8th Annual Second Street Awards: The year of engagement

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Every year, we search through the engagement campaigns run by our over 3,000 media partners. From quizzes and sweepstakes to ballots and emails, we work to find the most stand-out examples to showcase in our annual award show.

It seems like the entries for the Second Street Awards get better and better each year. This year's 8th Annual Second Street Awards was no exception. With outstanding success stories in over 25 categories, our winners and finalists are making one thing clear – media companies are striving to make engagement their top priority.

If you want to see what this big event is all about, you can watch the entire recording here. Below are four lessons learned from our award-winners:

1. No Advertiser is Beyond Your Reach

By leveraging custom solutions, you can consider every advertiser in your market a potential new revenue stream. Our finalists and winners illustrated how engagement campaigns can work beyond your traditional advertisers like grocery stores, hospitals and restaurants to even unique, niche advertisers like foot pain stores, local attractions and asphalt companies.

The Steamboat Pilot had the opportunity to work with a brand new advertiser, the Steamboat Movement Fest. This local yoga festival was looking to increase attendance for its upcoming event. With a unique coupon code on the bounceback email, the sweepstakes directly led to more than 100 paid registrations. Not only did the festival increase revenue by $23,000, but it also signed on with the Steamboat Pilot for nearly $6,000 in future campaigns.

When KRON-TV was approached by UrbanSitter, a babysitting company, looking to target local families, its came up with the idea for a Back to School photo contest. Not only would this draw in the right audience, but by also providing all entrants and voters a $75 credit for the company, it generated business for them right away.

2. Don't Underestimate the Value of Your Database

The most successful media companies are placing a ton of value on growing their database. Time and time again, email proves to be the most effective driver of engagement outpacing all of your other tools. But the true value of your database should mean much more than just an email address. The more you can learn about your consumers, the more effective your database will be.

WKJG-AM in Indiana turned a pair of tickets to the World Series into a huge database growth opportunity. In just two days, not only did their sweepstakes drive in over 20,000 opt-ins, but they collected a huge amount of data for targeting upcoming campaigns for themselves and future advertisers.

In their very first year of running a reader's choice ballot, The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.) was able to find tremendous success. The staff collected over 17,000 email addresses for the database and, additionally, were able to identify tons of data on consumers based on the categories they chose to cast their votes. Beyond that, the ballot generated over $250,000 in revenue for the paper – they can't wait for year two.

3. Choose the Right Campaigns to Produce the Right Results

Different campaigns can achieve drastically different results. While it's easy to keep going back to the same tactics that have worked in the past, the top programs are leveraging a variety of engagement campaign types to produce the specific outcomes they're wanting to achieve.

Looking to increase event attendance for its Home & Outdoor Living Show, the Citrus County Chronicle had many different possibilities to achieve a similar result. While a sweepstakes may have brought in a slew of entries and a quiz could have given them a lot of data, the photo contest had the added benefit of being shared by the entrants seeking out votes. This single contest added over 7,000 emails to the database to contact about the show.

KYTV-TV in Springfield, Mo., has an existing relationship with advertiser Silver Dollar City, a local theme park. While the station has traditionally run sweepstakes for the park in the past, it wanted to try something new. The staff created a quiz all about the advertiser's history and attractions. Plus, they entered all quiz-takers into a giveaway of family pack of tickets. More than 3,000 people took the quiz hosted on the advertiser's Facebook Page. 

4. Make Engagement Your Top Priority

Whether you want to drive more annual sales revenue, increase attendance to your upcoming events or boost the ad impressions and pageviews on your site, this all falls back on engagement.

GateHouse Media, winner of this year's Groupwide Strategy Award, made a companywide decision to prioritize audience engagement. The company built a dedicated team, created a promotions division and this initiative had top-down support from the CEO to the regional directors and publishers. In just one year, this "all-in" approach to engagement led to over nine million dollars in revenue across the company's group of sites.

Looking back over all our finalists and winners, it became clear that the top campaigns and top programs are ones that are consistently making engagement the top priority. They're not settling for the same things they've done time and time again, but carefully choosing and crafting campaigns to produce the exact results they're wanting to achieve.

We want to congratulate all of the finalists and winners. We cannot wait to read about the spectacular results of next year's Second Street Awards.

See the complete list of winners and finalists here.

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or matt@secondstreet.com.

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