Contest Overview

The Northern Lights Awards contest recognizes outstanding work in Minnesota's government, educational and nonprofit communications, and provides valuable feedback for all entries from the communications professionals who judge the contest. The contest is conducted annually by the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators. 

How to Enter

Follow these instructions, or if you know how it works, go straight to the awards site.


Contest Dates for 2019

Contest opens: Friday, February 1 at noon. 

Deadline for entries: Friday, March 1 at 8 p.m.

This is a hard deadline that cannot be extended. We need to close the contest March 1 to allow our judges from TAMIO in Texas to start judging the entries according to the schedule MAGC and TAMIO have both agreed to follow.

Awards ceremony: Wednesday, May 22. 

The venue for the awards ceremony has not yet been finalized.

New This Year

Celebrating Excellence in Smaller Organizations 

This year we have created two new awards to shine a spotlight on the excellent work done by smaller communications teams and organizations throughout the state.

The two new categories, for printed publications and for digital engagement, are open to communications teams that meat one or more of the following criteria: 

      • The organization's communications staff has no more than two full-time positions (2 FTE), adding up all full- and part-time communications positions; OR
      • The organization's total annual budget for communications, including salaries, is no more than $200,000; OR
      • The organization's entire annual budget (all departments and work groups) is no more than $6 million; OR
      • The total population the organization serves is no more than 15,000 people.

These awards take the place of the "Best for Least" award offered in past years. 

New Video Category: Sports Programming 

Sports Programming rewards excellence in the creation of a regularly scheduled program featuring sporting events, sports features, or sports commentary. 

This new category replaces the News Programming a category which was retired this year.

A Northern Lights Award trophy

The Awards

Northern Lights Award (First Place)

The first-place Northern Lights Award is granted to the one entry in each category that stands out from all others as representing the very best in government communications. This award honors an entry whose quality has wowed the judges—exceeding expectations, accomplishing intended goals, demonstrating creativity and making excellent use of available resources.

One Northern Lights Award may be granted in each category, except in the case of a tie score, in which case all entries tying for first place will receive the award. However, if no entry receives the minimum score required for the Northern Lights Award, the award will not be granted.

Silver Award (Second Place)

Like the Northern Lights Award, the second-place Silver Award honors work that represents government communications at the highest standards. This award is granted to a superbly executed entry that accomplishes its goals with creativity and outstanding design and makes excellent use of available resources.

One Silver Award may be granted in each category, except in the case of a tie score, in which case all entries tying for second place will receive the award. However, if no entry receives the minimum score required for the Silver Award, the award will not be granted.

Bronze Award (Third Place)

The third-place Bronze Award likewise honors an entry that that shows distinction in all aspects, accomplishes its goals with creativity and outstanding design and makes excellent use of available resources.

One Bronze Award may be granted in each category, except in the case of a tie score, in which case all entries tying for third place will receive the award. However, if no entry receives the minimum score required for the Bronze Award, the award will not be granted.

Award of Merit (Honorable Mention)

The Award of Merit honors entries that receive a qualifying score from the judges, when other (higher-scoring) entries have been awarded the category's Northern Lights, Silver and Bronze awards.

Any number of Awards of Merit may be given out in a category so long as each has received a qualifying score.

Best of Show

The Best of Show award is given to the one entry that best demonstrates effective government communications. The winner is chosen by the Best of Show judging panel (convened by the MAGC board) from among the year's Northern Lights Award winners, taking into account the recommendations of the contest judges.

Communicator of the Year Award

An individual may receive MAGC's Communicator of the Year Award at the discretion of the MAGC board. The award may not be given every year. Nominations for this award are encouraged. More information about this award...

Lifetime Achievement Award

An individual may receive MAGC's Lifetime Achievement Award at the discretion of the MAGC board. The award may not be given every year. Nominations for this award are encouraged. A nomination form is made available each year by the end of February. More information about this award...

Contest FAQ 

When did my project have to be "done" or "published," or whatever, in order to be eligible for this year's contest?

Projects completed or published between January 1, 2018 and February 28, 2019 are eligible for this year's contest. In recent years we've clarified and extended the deadline to include January and February, in recognition of how difficult it can be to wait until the next year submit an entry about a project you would then have finished 12 or even 13 months earlier.

Can I submit the same project in multiple categories?

Yes. If your entry fits into more than one category, feel free to enter it more than once. You will need to pay an entry fee for each entry.

Can I submit multiple projects in the same category?

Go for it. You'll be competing against yourself, of course. You will need to pay an entry fee for each entry.

I am a member. Can a nonmember coworker submit a project for me and still receive my member rate?

Yes. Tell them to refer to your membership to get the discounted member rate for entries.

How do I pay? 

Can I pay for multiple entries all at once?

How do I get the member rate? 

The entry process allows you to work on one or more entries over time while the contest is open, and then pay for the entries all at once when you've completed them all. You can even continue to edit your entries after you've paid, right up until the contest deadline. 

If you're entering more than one project, you can "Submit" each one as you go. Instead of "Proceed to payment," choose "Return to my entries" until all of your entries have been completed. Then you can "Proceed to payment" and pay for all entries at once. 

Members will be able to select the member rate for all the entries in their cart. Not a member? Join or renew now and get $25 off each entry, at the member rate.

Several of us want to pay for all of our organization's entries at once. How do we do that?

You can create one account for everyone in your organization to share when submitting their entries. You can use a person's email to create the account, or if you have a generic email like  "communications@yourorg.gov," you can use that. 

After you're sure that everyone has completed their entries, and all of the entries have been added to your account's shopping cart, someone can go in and pay for them all with one credit card transaction or by generating a single invoice listing all of the entries. 

I'm a MACTA member. How do I get the member rate?

You will have an opportunity to attest that you are an active MACTA member. This will allow you to receive the member discount rate for video submissions.

By the way, we'd love it if you were to join MAGC, and at $85 per year, it's a bargain!

If my organization wins, can we order extra copies of our trophy to display, or to give to people who contributed to the project?

Yes. A duplicate trophy order form will be made available soon after the awards ceremony in May. The cost of the duplicate awards will be stated on the order form.

Pricing is based on the cost of the trophies plus the cost of shipping them to you. MAGC does not intend to make a profit on duplicate trophy sales. Even so, due to the small size of the order, duplicate trophies tend to be somewhat expensive. 

How much does it cost to submit a nomination for the Communicator of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards?

There's no cost for submitting a nomination for either award. You will still need to visit https://enter.magcawards.org, start an entry, and select the nomination category from the drop-down options. When you submit the completed entry, it will be added to your "shopping cart" with a $0 cost, so when you check out you won't need to enter any financial info (unless you're paying for regular contest entries at the same time). 

MACTA: Contest Partner and Video Awards Sponsor

Once again in 2019, we are pleased to acknowledge Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators as sponsor of the video portion of the Northern Lights Awards.

MACTA is a statewide professional organization of city representatives and staff that, among other priorities, promotes and supports government uses of cable television including community programming.

Since 2015, MAGC and MACTA have worked as partners in the Northern Lights Awards contest. MACTA provides guidance about the video categories, assists in the recruiting of professional video judges and helps promote the contest. In turn, MACTA members enter the contest at MAGC member pricing.

Minnesota Association of Government Communicators | 5775 Wayzata Blvd, Suite 700, PMB #200-016 | St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Phone: 952-237-9258 | Email: info@magconline.org

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