Pinterest State of Maryland Pitch Contest: Interview With Zoe Pagonis

06/18/2012

Maryland contest bannerSometimes we find innovation and inspiration in what may seem unlikely places.

Who would have thought that one of the most creative Pinterest contests would be developed by an institution not necessarily thought of as taking a lead in social media .. and definitely not on Pinterest. The U.S. Government. I know!

Toss of a pink boa to the State of Maryland, and specifcally to Governor Martin O'Malley and his communication staff! 

The Pinterest State of Maryland Pitch Contest asked entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses by using Pinterest to tell the story of their company.  A panel of business experts chose winners in two different categories: “Student Entrepreneurs” and “Boot Strappers. First place winners received MacBook Air and runner ups received an iPad courtesy of Baltimore Angels.  Partnership included: University of Maryland College Park, the Future of Information Alliance, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Baltimore Angels.

 ZoeZoe Pagois graciously agreed to tell us the back-story.

About Zoe Pagonis - My name is Zoe Pagonis. I am Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s Communications and New Media Manager and am responsible for making sure that we are taking advantage of every possible tool to best communicate with our citizens.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  What I’m most curious about is the why the State of Maryland chose to create a Pinterest Pitch Contest to bring attention to the small business owners of the state. Note: Submission boards.

Zoe Pagonis: Governor O’Malley’s number one priority is creating and saving jobs and as an administration, we’re constantly looking for ways to showcase our small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship. As one of the fastest growing social networks, Pinterest seemed like a natural fit for bringing attention to our small businesses and showcasing all that the State of Maryland has to offer.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Pinterest and contests go together like PB&J. However, your approach was not only unique but it supported what social media, on any platform, is all about: telling the stories of the people who make up the brand .. both customers and employees.  Please tell us your behind the scene story of how the concept evolved.

Zoe Pagonis: Our office is always looking for new and innovative ways to connect with our citizens so as Pinterest grew in popularity, we created an account and used it to showcase what we’re doing in State Government (and also give people a behind the scenes look at who the Governor is as a person—he’s an avid reader!) In our State, we’re also blessed with an abundance of incubators and diverse centers of higher learning.

A few months ago, the Governor was scheduled to attend the University of Maryland College Park’s entrepreneurial Invitational and Cupid’s Cup Competition. In pulling together information about the event, we came across “Tweet Dingman” which was a unique competition that asked entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses using 10 Tweets.  This contest sparked the idea to use Pinterest.

The rest was a great collaborative effort and an eye-opening experience of just how many people in the State of Maryland are willing to lend a hand in support of local entrepreneurship.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  What were your goals for the contest?

Zoe Pagonis: The main goal of the contest was to highlight entrepreneurship in Maryland by using an innovative new technology. We also wanted to showcase our partner organizations and support entrepreneurs by connecting them to these great networks.  

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Were the results what you had expected?  

Zoe Pagonis: The results were better than I had expected. We had submissions from people all over Maryland of all ages. We even had three that came from students under the age of 13. I was also very impressed by the collaborative efforts of the judges and how willing everyone was to help with the contest in the name of supporting Maryland entrepreneurs.

Diva Marketing/Toby: I loved reading the “stories” from the businesses. The creativity that went into their boards was amazing. What surprised you about the submissions?

Zoe Pagonis: I was surprised most by how many talented individuals we have in the State of Maryland and equally delighted to see the three entries from the young students.

Diva Marketing/Toby:  Pinterest provides interesting consumer insights. Are you doing any type of analysis to mine that data?

Zoe Pagonis: We are still very new to Pinterest and are exploring all of the ways we can use it as a tool to connect with more Marylanders. As with all of our new media accounts, we monitor the feedback and use it to guide our decision making.

Diva Marketing/Toby: With any social network initiative there are risks associated with active participating especially from the point of view of a government entity.  Did you get push back? What was the reaction from the lawyers?

Zoe Pagonis: One of the criteria of the contest was that the pictures be unique to the individual or that they use proper attributions.  We consulted with experts in the business community on the guidelines of the contest before moving forward.

Diva Marketing/Toby: It seemed to me that when the contest launched, the State of Maryland’s Pinterest page was fairly new. How did you create awareness with your target audience?

Zoe Pagonis: We relied heavily on our partners and existing social channels to spread the word about the contest. Governor O’Malley also announced the contest at the University of Maryland’s Entrepreneurial invitational event which helped to generate buzz.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Thinking about the entire campaign, what would you do differently?

Zoe Pagonis: We had help from a few partner organizations but in the future, I would reach out to every business incubator in Maryland and associated organizations for help in promoting the contest.

Diva Marketing/Toby: Let’s shift gears slightly and talk a little about your boards in general. There is even a board for Govenor O'Malley. Wondering what benefits he sees in social visual communication over other channels of communication?

Zoe Pagonis: All forms of communications are important and we’re always looking for the most effective ways to connect with citizens and share resources.

Diva Marketing/Toby: In terms of content, are you pinning from only Maryland State owned images or are planning to include citizen images too?

Zoe Pagonis: At the moment, we are posting images and videos about our programs and resources but we are exploring all options–including citizen generated content.

Diva Marketing/Toby: One of the big questions that I’m asked is how do you find time to include another social network into your communication outreach? Would you give us an idea of the resource structure (people) and approximate time you’re investing?

Zoe Pagonis: Social media is highly integrated into our overall communications strategy and we see it as a great way to amplify our existing message. As the number of networks expands, it does become more difficult to keep up with everything but we focus our attention on the resources that we think will help us do the best job in communicating with Marylanders. As the fastest growing network that was driving a significant amount of referral traffic, we knew that we wanted to be on Pinterest.

Diva Marketing/Toby: What lessons learned can you share with us from your overall experience with Pinterest from both the contest and the overall board management?

Zoe Pagonis: Pinterest is great in that it doesn’t require as much time. You can update it less frequently and still achieve your objective of driving traffic to your resources. For the contest, it was a great platform for showcasing our small businesses. The images lended themselves well to telling a story and we’re going to continue to look for more opportunities to use the platform in the future.

Diva Marketing/Toby: To wrap this up what’s next for the State of Maryland Pinterest’s boards? Maryland contest gov omalley et al
 

Zoe Pagonis: In our Administration, what’s next is anything that’s innovative, cost-effective and works to amplify our existing resources. We see Pinterest as one of the many ways we’ll continue to connect and how we use it will depend on which of Maryland’s great entrepreneurs invent the next Facebook or Pinterest!

Congrats! to the winners of the Maryland Pinterest Pitch Contest. 

Student Entrepreneur Category:

First Place: GB Wallets

Second Place: Discrete Secrete Solutions

Bootstrapper Category:

First PlaceBeerGivr

Second Place: Mission Launch

Continue the conversation with Zoe!

Governor O'Mallye on Pinterest |Govenor O'Malley's Website|Zoe Pogonis on Twitter

Graphic credit: MD Govpics Flickr

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Pinterest Pinning For Business Learning Series 

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Comments

This is very inspiring. And it’s one more proof that people will join hands when they see something that is really worth doing. Kudos to Governor O’Malley of Maryland!

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Posted by: Dr. Vaughan Dabbs on Jun 28, 2012 1:14:50 PM

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Posted by: Shilpi Roy Virtual Assistant on Jul 16, 2012 1:30:52 AM

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