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Case study: What's involved in running a successful event like the Department of Education RBF Awards?

What are the Department of Education RBF Awards?

The Department of Education RBF Awards (RBF Awards) recognise the work of public educators, volunteers and staff; and formally acknowledge the dedication and commitment of individuals and teams who have demonstrated outstanding excellence, innovation and talent.

The motto of this year’s awards was ‘Together we Inspire’, reflecting the Department’s aim of building a culture of collaboration that encourages the celebration of success and learnings of others.

The RBF Awards also draw attention to the many education roles that support learners within schools and communities.

Each year, we do a lot of work to raise the profile of the Awards within school communities and throughout the wider Tasmanian community. This pays off – the 2016 Awards again saw a record number of nominations received – more than 150!

Through a rigorous judging process, nominations were short-listed to 41 exceptional finalists across 14 categories.

More than 270 people attended the Awards event at Wrest Point on Friday 28 October. This included the finalists, nominators and their guests; along with senior Departmental staff, the Minister for Education, Award sponsors and key education stakeholders.

How were the Awards promoted?

Over a seven month period, information about the RBF Awards was widely communicated to parents; the Department’s more than 9,500 staff including teachers, principals, school and non-school staff; and to the wider Tasmanian community.

This included information about how to nominate; announcing finalists; and announcing winners. Channels we used included:

  • the Department’s website and social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube);
  • Departmental notices and the Intranet;
  • hardcopy program booklets of the Award finalists;
  • banners; and
  • video and multi-media presentations on the Awards night.

 

A number of articles also appeared in the Mercury, The Examiner and The Advocate newspapers in the lead-up to the awards night that highlighted specific RBF Award finalists and their achievements.

Additionally, the Department negotiated with the Mercury newspaper for a two-page spread on the RBF Awards in the Saturday newspaper (circulation 50,000 copies) immediately following the Awards night. The Examiner and The Advocate also included articles about the Award winners.

We received well over 140,000 views in total on the Department of Education social media posts about the Awards (this was up from 74,600 views in 2015).

These stats don’t include school Facebook pages, which also posted about the Awards and collectively have an average of one million views per month.!

Some of the key elements needed to plan a successful event like the Awards are…

  1. A detailed project plan that identifies key milestones, actions, deadlines and who is responsible for the actions.
  2. A high level of communication between project team members and the Award’s target audiences.  For example, communications (including emails and social media posts) were sent around the key milestone dates to generate anticipation and excitement in the lead up to the event.
  3. Videos of each finalist set the Awards apart from other staff recognition programs. Ccapturing staff in their work environments interacting with colleagues and students created some lovely stories and captured genuine, emotive footage of the finalists. This really added to the overall Awards experience.

What are some of the major challenges you faced planning/implementing the Awards Program?

The Awards project team is made up of two part-time employees who also use the skills of the Department’s in-house graphic designers. The project team coordinates, manages and delivers the Awards Program, including event management of the Awards ceremony.

The biggest challenge is managing the volume of work the Awards program generates over the key milestone periods, while at the same time, managing workloads of our usual roles within the Strategic Marketing, Communications and Media Team. Whilst it is challenging, managing the RBF Awards Program is also incredibly rewarding as we get the opportunity to meet the talented people working in our agency, and see all the planning come together on the Awards night.

More specifically, some of the challenges include:

  • Developing new and engaging event branding and creating design files for various uses across different mediums (print, online, social media).
  • Securing judging panel membership and scheduling short-listing meetings.
  • Vetting, authorising, and collating nominations (across 14 categories) ready for judging panels.
  • Co-ordinating and managing the filming schedule with our external film makers – each of the 41 finalists is filmed and photographed in their work environment to create a 60 second video showcasing their work (filming takes 1.5 hours per session). Our finalists were located all over the State, making it a logistical nightmare at times!

We were able to complete filming of all 41 finalists within a 2.5 week period, which was a tremendous effort! After subsequent rounds of editing, the end result was a collection of videos that capture the amazing things DoE staff and volunteers contribute to the education system every day.  Each finalist video is played at the Awards ceremony and made available to view on the Department’s YouTube channel.

How did you secure sponsors for the Awards?

The Department is fortunate to enjoy a long-standing relationship with the Retirement Benefits Fund (RBF), who have been naming-rights sponsor of the awards since the inaugural event, in 2012.

Teachers Health Fund and Wrest Point Tasmania have partnered the event since 2014 (providing $10,000) and 2015 (providing $4,000) respectively; with Telstra joining as a sponsor for the first time in 2016 (providing $5,000).

The Awards project team develops detailed sponsorship packages, and approaches are made based either on previous working relationships with organisations, or recommendations from staff.

The philosophy around selecting sponsors includes not only the desire to run a cost-neutral event, but also to showcase organisations who have an interest and a stakeholder role within the broader education sector. For example, Telstra has been working with the Department recently and, more specifically, produced a video showcasing the use of IT and innovation in a government school (Taroona High).  Our pitch to Telstra was to sponsor the Award category Outstanding Use of Innovation and Technology, which seemed like a natural fit.

How do you evaluate the success of the Awards?

The continual increase in awareness and prestige of the Awards since the inaugural event in 2012 is a testament to its success.

The number of nominations received continues to increase each year. This shows that the Department and community recognise the value and importance of having the opportunity to acknowledge our exceptional staff and volunteers, and see the benefit of doing this by nominating colleagues/teachers/managers for an Award.

For the past two years, additional tickets have been made available for purchase (at a small cost) so staff who are not involved in the Awards program can attend and witness the outstanding achievements of the finalists.  Interest in attending continues to grow to a point where we are out-growing our current venue.

The reactions from the finalists and audience when the videos were played at the ceremony was further proof that the work gone into creating them was well worth it. To see such positive responses really enriched the experience for everyone involved and further confirmed the value in acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of others.

Two sponsors have already indicated their desire to partner with the Awards again in 2017!

As part of our internal evaluation, the Strategic Marketing, Communications and Media Team undertake post Award de-briefing sessions to talk about successes and options for the future. The project team also prepare a ‘wrap-up’ brief for the DoE Executive.

For more information, visit the Awards page