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Waikato’s walking warriors win top PR campaign award

Friday, 16 October 2015

Waikato’s walking warriors win top PR campaign award

A team of University of Waikato students who inspired 230 strangers to get more physically active and walk nearly 10 million steps in five days has won the 14th Chesterman Group Public Relations Campaign Award 2015 on behalf of their client, Sport Waikato.

Four finalist teams presented the results of their PR campaigns at a showcase awards evening held at the University’s Waikato Management School on 15 October.

The Walk About NZ team blew the judges away with the success of their campaign - targeting sedentary office workers in Hamilton – which used the spirit of friendly competition to encourage 27 workplaces to collectively walk 9,850,951 steps – that’s about 7,463km, or 4.6 times the length of New Zealand.

“We’ve heard so many success stories from Walk About 2015,” says team member Marissa Holder. “We couldn’t believe how energised people were about it; 98% of participants told us they want to keep walking as a result of the campaign, and they lost weight as well!”

Appealing to people’s competitive instincts, the 230 registered participants were asked to upload their pedometer steps to the Walk About NZ website every day during ‘Walking Week’, from 21 to 25 September, and go head-to-head with other workplaces to claim top spot on the leader board. The key message for the campaign was ‘Stop scrolling, start strolling’, to encourage people to step away from their computer and go for a healthy walk.

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The team’s research revealed walking is the country’s most popular form of exercise across all ages and ethnicities – it’s good for weight loss, improved circulation and muscle tone, joint support, and a better night’s sleep.

What made the campaign so clever is that it was highly engaging and very low-cost – participants could download a free pedometer app to their smartphone, or buy one for as little as $3.

The Chesterman Group Public Relations Campaign competition, held every year since 2001, marks the climax of the third-year public relations paper MCOM333. It gives students an opportunity to put their knowledge of PR strategies and tactics into practice by working for a real client in a real-world situation.

MCOM333 was a really cool paper to be a part of, says Marissa Holder. “It takes you far beyond what you’d normally expect to learn in a classroom; being able to plan and execute a campaign from start to finish is one of the best ways to learn, and seeing the positive effects you’ve had on people in their everyday lives is so rewarding.”

Sport Waikato project manager Stephanie McLennan says they jumped at the chance to get involved when approached by Waikato Management School public relations lecturer Ben Worth. “Every single aspect of what the students have done during their campaigns has just been outstanding; they’ve demonstrated doggedness, determination and enthusiasm,” says Stephanie. “Sport Waikato will certainly be looking to utilise some of what their campaigns have started on for our activities in the future.”

This year’s judging panel included Hamilton’s deputy mayor and public relations guru Gordon Chesterman; the president of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand, Bruce Fraser; University of Waikato senior lecturer in management communication Dr Michele Schoenberger-Orgad, and University of Waikato marketing tutor Cory Tutahi, a past winner of the PR Campaign Award 2014.

Public relations lecturer Ben Worth says it was the most impressive line-up of campaigns the judges have ever seen in 14 years, and the results were very close. All four campaigns achieved their goal of encouraging people to become more physically active in everyday life and help fight New Zealand’s obesity epidemic.

The other three campaigns were Not Your Usual, targeting older people over 65 years; Hardout for Hauora, aimed at Maori communities; and Generation Active, who focused on children at primary schools in Hamilton.

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