case study

Promoting the Winners of the Prestigious Heinz Awards


The Challenge 

For more than 25 years, the Heinz Family Foundation has celebrated the accomplishments of individuals in areas of great importance to the late Senator John Heinz through its Heinz Awards program, which includes an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000 for winners. In 2021, the Heinz Awards recognized seven Americans for outstanding contributions in the categories of the Arts, the Economy and the Environment. Burness led the 2021 announcement of the Heinz Awards winners with the goal of raising awareness of the awards program and achievements of the winners among leading organizations and individuals in their fields of work.  

Our Approach 

Our plan for promotion was built around an integrated communications and marketing rollout, which involved traditional media outreach, virtual events, and both organic and paid ad social media campaigns. For media outreach, we targeted top-tier national reporters who covered the arts, economic/labor/business beats and environment; trade outlets; and local outlets in the hometowns of the awardees. Our pitches leveraged the Heinz Award as a timely hook to dive into the winners’ backgrounds, inspirations and successes with the goal of securing more feature-style pieces.  

We organized virtual events over Zoom to provide an opportunity for the winners to share more about themselves and their work directly with an audience of interested, engaged individuals, including their peers and partners, thought leaders and supporters. The events typically had a host who opened the event and a separate moderator who managed the conversation and questions from attendees. From audience list building, invite development and technology/logistics management to drafting of remarks and run-of-show, Burness handled all aspects of planning to help ensure the events were well-organized and well-attended.  

The organic social media campaign ran on Twitter and Facebook and featured graphic cards with text, images and quotes from the winners. The paid ad campaign, which ran on Facebook, mirrored our approach with traditional media outreach. We built lists of individuals and organizations with profiles and interests connected to the work of the winners as they would be most likely to appreciate and engage with the content. The ads we showcased featured video snippets sharing compelling remarks about their work because video tended to perform better on Facebook than other content styles.  


Our integrated approach to promotion produced results across all venues and mediums. Our push for feature-style pieces with reporters/outlets that aligned with the Heinz Awards categories and hometowns of the winners garnered coverage in more than 20 outlets, including NPR, Artnews, Morning Ag, No-Till Farmer, Mississippi Free Press and Credit Union Today.  

All of the virtual events showcased lively conversations with the winners, were well-attended with audience numbers that ranged from 50 to nearly 200, and included well-known, influential leaders in the respective fields of the winners, such as attendees from U.S. Senate offices and federal agencies, world-renowned art institutions, and global foundations and nonprofits. 

The organic and paid ad social media campaigns drove more than 16,000 visitors to its website over the course of about a two-month period. The ads, which ran over about a two-week period, generated 16,727 link clicks, and were shown across screens 827,518 times. The ads were also able to surpass all Facebook’s industry benchmarks with a high click-through rate of 2.02% (compared to the average of 0.90%) and a low cost per click of $0.30 (much lower than Facebook’s average of $1.72). 

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