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Behind the Scenes of the PCH Prize Patrol

How Does it Feel to Be a PCH Prize Patrol Deputy?

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Janice Ryan Hands Over a Winning Check as Part of the PCH Prize Patrol.

Janice Ryan Hands Over a Winning Check as Part of the PCH Prize Patrol.

Image © Publishers Clearing House, Used with Permission
Updated February 24, 2010
For many Americans, the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol is something like the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus – a nice fantasy, but few really believe they'll catch a glimpse of that white van with the huge check inside. But the PCH Prize Patrol does exist, and it's staffed by real people whose jobs center around giving away life-changing prizes to lucky winners.

So what is it like to be a member of the nigh-mythical Prize Patrol team? To find out, I talked with two people from Publishers Clearing House: Executive Vice President Debbie Holland, who has been with the company for 30 years, and Senior Manager of Internet Marketing & Site Development Janice Ryan, who has joined the PCH Prize Patrol on two separate occasions.

What Does it Take to Be a Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol Deputy?

I wanted to know whether a position as a Prize Patrol Deputy is a viable career path. What kinds of skills would it take to be hired as a Deputy? Debbie Holland laughed when I asked, and said that the position is not for sale. It seems like everyone at PCH would love to have one of those jobs!

The Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol is made up of a core team of about five people. However, other members of the PCH team can be invited to be a part of the PCH Prize Patrol from time to time.

For example, shortly before my conversation with Debbie Holland and Janice Ryan, PCH had just completed a "Prize Patrol Blitz," which awarded 101 prizes across the United States at the same time. To handle such a massive outpouring of prizes, 60 regular PCH employees, including Janice Ryan, were recruited to the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol.

A Few Good Men – The PCH Prize Patrol Boot Camp

If you're a regular Publishers Clearing House employee, you don't just get sent out on a Prize Patrol Blitz. Oh, no, indeed. First, you get sent to … Prize Patrol Boot Camp!

That's right, every potential Prize Patrol Deputy attends a two-week Prize Patrol Boot Camp to learn the necessary skills for awarding huge prizes to strangers.

What kinds of things do you learn in the PCH Prize Patrol Boot Camp? According to Janice Ryan, the lessons cover topics like how to alert the local news media, how to find out where the winner is going to be without ruining the surprise, how to represent Publishers Clearing House well, and how to get a good shot of the surprise for the cameras.

What Is a Typical Day on the PCH Prize Patrol Like?

Step 1: Preparing the Prize
Before the Prize Patrol heads to the winner's home, the deputies buy everything they need to garnish the prize, including a bottle of champagne, bunches of helium balloons, and flowers from a local florist.

Janice Ryan said that on one of her deliveries, the florist was so excited to hear about who they were working with that they actually shut the shop down and went along with the Prize Patrol to present the big prize.

Step 2: Finding the Winner
The next thing that the Prize Patrol does is try to find out where the winner is going to be, without giving away the big surprise. Winners are not notified in advance when the Prize Patrol shows up, so the surprise is genuine.

Sometimes, the Prize Patrol will call ahead to say that the winner is going to be receiving a delivery, but they won't mention that the delivery in question is a huge check from Publishers Clearing House.

If the winner is not home, the PCH Prize Patrol doesn't just leave again. They try to locate the winner and surprise them wherever they are. They might knock at a neighbor's door to ask for help locating the winner, or they may go to the winner's work place and ask a coworker to bring them to the door.

Step 3: Getting a Good Video of the Winning Moment
Finally, the Prize Patrol is responsible for communicating the excitement of the big win with everyone else. So they surprise the winner, guide them out of the doorway and into the sunlight where the camera can view them best, and ask the questions that viewers most want to hear, like what the winners are going to do with the money and which of the methods to win with PCH that they used to enter.

For an example of how a day with the PCH Prize Patrol ends, you can see a video of Janice Ryan presenting a big prize.

PCH Prize Patrol Reaches Out to Share the Excitement of Winning

Publishers Clearing House is looking for more and more ways to make awarding their prizes more fun for those of us on the sidelines.

For example, the Prize Patrol is on Twitter, and many of the Deputies Tweeted their activities live during the last Prize Patrol Blitz. Followers could see where Prize Patrol was and where they were heading, building excitement toward the giveaway.

Another way that you can share in the fun of the prize wins is with the PCH Prize Patrol website. The website features a map that shows the locations of past winners and future destinations for the Prize Patrol. It also shows posts from the PCH Prize Patrol blog and relevant Tweets from Twitter.

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