Following the ongoing digital disruption to the publishing industry in recent years, many magazine brands have turned to award platforms as a way of delivering another revenue stream for their business. The events that are part of this strategy have become a necessary part of many publishers’ annual business models, extending awareness of the publisher brand and increasing its engagement with its audience.
Awards are a great platform for publishers to stretch their brand across an alternative channel, increasing the size of its target audience as well as penetration into the group. Running an awards programme creates an opportunity for publishers to keep in touch with their audience throughout the year through a different channel, although spikes of engagement tend to occur around the time of the actual award ceremony as the shortlist is revealed, followed by the award ceremony and announcement of the winners. The finalists and winners appreciate the recognition from their industry peers that an award bestows, while the publication further benefits from being associated with quality and excellence.
Awards ceremonies also offer an invaluable opportunity for industry insiders to network and engage in some informal business development in a relaxed environment.
Publishers’ awards ceremonies range in scope from giant gala awards through to smaller events and the past year has seen awards of all sizes move online for the first time. As well as the traditional networking opportunities offered by events, digital and hybrid award ceremonies offer a range of fresh benefits for publishers to exploit. These include a far greater availability of data to inform business development as well as offering attendees more flexibility around how they attend.
The British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME), a not-for-profit organisation representing editors of the UK’s top consumer, professional and customer magazines and websites, recently held its annual award ceremony which was a great success. For the first time and due to the pandemic, the ceremony took place digitally.
Hattie Brett, editor of Grazia magazine, and current chair of the organisation recognised that awards are incredibly valuable in supporting an industry from within when she described the recent awards as “the most significant BSME awards yet because they are a reminder that we made it through 2020!” The event organiser, Juliette McCrimmon was highly impressed with the social media outreach which further extended audience engagement, as well as the range of opportunities for networking that were available.
Publishers considering taking their next award ceremony online or hybrid can learn much from the recent experience of the BSME.
In January 2020, just before COVID struck, Juliette McCrimmon was appointed the BSME events director with David Cotter creative director. One of their key objectives was to fully embrace social media to maximise the profile of the organisation, but they quite quickly found themselves catapulted into the complexities of delivering events in the era of COVID.
Following an initial conversation, McCrimmon and Cotter were pleased when Evessio offered to sponsor the awards and use its software, the Awards Room, to power them.
Cotter was given half a day of training in advance of using the software platform, which he described as a “very rich, in-depth system.” He stresses the importance of taking time prior to an event to understand and learn how to use the software to its full capacity.
The BSME processed the applications for the awards and the Awards Room took responsibility for delivering the streaming of the ceremony.
The event was free to attend, with more than 300 guests logging into the Awards Room platform for the actual event, a comparable number to live events in previous years. The organisers emphasised the importance of the user experience being as simple and straightforward for guests to access as possible, conscious that digital attendees are asked to switch between a wide range of technical platforms every day, and that other screen-based distractions are competing for their attention. On the evening of the event, Evessio was on hand with technical support.
The awards took place at 5pm, with 45minutes of music and a montage of magazine covers prior to the host welcoming guests to the event. The event was pre-recorded with Maria Pieri hosting and guest presenter Clara Amfo from Radio 1, joining by video link. A film of the shortlist and winners of 32 categories of awards were introduced by senior figures from the media, including John Simpson, Alan Titchmarsh, and Kate Garraway. One of the benefits of a digital ceremony is being able to attract this talent who are willing to give up a short amount of time to film an introduction to a category while they are less likely to attend a lengthy live ceremony.
The winners of the Editors’ Editor award, won by Edward Enninful of Vogue, and Mark Boxer Award, won by Lorraine Candy, previously of the Sunday Times Style magazine, provided pre-recorded acceptance speeches. The day after the awards, the sponsors, Marks & Spencer, sent hampers including trophies, to all the winners, highly commended entrants, judges, and presenters.
The guests watched the ceremony from their homes, but many shared pictures of themselves on social media dressed smartly and enjoying a cocktail, enhancing the sense of occasion. Many guests also remained on the Awards Room site for up to an hour after the end of the awards ceremony, taking advantage of the opportunity to network.
Guests were encouraged to be active on Twitter and Instagram, both in the run-up to the event, as well as by the hosts during the evening. Networking at the awards ceremony was recognised as one of the most important elements of the event and the interactive aspect of the digital awards was one of the most successful parts of the evening. Guests were able to chat with other people on their table and a public messaging board made the ceremony much more immersive.
The extent of the data generated by the awards was impressive, with graphs provided to the organisers detailing information down to a granular level, including, for example, the number of conversations held on each table and the length each contact lasted for.
Evessio is a software platform that hosts, manages and runs awards, conferences and exhibitions. Evessio delivers all the functionality required to run these types of events in one environment.