Update: The runaway winner for the best Digital First Valentine’s engagement project is the Saratogian, with The Crazy Things We Do for Love. The Saratogian won 365 votes out of 750 votes cast, or 49 percent, a landslide in a 10-way race. A box of Valentine’s candy will be shipped out today to the new (and obviously successful engagement editor Aubree Cutkomp for the newsroom to share.
A second-place box will go out to the Reporter-Herald, which got 133 votes or 18 percent. Defending champion Smart magazine in York, Pa., got 78 votes, just over 10 percent. Thanks to all the newsrooms who participated, and congratulations on lots of successful engagement. Scroll down to read about the winning projects and the rest.
Here’s the original post: As lovers prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day, Digital First newsrooms are engaging their communities in romance and fun.
Last year, I sent off boxes of Valentine’s candy to the York Daily Record and the Morning Sun to reward their Valentine’s engagement, voted the best by readers of my blog. I was probably going to let the holiday slide by without note here, but Jessica Benes of the Reporter-Herald in Loveland, Colo., asked if I was going to reprise the contest. So I asked my colleagues to send me their accounts of what they were doing. I’ll let them make their pitches here (in the order submitted, with light editing).
After you’ve read them,
please scroll back up here to vote. Again, the winning newsroom gets a Priority Mail box stuffed with Valentine’s candy.
It’s too late for you to compete for the candy if you’re not listed here, but it’s probably not too late to steal one of these ideas (give credit, please, as Jennifer Connor did in the final entry here) for some Valentine’s fun this week.
Macomb Daily, Mt. Clemens, Mich.
Maryanne MacLeod explains:
In the spirit of adventure, we decided to do an Anti-Valentine’s Day contest.
Our readership includes a somewhat cynical undercurrent, so we thought we’d try “No-Way, V-day,” asking readers to share their creative vents on commercialism and sap.
Our promotions and sales department were pretty excited about it and identified an advertiser, a really nice restaurant, willing to donate the prize: dinner for one.
We are promoting this in our print product, as well as our social media outlets and making connections with student groups.
Buttry note: Maryanne, be sure to let us know what sort of participation this gets. It could provide some great lessons either way: If lots of people vent about Valentine’s sappiness, this will demonstrate the value of creativity and taking a risk. If it doesn’t catch on, it will show that Valentine’s rules. Either way, I applaud the risk of taking the No-Way approach. (Not that I will be trying that particular risk with Mimi on Thursday.)
Reporter-Herald, Loveland, Colo.
We went the traditional route and asked our community to send us love stories for a “Loveland’s Greatest Love Stories” contest with the promise of dinner for two (a $50 gift card) to a downtown restaurant for the best love story. We asked for prose, poetry, photos and/or video that would describe a couple’s love story. We received 13 submissions over 10 days. We posted every story online and updated a timeline at the end of each story of all the love stories received.
Then we staff members chose five of our favorite love stories for the five top picks and posted those in an online poll on our website. The page also includes the timeline of all 13 love stories and links to the full stories. Voting by the community ended Friday, and then we will interview the top love story for a Valentine’s Day feature. We received over 4,000 votes in the poll.
Bay Area News Group
Ann Tatko-Peterson explains:
We’re bringing March Madness to Valentine’s Day. Staring Feb. 6 online and Feb. 8 in print, we’re asking readers to pick their all-time favorite TV couple — NCAA-style.
Our TV critic and entertainment editor whipped up 32 couples, 16 from past years and 16 currently on television, to face off in the ultimate smackdown. During a three-week run, readers will vote via Scribblelive polls to narrow their favorites in each round until we finally have one couple left standing. Couple choices range from blissfully married like Clair and Cliff on “The Cosby Show” to teen supernaturals like Elena and Damon on “The Vampire Diaries.” Our big promotional splash will come on Valentine’s Day when the staff will send out blasts via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest to get fans fighting for their faves.
Buttry note: Brackets are a great way to prolong the fun and competition of a contest. I blogged last year about the Trentonian’s best-bar contest during the NCAA tournament. Hmmm, do I feel another competition coming?
Daily Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.
The feature runs on the 10th, ahead of Valentine’s day. It’s set to feature her pick for the best story with a video story. The submissions are collected into a Quote Pinterest board, which will link to the individual submissions when they’re up and featured in the main site with the main bar as a two-column Rebelmouse embed.
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Tom Moore explains:
We’re counting down in the print edition and promoting them online through a variety of social channels. We’re starting to see a pretty good buzz online lots of people suggesting the list for tips to friends.
Pretty simple – but great utility and timeless. Potential for building an app around it down the road.
Also, a Pinterest board.
Buttry note: Lists are always a great idea. This one will have lasting value beyond Valentine’s Day.
Smart magazine, York, Pa.
Defending champion Buffy Andrews explains:
Remember the Valentines of yesteryear? Handmade creations covered with glitter, buttons and lace doilies have since taken a backseat to eGreetings and generic cards from big-box stores. So…
We’ll have folks vote on the best valentine and the winner will get a $50 gift card to a local golf resort, spa, snow tubing area. We are pinning the valentines to a Pinterest board (that’s one of the pins featured above).
To tie in with a blog series we’ve been running Earthy and Expecting based on a staffer’s journey with early delivery and experience with our local neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), we are collecting the entrants’ valentines (if they wish to donate) to take to the local hospital NICU on Valentine’s Day.
We socialized our contest via multiple social-networking sites (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, enewsletter, website ads as well as print).
Saratogian, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Update: This was the winning project: Aubree Cutkomp explains:
For the Saratogian’s Valentine’s Day Community Engagement, we’re asking our readers to share with us the craziest thing they’ve done for love. The “craziest” love story wins dinner for two at a local restaurant.
We introduced the contest online Friday, Feb. 1, and in print Saturday, Feb. 2. Readers can submit their photos and explanation using the hashtag #518love or email their pictures through Feb. 12. We’re promoting the contest daily in print, online and through the social media waves. Entries are being collected through Olapic and they’re being posted in a Facebook album and on a Pinterest board.
We plan to supplement the contest with a story behind the science of “crazy love” as well as a Valentine’s Day feature on the winner/winning couple and a slideshow of the photos to “The Things We Do For Love.”
Public Opinion, Chambersburg, Pa.
The promotion above explains “First Love,” but Andrea Rich adds:
We are also planning to tell a video story with children making Valentines, in addition to asking parents to share the first Valentines their children made for them.
The Mercury, Pottstown, Pa.
Diane Hoffman explains:
We asked our readers if they preferred a romantic movie or a love song. The overwhelming response was that our readers preferred a romantic movie. We followed that question by asking what their favorite movie was. From that response, which was more than 30 different movies, we narrowed the field down to 10 movies and asked them to vote in a poll.
After we get the results, we are planning a Google hangout to discuss favorite romantic movies that will include someone from our community as well as Mercury staff, that we will live stream before Valentine’s Day.
Buttry note: Good idea to involve readers from the first and roll with their choice of romantic movies, but you could easily do this with romantic songs, too. In either case, you could use YouTube embeds in the promotion, using music videos and movie clips.
The Reporter, Lansdale, Pa.
Jennifer Connor explains:
I can’t take full credit for the ingenuity of our Valentine’s Day engagement. I really liked Oakland Press’ “Sweetest Thing” premise from last year so I took that and had readers submit photos and 3-4 sentences of the kind things their significant other/Valentine has done for them. We received eight entries, which I compiled into a Facebook album and asked readers to “like” their favorite story.
We opened up voting on Tuesday around 5 p.m. and overnight had over 100 new likes on our Facebook page. One entry is a police officer and his wife, who is a part of a national organization, Wives of Blue. Their photo has nearly 4,000 likes! In just two days we’re up to 200 new likes on our Facebook page.
We are awarding dinner and a movie, which our ad team had lying around. Also, when I announced the contest, a local limousine company offered their services.
Since we want to keep things fair, (we received a few messages that it wasn’t fair that a national non-profit was pushing for one couple) I’m working on getting second and third place prices. Those couples are up at above 300 likes.
We are going to feature the winning couple in print on the front page on Valentine’s day and include the photos and brief submissions from the other couples, as well.
Overall, the contest is doing wonders for engagement on our Facebook page!
Buttry note: the Oakland Press didn’t win any candy last year, but this entry underscores one of the most important points of sharing all these ideas: These are all good ideas, and any of them can inspire some engagement in other communities. Thanks to all the newsrooms that entered!
Remember to vote Please remember to scroll back up to the top of this post and vote for your favorite Valentine’s Day engagement project. Campaigning is welcome. Tell your colleagues and your social media circles about your projects and encourage them to vote.
It’s too late to join the voting and the competition for the candy. But it’s not too late to get some recognition for your Valentine’s engagement effort. Please tell us about your engagement project (with links) in the comments or email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and I’ll add them here. The contest is all my Digital First colleagues, but I’ll gladly tell about the engagement efforts of other newsrooms as well.
This one isn’t in the poll because it’s from last year. But it’s fun, so I include it. Richard Chin explains:
The Pioneer Press isn’t doing anything this year, but last year we asked readers where is the best place to propose in Minnesota. My favorite response:
River Falls, Wis., resident Jane Jorgensen suggested a few places where birds, bees and possibly educated fleas are doing it: the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, the Minnesota Zoo and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Jorgensen also said the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis might be a good stand-in for the Empire State Building. But she said the Kwik Trip in her town could work for a more casual proposal.
“You see a lot of people go in there. It’s like an institution. But not like a prison. Not like that kind of institution,’ Jorgensen said. ‘It might be something not expected. Like, ‘I’ll get you a cheddarwurst, and by the way …’ ”
A few years ago the paper also provided a Valentine’s Day lifesaver for forgetful Romeos: We printed a red rectangle in the paper with dotted lines indicating where to cut and fold to make an origami heart. Plus this advice:
“Present it with a proud ‘I made it myself’ flourish, and maybe you’ll avoid the doghouse. If necessary, add a little sermon on how homespun, handmade gifts are much more meaningful than some impersonal store-bought bauble.”