Today we have a guest post from the lovely Laura who works as our commercial manager, and also blogs over at LittleStuff about lovely things she finds on the Internet.
Laura’s an expert in blogging competitions, having set up and run many of the competitions that run on our own websites, and on her own blog and website. She’s also something of a competition fiend herself, having recently won the top, £1,000 cash prize in a blogger challenge run by a food brand.
Here, Laura provides her tips on how to win a blogger challenge.
Over the last couple of years I have run a lot of blogger competitions. Many blogger competitions have fantastic prizes – and to enter, they require bloggers to write a blog post on a particular theme or topic.
As the competition host, I usually have to read all of the entries. I’ve also taken part in blogger competitions myself, trying it out from the other side of the street.
Combining my professional knowledge with my understanding as a blogger, it sometimes surprises me how many bloggers submit entries to competitions that simply don’t stand a chance of winning. Why bother?
Then it occurs to me that bloggers don’t know the simple tricks and tips that can boost your odds of winning these promotions and competitions. So I thought I’d share them with you!
WHY DO BRANDS RUN COMPETITIONS?
The first thing to get your head round is this: brands don’t run competitions for love. They aren’t offering that amazing prize because someone in marketing feels like being a Fairy Godmother this month.
No. As with any commercial enterprise, the brand wants to gain out of the competition. They’re looking for great, usable content they can share and proudly feature through their own channels. They’re looking for entries that tell your readers (and theirs) that this brand is fun, exciting and something people want to talk about!
WHAT ARE THE MISTAKES TO AVOID?
The second thing to get your head around? There’s no sure-fire way of winning, but there are certainly some ways you can virtually guarantee you’ll lose.
- Spell check! Obviously, not everyone is a born writer, but everyone can string words together in the right order, and spell them correctly (using a spell check if necessary). Before you hit “publish” go and check your post. Read it out loud. Preview it to make sure everything looks as you want it to. I’ve never yet seen a winning entry that was full of typos – no matter how good the idea or content was.
I wish I could of made my blog all about stationary cos I love pretty notpads.
I wish I could have made my blog all about stationery because I LOVE pretty notepads!
It’s basic – but it’s just… necessary.
- Make it pretty. If your entry is entirely written, then make it easy to read. Break your text into short paragraphs, using headlines, sub-heads and bullet points to divide the content into readable chunks. If you can, though, use pictures (or video). But if you’re using pictures? Make them great! Use good photographs (always your own, no one else’s), and make them as big as your blog will allow. They need to be eye-catching and immediately recognisable – no one wants to squint at a teeny tiny square trying to figure out what’s going on in it.
Which one grabs YOUR attention?
- Blog check. Don’t just stop at a spell check – take a look at your blog too. I mean really look at it. Is it a place that the brand wants to be? Remember that before they have even read your entry, as soon as they click your URL to go to your blog you’re inside that utterly essential 10 second first impression zone. So make it good. Don’t worry about clever designs – it doesn’t have to be anything swish or fancy. Maybe do a little decluttering of your sidebar. Clean up your colour scheme. Make it clean and easy on the eye, simple to navigate – and keep the ads for adult toys away from the children’s brands!
- Be brand aware: Think about the brand running the competition. They want to connect with blogs that like and understand their brand. So show you know who the brand is. If there’s a personal reason why you’d love to work with that brand, then by all means mention it!
- Don’t bother unless you’re bothered. Only enter the ones you REALLY want to win. If you WANT it, you’ll try harder – if your entry is half-arsed, it’ll never win anyway, so don’t waste your time. Just go out and buy biscuits instead.
- Keep your eyes on the prize! Think about what the prize is – that’s a pretty good indicator of the level of effort a brand might be expecting you to put in. Trying to win a £10 box of sweets? Well, a short well-written paragraph or funny picture is probably enough. But aiming for £1,000 in cash? Well I recently won just that – but only after four weeks of huge effort, creating four different projects involving hours of work. We did a time-lapse video of a den construction, wrote, performed and stop-motioned the video for a song, created and performed an entire gameshow, and lastly made a stop motion of a 4’ long food art project. It was that grand prize that was the motivating factor for us; we didn’t win every single week, but overall it was the sustained ‘effort and commitment’ that made us the big prize winners. If the prize is a good one – don’t enter in a hurry and think, “That’s good enough”. Instead, think “Is this good enough?”
- If you honestly know you could write it better / make it prettier / present it in a more fun way? Then do it. Give yourself the very best chance that you can. After all – even if you don’t win the main prize, you never know when brands running the competition might be looking for great new bloggers to work with. A good entry could be just the ticket you need to make the right impression with the right brand or PR.
Thanks to Laura for this guest post – some great tips here…