2 women and man speaking to each other

What You’ll Learn

Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative hosted an Xbox Tournament to allow gamers to experience what gig broadband service can accomplish for them. With big prizes and lots of competition, the event was a massive success.

Guest Speaker

Lisa Fannin

Show Notes

Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.


Andy Johns: Hello, StoryConnect listeners. This is Andy Johns, your host. We recorded three episodes live at our StoryConnect Conference. And unfortunately, due to some levels being up too high on some pieces of equipment along the line, the audio quality is not as good as what we normally work hard to make sure that you get when you’re listening to episodes of StoryConnect. We felt like the content was important enough where we wanted to go ahead and share these episodes. We’ve worked hard to make them listenable, but did want to let you know and apologize that the quality is not what you’re used to. But I’m glad that you are listening. Thanks for understanding and keep telling your story.

Intro: A production of WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. StoryConnect: The Podcast, helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.

Andy Johns: How is one telephone cooperative in East Kentucky, reaching out to gamers in new ways? That’s what we’re going to be talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host with WordSouth and Pioneer. I am joined today by Lisa Fannin, who is director of marketing for Kentucky’s Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative. Lisa, thanks for being here.

Lisa Fannin: Thank you for inviting me.

Andy Johns: This is another one of the three episodes we are recording live in front of a real studio audience here at StoryConnect. Lisa, I’m excited to get into this topic. This is a cool thing. Shane had mentioned to me at the RTIME conference maybe two weeks ago. Tell me a little bit about what you guys did to kind of sum up the event for the video game tournament you guys put on.

Lisa Fannin: Okay. We started this probably the topic got brought up probably back in November. [We] kind of tossed it around, didn’t really get in to crunch time with the planning until January. But we wanted to reach our younger generation. Also, we wanted to showcase our gig service. So we had Shane, who is an avid gamer.

Andy Johns: I didn’t know that.

Lisa Fannin: Yes. Yes, he is.

Andy Johns: Anybody else have a CEO who’s a gamer? That’s interesting. A couple, cool.

Lisa Fannin: And we also had quite a few of our employees that were, too. So word got around the office, and we started making plans. We decided that we would have a registration. Let people register that wanted to play. We wanted to select 32 contestants for bracket purposes. So we ended up with those with no problem. We ended up with being able to choose or select those 32 contestants. And we had a great time. Our grand prize was a 65 inch gaming quality TV and an Xbox X. 

Andy Johns: Oh, even better.

Lisa Fannin: We also gave second, third and fourth prizes, which was Xbox S. 

Andy Johns: OK, so I’m sure with those kind of prizes, there were a lot of folks that wanted to give it a try. So what was the goal? What were you after to do something with this? Because I’m sure it took a lot of work. You wanted to be sure it was worth while.

Lisa Fannin: It did take a lot of work from a lot of people. Everybody was involved. Once again, we wanted the younger generation, we wanted to showcase that gig service and let them understand, you know, what that meant. Which I know they know what that meant. If you’re a gamer for years, I’ve heard ping time means absolutely nothing to me. But that’s okay. We wanted them to understand that we can serve them. We can serve their needs, and we also want it to be able to engage with that crowd because that’s our future. That’s our generation coming up, and we wanted them, you know, to just engage with them.

Andy Johns: So talk us through how it worked. What game did y’all play? Where were they doing it? What are all the nitty gritty details?

Lisa Fannin: We had the perfect situation.

Andy Johns: That doesn’t always happen.

Lisa Fannin: No, it does not. This all fell into place. We ended up scheduling it February 11th, which was the Friday right before the Super Bowl. So we had an entire football weekend. Because of that, we chose Madden football. So that’s the game we chose.

Andy Johns: Any Madden players out there? Maybe a few. Yeah, some nodding. Yep.

Lisa Fannin: Anybody that was a football participant or whatever. I mean, they had just a full, full weekend of football. We had, out of that group, I mean, of the registration, we had 185 people that registered to play.

Andy Johns: Wow.

Lisa Fannin: And we ended up with no problem getting our 32 participants. We had four separate stations. We had Xbox S’s. We wanted everyone to have a level playing field. So we purchased Xbox S’s for all of those. We had eight of those. We had eight new 32-inch color TVs for them to play on, which we also used as giveaways.

Andy Johns: Nice. And where was it? Was it in office or… 

Lisa Fannin: It was in our office. We have a training room that holds 280+ capacity, so that allowed us to have plenty of separation due to social distancing. Again, those four stations that they played at were separated. Good for social distancing. We also had chairs set up. I also need to mention to we drew the 32 contestants, but we also drew ten alternates because, you know, some people are not going to show up. And we wanted those people to be able to come and watch, too.

Andy Johns: Sure. And then they’re at the office. That’s where you were able to show them the connectivity because you had the systems.

Lisa Fannin: Yes. Everyone played on a gig so that allowed each station had a gig service going to them.

Andy Johns: So this is a demographic that’s kind of notoriously tough to reach. How did you get the word out to get these folks to get that kind of response?

Lisa Fannin: Well, we didn’t use the newspaper for this group.

Andy Johns: Fair enough.

Lisa Fannin: We went with Facebook. We went with social media, which in our case is Facebook. We also did mass emailing. With Facebook, we found a program that’s called Woobox. And Woobox — I had not heard of Woobox until we started this — allows you to go in and create an application that you could fill out, your form. You also through Woobox can use some of that. It has a limited amount of data collection that you can get from that also. So that was a good thing. But the main purpose, how we actually found out about Woobox, that was the way we could do our random drawing of our 32 contestants. You can draw through that. It’s really good if you need to have a drawing. Now, with our mass emailing, we wanted to send email to our highest users of bandwidth. So we use Calix, and we have a Calix marketing cloud. So through that we will be able to determine, we found the criteria that labeled certain customers as high users, which could possibly be gamers. And we did a mass emailing to those people. So that’s the way we got our participants.

Andy Johns: Yeah. Nice way to find the segment. That’s perfect. So then it happens. Did they let Shane win, or did somebody else win the tournament?

Lisa Fannin: Listen, I got there at 7:30 one morning, and Shane was sitting there with bloodshot eyes. I think he got there at 6:00 just so he could play. He was so excited because all that was already in our training room set up.

Andy Johns: Excellent. I imagine that as soon as it was over, you guys had to take the Xboxes out of the break room there at the office. Probably a good idea. So how did it go? Were you pleased with the turnout?

Lisa Fannin: We were. They were were so pleased, you know, that we had that many. I mean, 185 people, is probably not that many to some companies. But we had advertised that for two weeks. We went with the idea of not advertising it too far in advance because people would forget. I will mention one thing. You would not believe the number of people, and I know you all probably never have this happen with the advertisement that went out, the number of people that when we called them and said, “Hey, guess what? You’re going to get to play a Madden Bowl.” “A what? Oh, I just put my name in a drawing to win a TV.” Had no clue whatsoever, none whatsoever that they had signed up to play Madden Bowl.

Andy Johns: Those are the ones that Shane wanted to come so he could beat them when he was playing. Whatever the opposite of a ringer is, that was them.

Lisa Fannin: But overall, we were all really happy with the turnout. I, in particular, you know, like, it made me realize exactly where marketing is going. The need for broadband, gig service, the people that we need to reach and the reasons for that. It was very eye opening for me. It was a success.

Andy Johns: Yeah, that ties in real nicely to what Mr. Hall was talking about yesterday with the experiential marketing and being able to test it out so well. Last question I had for you. What advice, if there’s somebody in the room that says, you know, we’ve got gamers, we need to reach them, too? What advice would you have for them if they’re thinking about something similar or looking for another way to reach gamers?

Lisa Fannin: Start as early as you can. We didn’t really feel like, I mean, starting in like I said, the idea was tossed around probably in November. A lot of people were working hard starting in January. But the earlier naturally that you start, the better it’s going to be. Use your internal people, your employees that are gamers. You have a wealth of knowledge with those people as far as they can help you with brackets, general guidelines, rules. They can help you with the timing because you can select, you can choose how long you want your quarters to be when you play Madden Bowl. I mean, it’s just. Oh, and prepare to overspend. And the reason for that, this was this was our first event that we had had, like for the public, probably since COVID. We had a drive-through annual meeting, but this was the actual first in-house event that we’d had. So we were doing as much PR as anything. And a lot of those gifts — like that I said, you know, the Xboxes we gave for prizes, the TVs, we used them back in our CO. I mean, it wasn’t money that was actually just thrown away to say, but yeah, you have to get ready for it because you can’t just have them come in there and play on anything. You want everybody to have an equal experience. And if you’re going to showcase your product gig, I mean, you want them to see what they can actually get.

Andy Johns: Absolutely. Well, that sounds like good advice. And hopefully we’ll see by next year, there’ll be a couple of other folks out there who are trying game tournaments as well. She is Lisa Fannin. She is the director of marketing with Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative. I’m your host, Andy Johns. They are the wonderful audience here at StoryConnect.

Lisa Fannin: Thank you.

Andy Johns: And until we talk again, keep telling your story.

Outro: StoryConnect is produced by WordSouth and Pioneer Utility Resources. Both companies are built to share your story. Our associate producer is Sarah Wootten. StoryConnect is engineered by Lucas Smith of Lucky Sound Studio.