Lights, Camera, Action! 7 Tips to Run a Successful Video Challenge

Feb 20, 2014

Not sure how to craft a video challenge that will result in the creative solutions your agency is looking for? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Film reel, film slate, director's chair and megaphone

ktsimage, iStock, Thinkstock

Jason Crusan from NASA and Tammi Marcoullier from joined a recent DigitalGov University webinar to share best practices and hurdles in running video competitions.

We’ve recapped their advice and key takeaways here:

  1. Video challenges are a great way to engage the public around a visual story. NASA ran a video challenge to collect footage from around the world during the Venus transit of the Sun in 2012. This rare astronomical event only occurs every 100 plus years.
  2. Don’t specify the end result, as you might in a statement of work. You want to let creativity flow. However, if there are certain things the videos must have, state that in your rules.
  3. Consider phasing your challenge to get more engagement. The NASA Zero Robotics Challenge first asked for ideas, Twitter style in 140 characters. Storyboards came in the second phase, with the third phase being final video submissions. Just remember that phased challenges also require you to give feedback to the contestants at each gate, so more engagement from your agency’s staff is needed over a longer period of time. The Zero Robotics Challenge began with over 200 ideas, and ended with 9 final submissions.
  4. Phased challenges are also a great way to get teams to enter, since people with different talents can use their strengths when they are most needed. For example, one team member may draw the storyboard, while a different team member actually shoots the video later.
  5. There are many platforms and websites you can use to run challenge and prize competitions. Make your decision based on the audience you are trying to reach, and where they go looking for challenge and prize competitions to enter. We’ve compiled a partial list of choices for creative challenges on DigitalGov. While there are often fees to use these platforms, some provide valuable, time-saving services, like intellectual property transfer.
  6. Let the contestants in your challenge know how you will use their videos. Be careful not to oversell by promising something you can’t deliver, but make this part of the prize as enticing as possible. For example, the White House Council on Environmental Quality Youth Sustainability Challenge had 5 winners, and all the videos were screened at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development.
  7. As you judge the videos submitted, you may want to steer clear of videos that look like the ones your agency currently produces. After all, you reached out to the crowd to get an outside the box solution.

Well, there are your lucky seven tips on how to run a successful video challenge. You can view a full recording of the webinar below. You should also check out video challenge examples on, as well as our complete guide to multimedia challenges on

And you can join our Challenges & Prizes community, if you’re interested in collaborating further with other challenges colleagues across government.