Some new awards to consider as the industry evolves

Another impressive awards program presented by PRWeek is in the books. It was the first of the season for the industry, with more ceremonies on the way.

Another impressive awards program presented by PRWeek is in the books. It was the first of the season for the industry, with more ceremonies on the way.

There are many important things happening in the PR business, particularly between firms and clients, but many significant elements of these relationships don't get recognized or are not easily identified.

With that in mind, here are some ideas the Council of Public Relations Firms has for new industry awards:

Best use of Advertising in a PR campaign. In a brave new marketing world, PR firms must take the bold steps necessary to become indispensable to their clients. It's time to do what a board member of ours suggested at last year's Critical Issues Forum: "Let's add a zero to the [PR] budget and call advertising a PR tactic." Clients want their outside firms to present them with great executable and measurable ideas. If it's from a PR firm, ad agency, interactive group, or whomever, the idea's the thing. Many PR firms are indeed taking the lead on major accounts, and most aren't afraid to suggest non-PR methods if it helps clients achieve their business objectives. The case for using PR is getting stronger all the time. Now it's time to take the lead role.

Best CMO. In the same vein, let's recognize the marketing executives who "get" how effective PR is and can be. The folks who control the marketing purse strings and are investing smartly and successfully in PR should be celebrated as role models to other CMOs.

Best RFP. This would appear to be an oxymoron considering that RFPs are simultaneously desired and dreaded within the PR world. This award recognizes the RFP that makes all parties involved feel the process was worthwhile, whatever the outcome. The very best RFPs should be well-thought-out and provide client organizations with a map for finding the right PR agency, while giving the competing firms a fair chance to vie for the business. They would be thorough yet relevant, challenging yet fair; all the while understanding their audience and respecting their creative ideas and intellectual property.

One last thing: a contract must ultimately be awarded to somebody. There must be a ban on cattle-calls that yield many ideas and no winning firm. "Requests" that have firms jumping through hoops, but end up in an RFP version of a dead-letter office do not qualify. There's a special place reserved for those. (Hint: it's allegedly hot and eternal.)

Best use of Procurement (a.k.a Help Them Help Us Award). Since many PR agency executives consider their "relationship" with procurement not a word but a sentence, the best use of procurement is an all-out education campaign geared toward this still underinformed client constituent. A lot more work must be done to help them understand PR and the value outside counsel brings to their organizations.

Best Resolution of a Conflict. This thorny agency/client issue has only grown more complex. While notoriety is typically achieved only when a high-profile partnership ends, it would be instructive to promote the fact that not all conflicts will necessarily doom a work engagement. In fact, they usually don't. This award honors the client/agency duo that has resolved their issues and resumed a productive relationship.

The award season showcases PR's best work. The above five recognize that even having the opportunity to step to the podium, attention must first be paid to the essential, mostly unseen parts of the business.

Kathy Cripps is the President of the Council of Public Relations Firms.

The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of PR firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our Web site at www. prfirms.org.

This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.

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