The three 2022 Neal Award winners for Best Subject Related Package—Winsight, MLR Media and Crain Communications—demonstrate the creativity and expertise with which topics can be covered and conveyed these days. Video, podcasts, photos, charts, infographics, intuitive copy and challenging topics give an audience lots of reasons to engage.
For its Neal Award-winning presentation of The Impact of the $15 Wage, Winsight’s Restaurant Business deployed a creative spread of infographics, photos, video and well-written and researched content to show what can be done with a topic in these digital-dominant days.
Like the other two winners in this category, Winsight makes simple grey text a relic of the past. The package starts with a declaration: “The $15 wage is increasingly common throughout the U.S., either as a government mandate or a market reality. Its impact touches the entire restaurant industry, its employees and its operators.”
Then come the following whistles and bells:
A vertical timeline with How It Started pasted onto a photo showing a protest at a big McDonalds. Then it’s on to how Mom and Pops restaurants were the first to reach $15—illustrating with a photo of an independent brewery owner. Every small headline links to a “Premium” story they’ve written.
A map of the United States—“States on the way to a $15 minimum wage.” By hovering over the states they’ve selected, you can see the progress—or lack of it—being made. Then come charts of Chains That Are Raising Wages and “how much are you currently paying newly hired employees who don’t directly earn tips?” Again, hovering over a section to see what it says adds more room for description and makes it interactive (and fun).
A video of a robot “working” in a restaurant. “Robots hone their muscles. Miso Robotics is still tweaking its automated kitchen bot, Flippy, as it fields strong interest from restaurants.” The timeline continues with &pizza paying its workers at least $15 by 2022 and McDonalds informing the National Restaurant Association—which acquired Winsight in 2021—that it will stop fighting against increases.
A bar chart on where restaurants weigh in on the $15 wage. Lastly, there’s an article on the survey results. “A survey of operators found nearly 30% already pay $15 an hour, but most are skeptical that the business can function at that pay level.” It’s all quite a package.
Another winner in this category was also the Grand Neal recipient: Reckoning: Family Businesses Confront Race, Racism and Inclusion by Barbara Spector of MLR Media. In an Editorial Council meeting we conducted with her earlier this year, Spector offered six takeaways from her experience with the story:
1. Get the support of top management.
2. “When tackling a big project, you need enough time to get it right, including a lot of time for a major rewrite if needed… If possible, wait until the editing is far along before committing to publish it on a specific date.”
3. It’s important to be known to your readers “as a trusted resource that is sensitive to audiences concerns. It will be easier to find sources and get them to open up to you.”
4. “Back up your assertions with quotes, facts [and] statistics from trusted sources. This is especially true for controversial topics.”
5. “If you have a complex story to tell, break it up into parts and make ample use of subheads, pull quotes, illustrations and sidebars to avoid the old wall of text. Link to sources where readers can go to research and learn more.”
6. “Everyone needs an editor, and you also need a talented creative director and web designer for projects like this.”
The third winner in this category was EV1: A Legacy in a New Light from Crain Communications’ Automotive News. This is also an amazingly versatile package featuring video, podcasts, eight chapters, an epilogue, and more stories such as Filmmaker Chris Paine on Who Killed the EV1, and Cultivated. Then Crushed—about a “topsy turvy” car-saving attempt.
The package begins dramatically: “25 years ago, GM rolled out the EV1, a triumph of electrification that ended in a crushing blow. But the car planted the seed for the industry embrace of EVs now.”
In the podcast’s first episode, reporters Pete Bigelow and Hannah Lutz “tell listeners how they tracked down more than 30 key players to weave together the story of GM’s EV1r.” The episode tells of General Motors’ flashy launch of the EV1—at a Sylvester Stallone film premiere.
Everything takes place on the Automotive News website with many links to more content. “On the Automotive News Special Reports podcast, we’ll take you beyond our weekly print edition. Subscribe for periodic episodes.” The videos are also impressive, appearing on Automotive News TV. Podcasts and videos are also great opportunities to push your publications’ personalities forward; let your audience get to know them better.