Community Engagement Through Contests

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  • Valentine’s is Loveland’s month. Loveland chooses a Miss Loveland Valentines. The Reporter-Herald covers the official Loveland valentine unveiling, the remailing program, the children’s stamp camp, the hanging of heart messages around Loveland, and lots of other great events in Loveland. The advertising department also sponsors a “hunt for the heart.” We decided it was an ideal time to offer a $50 gift card to Loveland’s greatest love story.We started out by crowdsourcing through all the mediums available to us. I put together a timeline of the stories submitted, we chose the top five, and put those five to a vote.
  • The two top contendors vied all week for the winning spot, which went to Amy and Ryan Green.
  • What hasn’t worked:Before a Loveland Trivia Bowl in December, I invited the Trivia Bowl organizer in and had him ask eight trivia questions on video camera. I posted this video with a story about the Trivia and invited the community to call in with the answers to those questions for the chance to win a free entry into the Trivia Bowl. I didn’t get one call.
  • Richard Chin: “I would never have predicted that Peeps dioramas would be such a big hit… Readers have said we should give a separate kids award for our diorama contest… I've resisted that. Then you end up having to give awards to some really lame kids' efforts. Our goal wasn't to be fair, it was to get the best/funniest/wow image in the paper.”


  • 1. Engagementthroughcontests
  • 2. Why do contests? Contests are fun. The audience loves tosee something they did in print. Contests drive traffic. They encourage the readers to interactwith the newspaper, showing readers thatwe are here and a part of this community. They drive new readers and build ouraudience.Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 3. What kind of contest? Contests associated with holidays(Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’sDay, Halloween). Events (festivals, parades, trivia bowl). Weather (snow, first day of summer). Biggest fan or school spirit. Best community stories (Ghoststories, Veteran’s stories).Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 4. What types of platforms/socialmedia? Videos Photos Written stories Google forms Print newspaperFacebook Twitter BlogsPinterestInstagramStorify TimelinesJessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 5. How do we handle prizes? Arrange prizes with a participating event orvenue (free tickets or passes to an event). Use the tantalizing idea of the best photomaking it into print. Post the photos in a Facebook album, onPinterest and in a slide show on yourwebsite as the prize. Occasionally dip into the budget for agift card (but that depends on the newspaperand budget).Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 6. Valentine’s Day Project Call-out for“Loveland’s greatestlove stories” online andinprint, Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest. 13 submissionsreceived. Timeline ofsubmissions designed. Top five chosen byReporter-Herald staff.Reporter-Herald projects:Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 7. Valentine’s Day cont’d:Reporter-Herald projects:Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald Top five put to a vote by the community for one week. First place entry interviewed for a Valentine’s Day featurestory.
  • 8. Easter We asked for egg decorating “egg-sperts” to be partof a feature. We used how-to videos of those submissions to askthe community to submit their best-decorated eggs for aFacebook album, slide show, and to run in our News:By You section.Reporter-Herald projects:Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 9. Photo curation Quick hitters like curating for photos seems to often performbetter than longer contest projects. We usually ask for photos and place them in a Facebookalbum and slide show on our website. We have a vote for thebest shots and print the top couple in our News: By You sectionof the paper. Halloween Snow photos Easter eggsReporter-Herald projects:Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 10. Our thoughts on what has worked: Our community likes to participate when they don’t have toput in a lot of work. Submitting photos. Participating in polls. Big prizes are noticed, as are the promises of a child’s photogetting in the paper. Contests around big events/topics of the day like snowstorms or summer festivals.Jessica Benes, Reporter-HeraldAnd what hasn’t:Trivia Bowl: Asked readers to call in with answers to eight triviaquestions for the chance to win a free entry to participate in theTrivia Bowl. – No calls. Might have been too small of an audience. Too much work, not a big enough topic.Lifetree Film Fest: Asked to submit 3-minute films for a minifilm festival in conjunction with Group Publishing Lifetree FilmFest. We received three entries. Perhaps not enough time (we gave them 2.5 weeks). Not a big enough topic.
  • 11. Tips from other newspapers: Peeps dioramas are a big hit. Reader’s Choice: Unlimited voting or not? You might end upputting something in the paper that isn’t great but had a lot offriends. Sex sells. We didnt get a tons of entries in our tax seasonSexy Accountant contest, but tens of thousands clicked to seewhat sexy accountants look like. During National Poetry Month a few years ago, we sponsoreda limerick contest; we got lots of entries, but most werebadly rhymed couplets that werent even limericks.-- Richard Chin, St. Paul Pioneer Press.Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 12. Tips from other newspapers: Better response when we offer less of readers and offerbigger prizes. Giveaways do well like commenting on a post with a favoritebeer or wine to win passes to related events. Built up buzz about “Restaurant week,” where people could“like” the event on Facebook to enter to win. A $400 prize wasannounced during a “happy hour event” to kick off the week(advertise-driven).-- April Trotter, York Daily Record, Pennsylvania.Jessica Benes, Reporter-Herald
  • 13. Brainstorm What has worked for you? What are your ideas?Jessica Benes, Reporter-HeraldJessica Benes Reporter-Herald, 970-669-5050 ext.530. Email: Twitter: @JessicaBenesFacebook, Pinterest: Jessica Benes Blog: