The AVMA was awarded the PR News Nonprofit PR Award for its 2006 AVMA Annual Convention marketing campaign. The Association tied with the U.S. Postal Service in the Event & Tradeshow PR category.
The AVMA also earned honorable mention in the Member Communications category for AVMA News Bytes, a compilation of articles taken from a number of sources and e-mailed daily to those who serve on AVMA entities.
The two awards mark the second and third time this year the AVMA was recognized by PR News, a weekly publication for public relations professionals. In October, the AVMA received a Platinum PR Award for its public relations campaign following Hurricane Katrina (see JAVMA, Dec. 1, 2006, page 1708).
"We are honored to have been chosen for this award," said David Little, director of the AVMA Convention and Meeting Planning Division. "Receiving recognition for the 2006 AVMA Annual Convention promotional program is the culmination of many hours of tireless work by AVMA staff, including our marketing, graphics, and publications divisions, as well as the convention division. It truly was a team effort."
When the AVMA began to prepare for the 2006 convention, the Association set a goal of increasing member and exhibitor attendance, including attracting an increased number of attendees from Pacific Rim countries.
Tackling this objective came with a number of obstacles. For one, while Honolulu serves as a premier vacation destination, the AVMA found that its members perceived Hawaii to be an extremely expensive business trip. To dispel the myth that the venue was not affordable, the AVMA provided price comparisons between hotel rooms in Honolulu and hotel rooms in previous AVMA convention destinations that proved Honolulu was not as expensive as members initially thought.
Another obstacle was the increasing competitiveness within the veterinary profession's continuing education market. To attract as many veterinarians as possible to attend the AVMA convention, the Association worked hard to set its event apart from other meetings. To do so, all marketing material referred to Hawaii as a vacation destination and reiterated the more than 1,000 hours of continuing education that would be available.
To ease members' worries that there would not be enough time to enjoy the paradise-like surroundings, the AVMA revised the continuing education schedule so that sessions ended at 3 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. Also, the Association promoted a relaxed and informal atmosphere by providing staff members with custom-made Hawaiian shirts to wear during the convention. The shirts were popular, and many attendees bought them to take home.
In an effort to attract more international attendees, the AVMA capitalized on the contacts and tireless efforts of Dr. Allen Y. Miyahara, AVMA ambassador for Pacific Rim development. Dr. Miyahara personally invited many veterinarians and veterinary organizations from the Pacific Rim to attend the 2006 AVMA Annual Convention.
The Association also sent direct mail pieces to Pacific Rim veterinarians and established a relationship with an international veterinary online newsletter and search engine.
In the end, the AVMA reached its goal. The convention attracted a record-breaking 10,291 registrants, a 17.6 percent increase from the previous year. Of that total, there were more than 500 foreign attendees.
"It was understood that we would have to do something unique to motivate our members to commit to attend the meeting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," Little said. "I believe the record number of attendees in 2006, along with being presented this award, indicates that our work hit the nail on the head."