USA Today Network Ventures Events, Humankind create audience-driven awards show

By Summer Moore


Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA


USA Today’s Humankind is a video brand created to focus on good stories about everyday people. The three main themes are stories of triumph, everyday people doing kind things in their communities, and special relationships.

In the five years since it was created, Humankind has amassed more than 20 million followers across social platforms. In 2020 alone, its videos had more than three billion views. The massive popularity has spurred many sub-brands, including Womankind, Animalkind, Militarykind, and Sportskind. This brand was created with social media in mind and has been immensely popular on platforms including YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok.

The content strategy behind this brand is quite genius. Humankind’s videos centre around a moment of kindness, usually caught on camera, and dive deeper into what led to or came after that moment.

The competition awarded winners in 11 categories.
The competition awarded winners in 11 categories.

In June, Humankind and the events arm of USA Today Network, which is called Ventures Events, decided to create an awards show in the first big partnership between the two groups. Both sides came in with something valuable: Ventures could produce a great awards show, and Humankind had a successful content formula and a built-in audience excited to share good news. Thanks to the company’s leadership, the groups were cleared to start right away with a goal of completing the show by the end of the year.

Ventures Events saw a lot of success with the American Influencer Awards and Community Choice Awards with public nominations and voting, so we decided to try that here as well.

This had three benefits.

  1. The public nominations engaged people from the beginning. If you nominate someone, you are much more likely to vote and then tune in to see who wins.
  2. It brought in new stories for Humankind.
  3. We could grow the Humankind database by encouraging nominators and voters to register with their e-mail addresses. This database can be used for things like newsletters and surveys in the future.

For the content, we had nominators send us as much information as possible. Then we took the best of those and put them through a vetting process. This included having them voted on by an internal advisory board consisting of members of each of Gannett’s Employee Resource Groups to encourage fairness and diversity among finalists.

When we had narrowed the field to 22 finalists (two for each of the 11 categories), we reached out to each one and had them submit a video where they explained their programme, accomplishment, or moment.

The 11 categories included the most popular Humankind franchises along with a few extras that brought in powerful stories. They were:

  • Best of Womankind
  • Best of Sportskind
  • Best of Earthkind
  • Best of Militarykind
  • Best of Animalkind
  • Humankind Educator of the Year
  • Humankind Healthcare Worker of the Year
  • Humankind Triumph of the Year
  • Humankind Act of Kindness Caught on Video
  • Humankind Viewer’s Choice Award
  • Humankind Person of the Year

Once we had the finalists’ videos, we shared them everywhere to bring in votes. Luckily, good stories tend to draw people in. 

With these videos and the large social following to carry us, we secured more than 640 nominations and 70,000 votes. A key for us was creating social cards for all the finalists and sharing with them directly so they could post on their social media feeds.

As the voting closed, our video team created stories about the winners. Because of safety concerns around the pandemic, the winners’ videos were created from video calls, but the power of the stories shined through.

The show, hosted by Jenna Bush Hager, appears to be a hit, though the final numbers are still coming in.
The show, hosted by Jenna Bush Hager, appears to be a hit, though the final numbers are still coming in.

When the show aired December 9, hosted by Jenna Bush Hager of Today with Hoda and Jenna, we hoped we had a hit. The final numbers are still coming in. The show is still available on Humankind’s YouTube as well as on the USA TODAY channel on Roku, Tubi, and most smart TVs. 

The finalists’ and winning videos will also live beyond the competition itself. These stories are not tied to an event or a time. We will continue to share the videos for months on social media where it will continue to attract viewers.

As Humankind continues to grow, we are looking forward to an even bigger show next year.

What can you take away from this?

1. Good news and positivity tend to go viral, especially when caught on video.

2. It’s important to include your audience in the process of any big project. This will help grow your followers, views, and database of e-mail addresses. (Make sure you get those e-mail addresses!)

3. User-generated content is key. When you do not have to rely on being there to record a moment, you can save time and staffing. Remember, social videos do not have to be perfect.

4. Creating a database of evergreen content will help fill the holes. When news is slow, or you are looking for something to share, grabbing a viral video from months ago can be useful. Remember, just because you shared it before does not mean everyone saw it.

5. Finally, create social cards for people whenever possible. This encourages them to share and keeps the message on brand.

About Summer Moore

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.