How to Win Online Voting Contests

24 May
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With the next round of Pillsbury Bake-Off voting around the corner, CCC member Kim Van Dunk offered to share some of her tips for success with online voting.  Her tips can help anyone get votes without compromising their integrity or sanity!

PilsburyMy Pillsbury Semi-Finalist Experience by Kim Van Dunk

If you’re anything like me, the thought of voting contests makes my shoulders slump, my upper lip sneer, and my insides groan.  I have decided to stay clear of the majority of contests with voting formats, preferring to win or lose on the merits of my food.

I was eagerly awaiting the call for recipes for the 46th Pillsbury Bakeoff.  Like many of you, the new format worried me.  I am social-media challenged and figured that there would little chance for me to advance under the new rules.  I’ve always wanted to experience all of the excitement that the Bakeoff has to offer.  It would truly be an honor and a once-in-a lifetime experience to be part of such an event.  I finally decided that I would enter one recipe, in one category, and, should I make the first cut, make one attempt to advance.

Amazingly, my recipe did make the first cut.  Quickly my attention turned to the marketing of my recipe.  As I mentioned before, I am not plugged into the world of social media.  Here is my pre-Pillsbury status: no Twitter account, no Pinterest account, two friends on Facebook, no blog, and not a YouTube user.  To boot, I live in a small town sized a tad over one square mile, with a population of under 8,000 people.  I do not work outside of the home either.  Putting all of that aside, I got to work!

Pillsbury was very clear about how you could and could not garner votes.  They supplied helpful ideas and avenues to which one could get their recipe out there for the masses to see.  Here is a list of some of the small-town, relatively low-tech strategies I used to market my recipe:

Make a flyer.:  This was the very first thing that I did.  I included a picture of my recipe, the recipe itself, a little blurb about who I was, the link to the voting page, and the dates of the voting period.  This little flyer would prove to be very helpful.  I highly recommend doing this.

Email: I did not want to harass my friends or relatives, but I knew that I would need their help in order to advance.  I sent out one email at the beginning of the voting period and then another two days before the voting ended.  I provided all of the necessary links.  I asked people to forward the email, post it on their social media accounts, and spread the word to their friends.  I also included an attachment with my flyer.

Facebook:  I knew that using Facebook would be something that I could do from the comfort of my own home.  It is a way to reach many people with your message.  I posted on the CCC page, on both of the Pillsbury pages (there’s one for refrigerated dough and one for other baking products), on the Green Giant page (they are a sponsor and I used their product), and on the pages of various supermarkets (even posting on pages for grocery chains across the country…not just my area).  I then sought out pages where other foodies would visit:  Taste of Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, The Chew, and The Food Network.   Thinking that my recipe may appeal to children, I posted on the Family Fun, Family Circle, and Woman’s Day pages.  I finally posted on a few local restaurant sites.  I posted on each page 2-3 times over the two week voting period.

Visit your local grocery store:  I went to my local grocery store and spoke to the manager.  I told him what I was doing, being sure to point out that his store would receive some publicity should I move on to the finals.  He allowed me to post my recipe in the store (again using the flyers) and he also allowed me to hand out information in the store, directly to the customers.

Local media: Our town, like many others, has a small on-line website dedicated to local stories.  I contacted the editor who was more than happy to come over and interview me.  This lady was awesome!  She posted three articles over the two week period.  This website is part of a whole system of local sites.  To my surprise my entire county had picked up on the story.  I also sent a media release (provided by Pillsbury) to local newspapers and even to the newspaper of my hometown where I grew up.  They all ran stories.

Good old, hometown support:  I realized that living in a small town could actually be a good thing.  Who doesn’t want someone from their community to bring recognition to their tiny town?  I literally went door to door with my flyers.  I spoke at a local Women’s Club meeting.  I approached a few local restaurants, who in turn posted my recipe.   Finally, I had friends spread the word in some of the local schools.  You’d be surprised at the enthusiasm that came from my local Caldwell residents.

I hope this helps some of you and encourages others.  There are many other avenues that one can use to market their recipe.  I know there are some who produced great YouTube videos and were even on-air demonstrating their recipes (I tip my hat to you!).  My recipe did make it through to the finals.  I do know, however, that there are those, some our CCC friends, whose recipes did not make it through despite their hard-work and great recipes.

I am thankful to be a finalist in the Bakeoff and still am in amazement that someone like me, who is not “popular” or socially plugged-in, could advance.  I do not regret the work involved in moving forward.  The possibility of having a chance at a million dollars was motivation enough for me to toss my hat into the ring.


 Meatball and Breadstick Sub Skewers – Kim Van Dunk


The content and opinions shared in this post were based solely on my own experience. The article was not reviewed, endorsed or approved by the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest.

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19 Responses to “How to Win Online Voting Contests”

  1. patriciaharmon May 24, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Good for you, Kim. You did all the right things and worked hard thus deserving to win a spot in the finals. Good luck at the Bake-Off. It will be an experience you will forever cherish. I know………I’d been a finalist 3 times in the past. Love your recipe!

  2. Mary May 24, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    You are so innovative, Kim! I admire you enthusiasm and all the work you did to promote your recipe. Job well done! And thank you for sharing your suggestions. I am so happy that you will be able to experience Pillsbury–you will have such a fantastic time! Congrats. Mary Hawkes

  3. Lynne May 24, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    What a wonderful and encouraging article. Your story reminds me of the earlier days of the bake-off with the black and white photos with that gentler times feeling. Good luck at the Bake-Off!

  4. Sandi Sheppard May 24, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Kim, thanks so much for sharing! As one of the unfortunate semi-finalist that DIDN’T make on to the finals for the 1st round, I’ll have to say that I didn’t even THINK about posting on some of the pages you mentioned! I did do a flyer drive in my community, but didn’t get any response from local media. If I were to be so lucky as to be chosen again… I’ll be sure to implement what you’ve shared! Good luck in November!

  5. Erin in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn May 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    Kim, your story and insight are absolutely amazing. But, I have to say, I was very distracted by your insanely beautiful and creative dish. I am *totally* making my interpretation of that brilliant dish this weekend. So, so clever and delicious! Best wishes to you and thanks again for sharing your expertise.

  6. Danielle May 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Kim that is awesome!!!! Congrats to you (your recipe was great) and to the dedication you had to garner the votes!!! I have no doubt your hometown is going to be very proud of you when you head off to Vegas.

  7. lisakeys May 25, 2013 at 5:36 am #

    thanks for the great tips

  8. AmandaCookie May 26, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Dear Kim,
    How kind and generous of you to take the time to share your ideas with all of us. This shows a generous spirit of “sportsmanship”.
    Your recipe was inovative and photographed beautifully. I will be rooting for you in Las Vegas.
    Best of luck to you!

  9. Susan Bickta May 26, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    What a wonderful and insightful article!! I, too, live in a small town and have been worried about “getting the word out” should I be lucky enough to be chosen as a semi-finalist! I thank you for all of the great ideas for getting the much needed publicity. Hope I get the chance to meet you in Las Vegas!!! And, congrats of becoming a finalist!

  10. karenharris May 27, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    I love your recipe Kim! I’m with you, originally coming from a small town, I totally believe that you could get the community behind you. I now live in a large metropolitan area and relied on Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth and e-mail to get the word out about my recipe. Thankfully it worked for me, but you have got some great ideas and suggestions here. I can’t wait to see you in Vegas.

    • karenharris May 27, 2013 at 5:51 am #

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my blog in there too! I think that helped a lot.

  11. angelaspengler May 27, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I have the exact same “pre-Pillsbury” social media experience that you described. I want to get chosen as a semi-finalist but have serious doubts about making past the voting round due to having very little social media experience (no Facebook, no Youtube, no Twitter, you get the idea). If I would be so lucky as to make it to the voting stage I will implement your strategies. Thank you for your ideas and best of luck to you in Vegas.

  12. Tony Fusaro Jr. May 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    That’s the way to think outside of the box! Great idea and a great recipe. Thanks for sharing all of your winning ways to promote your recoipe and get votes. I was a finalist in 2010 and we didn’t have to do any promotion. Now I know what to do if I’m lucky enough to be chosen as a semi-finalist. Good Luck to you at he Bake-Off! It’s a wonderful experience everyone should have.

  13. veronicacallaghan May 28, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    Great article, Kim! I look forward to meeting you in Vegas as well. I did many of the same things you did…I suggest including the various food boards in your efforts on facebook. I posted on the pages of the CT. apple board (I have apples in my recipe) and various cheese boards since I use blue cheese. I also used my high school/college alumni groups on facebook….posting there as well. I found that when it comes to the PBO most have heard of it and find it pretty cool so are a little more willing to help you out than with most lesser known voting contests (which I tend to avoid as well). I also contacted the local morning news shows and managed to get an invite to prepare it on TV….I really think that helped a lot. Good luck to everyone today and my voting finger is ready for all of you!

  14. Elaine Barbee May 28, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    Great Article! Hope I get to use your techniques!

  15. LKatz June 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    That was so incredibly helpful! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Brett June 10, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    Wonderful insights! Thanks for sharing your experience with us–lots of work but the rewards of being a finalist in this iconic contest are priceless!

  17. Tamasha March 20, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    Great job Kim! thank you for sharing. id love your support and also that of your supporters to help me win this scholarship to my favorite culinary school though i only have a week left in this contest to make it to the top fiftyi still have hope that i can by the magic of social network. i have the link as my web site and im leaving it on here as well all your votes are greatly appreciated and you can vote everyday on every device and use any trick you can to vote more than once . thank you all! Sincerely, Tamasha P.

  18. Annette Farrugia May 31, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    I am participating in this philadelphia chef challenge. Can you vote for me here if you like my Fish philly dish please?

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