By Penny Riordan • LMA Director of Business Strategy and Partnerships

If your news organization doesn’t run consumer/reader contests, you could be missing out on some of the biggest drivers of revenue, email acquisition and first-party data.

That’s the message some industry contest leaders shared in a recent LMA Digital Club virtual meeting, where club members discussed local media best practices for contests.

Here are five tips to have the most successful contests:

1. The better the contest swag is, the more successful your contest is likely to be.

At Shaw Local, Digital Editor John Sahly said, the popular Team of the Week contest included a custom-made championship belt for the person who received the most votes. The belt was sponsored and created great brand awareness, Sahly said. “These kids would take these belts and walk around their high school halls and put it on Instagram and put it on TikTok.”

The team at ClickonDetroit gave away patches for the winners of its 4Frenzy contest, which were very popular swag items, said Dustin Block, the audience development lead at Graham Media Group.

2. Don’t give up if the first year is hard, especially if you’re starting a contest from scratch.

Block said contests take time to build a loyal audience.

“Just stick it out. The first year is going to be slower than the second year and the third year,” he said.

Block also said it’s important to dedicate someone to the promotion and give that person resources to execute creatively. That execution is also what has made Graham’s contests so successful.

3. For contests about high schools, consider doing categories beyond sports. The team at Graham also re-imagined the traditional sports high school contests into a best-of-the-best for other extracurricular activities, such as theater, choir, school clubs and organizations. The broad range of categories results in more votes from across a community.

4. Not only are contests a good way to get opt-ins for your own email newsletters, they are also a good way to get opt-ins for the client sponsoring the contest. Beasley Media Group saw huge success with this at its radio station WCSX in Detroit.

The Second Street platform, which Beasley uses, allows you to create some depth and variety with email opt-in questions.

“I love the fact that you can put a level of qualification on an opt-in, whether that’s for programming or sales,” said Jennifer Williams, vice president of digital marketing for Beasley.

5. If you are part of a media company with multiple local properties, consider doing a networkwide contest with inclusive categories to appeal to different audiences. Whether you’re trying to target new or existing entrants, having a broad category list will garner more entries. The team at Black Press Media in British Columbia, Canada, created an Amateur Photographer Of The Year contest. By breaking the contests down into different categories ranging from “Scenic Canada” to “West Coast Travel” and running them across a broader region, Black Press was able to increase exposure as well as entries.

If you’d like to learn more about the LMA Digital Club and participate in future conversations like this, please visit this page or email Penny Riordan at