin where we would ship them off. Our team ended up choosing seven influencers -- five for summer and two for fall. We chose a diverse array of content – from family travel, to adventure, to luxe lifestyle.
To align with each influencer’s personal brand, the Travel Wisconsin team carefully designed each trip to reflect their unique personalities and interests. We made sure the campaign showcased all that Wisconsin has to offer, because after all, “Real Fun” means something different to everyone.
Because Travel Wisconsin represents the entire state of Wisconsin, we made sure to spread the love throughout. Parenting blogger @mommymusings traveled to Door County, trendy multicultural traveler and blogging coach @thecitysidewalks visited Milwaukee, Southern California travel blogger @bemytravelmuse discovered Bayfield, Fluffy English Sheepdog @rocco_roni visited Madison, @themidwestival, a trendy Midwest-focused travel and lifestyle blogger, was sent to La Crosse, Madison lifestyle blog @thyme_is_honey traveled to Milwaukee and @itsalovelylife went to Wisconsin Dells. Got that?
To assure the campaign was successful, influencer contracts specified post frequency which assured a maximum ROI. Visitors were required to post anywhere between eight and 16 times depending on trip duration, which lasted between three and five days. All posts were required to tag @travelwisconsin, local convention and city visitor bureau accounts, and state that the trips were sponsored.
The Outcome
The 96 Instagram posts created by the seven national influencers generated 80,113 social media engagements (likes and comments), 48,779 blog post impressions (unique monthly visitors) and helped boost @travelwisconsin’s followers from 14,705 in May to 41,357 in December. That’s nearly double the goal of 25,000 followers (We know, we know. We were excited, too). Engagement feedback ranged from, “Hard to believe this really exists! Wow!” to “I’m definitely going to visit Milwaukee soon, your photos are beautiful!” and “These photos are so beautiful, I’m moving my family from Alaska. Wife’s not happy about it. But I don’t care” (ok, that last one’s obviously not true).
The metrics showed that the “Real Fun” Instagram campaign proved not only that travel bloggers were eager to “Travel Wisconsin,” but their audiences were as well. Because of this success, we carried on the influencer program to continue growing Travel Wisconsin’s social presence. The campaign emphasizes that no matter your interests, anyone can find “Real Fun” in Wisconsin.
“Best in Show” wasn’t the only award we took home at the 2017 PRSA Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter Paragon Awards. We were awarded three Awards of Distinction for our work on Travel Wisconsin’s Supper Club Showdown, U.S. Cellular and Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.’s New Stage Announcement press conference and Travel Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Weekend in Chicago. We also won two Awards of Excellence for our work on Travel Wisconsin’s National Travel and Tourism Week campaign and Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association’s Promoting Wisconsin’s State Fruit.

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