2020 Home Builders Association Parade of Homes: The Launch of a Successful Virtual Event
2020 posed to be a challenging year for every industry hoping to host an in-person event. Nearly everything was either cancelled or forced to adjust to a virtual method, which wasn’t always ideal. For the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Harrisburg, the annual Parade of Homes event made the decision to host its event, but rather than allowing for in-person home tours, all tours would be produced as videos and made available online for safe and convenient viewing from home.
Just as it did the two previous years, Mid-Atlantic Media Hub partnered with Bennis Public Relations to handle the advertising, public relations, marketing, and promotions of the event. 2020 also increased this partnership with the HBA to include sponsorship sales and website/project management. These two additional pieces were large undertakings, but necessary for keeping all parts of the event progressing smoothly.
Challenges to Overcome
The Parade of Homes website was not designed to support video tours, so we had to quickly assess the existing site and find solutions for hosting virtual tours, while also providing our sponsors with recognition that could be sold as sponsor benefits. Additionally, because of the decision to move to a virtual format, the planning process got started significantly later than in past years. It required a great deal of hustle for two months to accomplish everything in a very short amount of time – securing participants and sponsors, updating the website, building the social media strategy, and implementing the advertising and public relations plan.
And the biggest challenge overall was a significantly reduced promotional budget. The organization was unsure as to what type of funds it would be ablet or raise from participants and sponsors given the new format, so it proceeded conservatively which meant slashing the normal budget. This required us to really lean out our strategy and pull back on some media placement and tactics we hoped wouldn’t negatively impact the promotion of the parade.
The New Strategy
Through collaboration, connections, and synergy, Mid-Atlantic Media Hub and Bennis Public Relations were able to assemble an efficient and effective promotional plan for the 2020 Parade of Homes that would increase sponsorships, grow participation, bring added value to the event, and effective promote it on all media channels including radio, TV, out of home, digital, print, social media, and more. Keep reading for what we implemented for the 2020 Parade of Homes and the successful outcomes.
Implementation & Successes
Press releases were issued to 126 media contacts in the HLLY media market. This resulted in earned media pick-up and some highlights are as follows. The Parade of Homes was featured on ABC27’s Good Day PA in three separate segments. Six participant homes were featured on Penn Live’s “Cool Spaces” and the HBA, Musser Homes, and Biltbold were interviewed on Garden Talk Radio with Bob Carey on WIOO.
- Penn Live: 6 of the best new homes built in the Harrisburg region from 2019 Parade of Homes: Cool Spaces
- Members 1st invites you to experience a virtual Parade of Homes
- Parade of Homes invites you to experience the virtual possibilities
- Parade of Home announces ‘People’s Choice Awards’ winners
A robust social media campaign ran up to and through the PA Parade of Homes. Beginning in mid-September, fresh social media content went out almost daily on the HBA’s Facebook page, featuring every participant and every sponsor at least once. Below are some highlights of the reach and engagements of these posts and paid ads.
- Parade of Homes posts reached nearly 10,000 people in our target market
- 2,400 people engaged with posts by liking, sharing, or commenting
- Nearly 500 people clicked on the link to the Parade of Homes website from the Facebook page
- Thanks to the Parade of Homes social media content and promotions the HBA’s Facebook page’s likes were up 50%, page views were up 62%, video views were up 94%, page followers went up by 50%, and post engagement went up by 103%
This year’s sponsorship goal was set at $25,000 ($10,000 higher than last year) and was far exceed – over double the goal. Landing in at $54,000 plus 6 additional in-kind sponsorship prizes for the People’s Choice Awards, the sponsorships alone greatly helped to make this year’s Parade a financial success for the HBA. Here are some sponsor highlights, all sponsors and their logos are recognized on the website.
- Members 1st was secured as the new title sponsor for 2020, and providing more than just monetary contribution they were a great partner in using their paid advertising and marketing channels to further promote the Parade.
- UGI Utilities engaged with the Parade of Homes at a record-high this year and is likely on board as our 2021 title sponsor.
- Many new sponsors stepped up to the plate at various levels from $500 to $5,000 dollars. These are sponsors we feel we can retain year-over-year, especially since we created additional sponsorship levels that are accessible for businesses of all sizes and budgets.
Our paid advertising strategy was lean and efficient this year. We had a reduced budget, but used every dollar wisely and included as much added value from the media as possible thanks to connections and relationships. Below is a high-level overall of paid advertising that was placed leading up to and throughout the Parade.
- 10 Digital billboards throughout Greater Harrisburg area
- 150+ radio ads/mentions on WINK 104, WRVV & WITF
- 2 Live segments on Good Day PA on ABC 27
- TV ads in News programming on ABC 27 & CBS 21
- Over 300,000 digital impressions on Pennlive.com & the Google Display Network
- com homepage takeovers 10/10-10/12
- Front Page note on Patriot News 10/11
The new PA Parade of Homes website is just two years old and this year had to again change to accommodate the virtual nature of the Parade. With great effort and teamwork, we were able to have the website function as it needed to in order to make the virtual tours available for viewing in just a few short week’s time. Additionally, we grew SEO and received impressive website hits during the parade. Here are some highlights.
- Total number of website hits from September 15, 2020 to present – 54,102
- Date with the highest website hits – Saturday, October 10th-8,976 pageviews
- Followed by 10/11- 7,137, 10/12-6,011
- Activity leveled out over the remainder of the Parade with average 1,600 views per day. 41,303 pageviews total during Parade promotion.
- The virtual Parade of Homes was viewed by 2,630 unique visitors
- Visitors viewed an average of 11.5 pages per visit
- The average session duration was over 6 minutes
- Bounce rate was less than 1%!!
YouTube Video Views
A new YouTube channel was created for the HBA for the purpose of housing any virtual tours in this file format (not Matterport). It’s important to note just 5 of the 31 entries were hosted on the YouTube channel. Still, videos collectively received 1,110 views during the Parade of Homes! Additionally, the channel has gained subscribers that will remain engaged with the HBA’s YouTube channel well after the conclusion of the parade. All videos on this channel will remain active and can be viewed throughout the year. Year after year, we can grow the HBA’s YouTube channel by hosting virtual tours and more on the account. This is just one more valuable way to grow the reach of the HBA.
People’s Choice Awards Sponsored by UGI
The People’s Choice Awards, sponsored by UGI, replaced the traditional judging as in year’s past. Compared to last year’s People Choice Awards, this year’s voting form included substantially more voting categories to account for the various features of a home or project and the differing natures of our participants. Here are some highlights from the award:
- More than 100+ unique votes cast, with only one vote per individual
- Roughly 15% of those voters asked to be contacted by one or more of our participants and those business owners have been notified
- We obtained useful data from voters about how and why they are engaging with the Parade of Homes and inspiration for continual improvement
- We gave out 5 fantastic prize packages to 5 lucky voters thanks to our generous sponsors including: Classic Rock Fabrication, L.H. Brubaker, R.F. Fager, Seifert Woodcrafts, Ephrata National Bank, Sharon Brill of David’s Furniture, and the HBA’s Membership Committee
A Plan for the Future
Having put a great deal of effort forth in 2020 to establish a virtual Parade of Homes event, we now have the virtual platform we can reuse year after year. The organization was so pleased with the results, especially in a year of so many unknowns, that they are excited to continue to have a hybrid Parade of Homes model in the future which includes in-person tours as well as virtual tours. This will allow even more builders to participate and people to tour more homes without being limited by the ability to visit each one in person. While 2020 served up many challenges, the end result was an immensely successful event– based on both finances and attendance – that was a model for other cities and states who also produce a similar Parade of Homes event. The advancements we made and relationships we forged served us well in 2020 and will do so for many more years to come.