Wick Communications

The readers have spoken

In Ideas on 15 Nov 2012 at 5:04 pm

This year, the Half Moon Bay Review resurrected our once-popular Readers Choice awards. We stopped doing it about a decade ago because it was a big pain in the neck. Former Publisher Deb Godshall said that advertisers groused when they weren’t voted “best hamburger” and so on and that some folks stuffed the ballot box, among other problems.

Well, we bit the bullet and decided to do it again and I’m glad we did. I know that many readers of The Kicker know a lot more about running these things than I do, so I don’t presume to preach. But I thought I would share some of our lessons learned and things we might do a bit differently next time.

  • Readers’ Choice vs. Best. We all know that the business that gets the most votes may or may not be objectively the “best” in its field. That is, if it’s even possible to determine what is best. That is why we were careful to use the term “readers’ choice.” You might argue the local coffee shop is better than Starbucks, but you can’t argue with the number of votes.
  • Include non-business things. We had readers’ choice for beaches and hikes and local entertainers and so forth. That gives the enterprise a little break from the obvious marketing focus. It’s also a good way to counter anyone who says you are just doing it to make a buck off advertising.
  • Be really careful with tabulation. Make sure you print the correct names of businesses. Develop a system of counting that double-checks results. You don’t want to have to take it back after you’ve named a winner. …
  • Develop a design theme. We didn’t do such a great job with this this time, but we’re going to work on it next time. We had intended to shoot all the winners that we featured in stories using the Instagram app on a smartphone. We didn’t. But we meant to. You can go with a sports theme or use the local college iconography for photos and such. You can make it look like something from the ’50s. It really doesn’t matter. But some unifying theme will make it stand out from your usual publication. If this doesn’t make sense, seek out an alternative weekly that you like. They often do a great job with best-of themes.
  • Involve everyone. We had everyone in editorial contribute a couple of short write-ups of winners we wanted to feature. That felt easier than if we had given someone 15 assignments. The talented people at our front desk did the tabulating. Advertising was integral to planning and making the thing profitable. It was a real team effort.

Clay

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