How Wisconsin Salt Wise Reached Thousands, Garnered National Attention, and Found "Saltimus Prime"
Wisconsin Salt Wise is a coalition of public and private organizations focused on tackling the problem of freshwater salinization. As a state synonymous with heavy snowfall and home to over 15,000 freshwater lakes, Wisconsin finds itself in a unique position. It’s a place where educating the public on how to use the right amount of salt to keep roadways and driveways clear can have an outsized environmental impact.
But, it’s a pretty dry topic (quite literally).
That’s why Wisconsin Salt Wise, along with the City of Madison Streets Department, devised an innovative naming contest that could break through and get people’s attention.
RankedVote spoke with Allison Madison, Program Manager at Wisconsin Salt Wise, about how the contest was developed and promoted.
During long, snowy Wisconsin winters, residents want clear roads. Road salt is a straightforward way to accelerate melting. But, it’s difficult for residents to think through how salting (or oversalting) their driveways in winter can impact the water they rely upon for the rest of the year. Over time, the salt finds its way into the ground and sewers and then to lakes and aquifers.
But, an interesting opportunity came up. The City Streets Department had just acquired four new machines (a brine truck and three plows) and figured a crowdsourced naming contest could be just the thing to break into the popular imagination.
For it to work, they needed a solution that could:
- Handle thousands of voters
- Be embedded on their website
- Allow for multiple categories in a single voting session without any friction
So, they turned to RankedVote to bring the naming contest to life while also building awareness of ranked-choice voting in Wisconsin’s capital.
The first step was gathering potential names. After putting out a press release about the contest, submissions streamed in from across the city. Nearly 1,200 unique names came in.
Having hundreds of names to choose from for each vehicle would be a bit overwhelming for voters, so the names were whittled down to a “top 15” for each vehicle that the public could vote upon.
Now that the names were ready, Wisconsin Salt Wise kicked off public voting by embedding the naming contest on its website and reminding the community through another press release.
RankedVote’s customizable color and call to action allowed Wisconsin Salt Wise to fit the contest cohesively into their website. Better yet, it kept these new visitors there where they could find out about relevant topics like Smart Salting.
Once on the site, Wisconsin Salt Wise wanted voting to be as low friction as possible across the four vehicles. Even asking for something as simple as an email address can cause drastic reductions in participation.
In other words, it’s a great way to keep things simple for voters while still generating results you can trust.
"The contest went smashingly well."Allison Madison, Program Manager, WI salt wise
Ultimately, over 3,800 people cast their votes. The ranked-choice eliminations made for some popcorn worthy moments as names jockeyed for the most support.
With RankedVote, Wisconsin Salt Wise and the City of Madison also ended up with...
It’s hard to argue against names like Saltimus Prime, Snowbi Wan Kenobi, Dolly Plowton, and Seymour Pavement. They’re incredible.
In addition to the sheer number of voters, the contest was featured in local newspapers, email newsletters, and television – making it hard to miss.
The final names were so compelling, the contest was so quirky, and the timing was so relevant that the contest broke out of its regional confines. FoxNews.com featured it in its lifestyle section.
Put out a Press Release
"We put out a local press release. The contest was picked up by every local TV station and newspaper. An online editor at FoxNews.com caught wind of it a few days later. The additional awareness was great."
— Allison Madison, Program Manager, Wisconsin Salt Wise