PRWEEK AWARDS 2002: Get the winning feeling - This year's PRWeek Awards will again highlight excellence throughout the public relations industry

There's nothing quite like the feeling of being a winner. The anticipation as the presenter reaches your name in the shortlist, the drumroll as he or she pauses to build the tension, the adrenaline rush as the spotlight picks you out in the crowd, and the intense concentration as you pick your way between the tables on your way up to the stage. It is no wonder the PRWeek Awards have been dubbed the Oscars of the PR industry.

This is now the 16th year of the PRWeek Awards, and every year the quality and quantity of the entries increases. At the same time, the number of awards categories has grown year-on-year as PRWeek strives to recognise the very best practice in the industry.

While we hope that the glittering event at London's Meridian Grosvenor House on Wednesday 30 October will mirror the sheer glamour of the Oscars, we would prefer it does not go on quite as long as the film industry's annual marathon.

Of course, the ban on acceptance speeches is one way to keep the pace of the evening moving. Given most PR practitioners' legendary gift of the gab, most could probably give Halle Berry a run for her money when it comes to lengthy orations of gratitude.

But more importantly the key to creating enjoyable, exciting and relevant awards lies in creating a comprehensive but concise programme.

With this in mind, PRWeek continually reviews the awards process. Over the years we have decreased the emphasis on core craft skills, which we believe should be a given in this industry, and have focused instead on the kind of strategic thinking and brilliant tactics that create memorable campaigns.

This year we have tightened the programme still further, while at the same time we have created new categories that reflect the changing nature of the industry.

In order to create a representative awards programme, we have consolidated some categories. For example, in recognition of the increasing level of cross-border work undertaken in all areas of PR, we will for the first time be judging international work carried out by UK subsidiaries across all the categories.

Within the Corporate & Public section, we have also created a single Corporate Communications category that recognises the best one-off or ongoing campaign on behalf of a company's or organisation's corporate brand.

In previous years, PRWeek has judged corporate social responsibility and corporate community involvement separately. However, we felt that with increased Government pressure on firms to regard CSR as an integral part of their risk management and auditing process, it was important to recognise this aspect of reputation management as part of the core corporate comms strategy.

Likewise, an ability to communicate with youth audiences - once a niche and now a prerequisite for anyone working in consumer PR - will be now judged as part of Marketing Communications: Consumer, while small consultancies will have the option of entering either the Gold Award Consultancy of the Year category or, in the case of younger agencies, New Consultancy of the Year. For the first time, this year PRWeek also plans to recognise the best Public Sector Department of the Year with a new Gold Award.

So, how do you go about winning a PRWeek Award? Firstly, you can't win if you don't enter, and the 5 July deadline for entries is just two months away.

Also, you can't win if you don't follow the rules of entry, such as inclusion of budget details, and details of everyone involved in the work. This means outlining the role of both in-house departments and agencies, even if in the case of an agency's entry, it means giving credit to another PR firm. Give credit where credit is due - if you don't and one of our panel of industry experts spots it, your entry will be disqualified.

Wannabe winners should resist the temptation to re-write War and Peace, by sticking to the specified two sheets of A4 when compiling entries.

For the first time, we have also outlined a template of specific categories of information that need to be provided, which will help the judges to better assess your entry. These include an objective and brief from the client, as well as proof as to the effectiveness of the campaign in relation to these objectives.

There can be few in the industry who deny the crucial importance of research and evaluation (R&E) to professional PR, but the chasm between rhetoric and reality has been all too obvious in many past entries.

In previous years we have awarded a special Proof Award for use of R&E. Inevitably, we received entries for this award (the winner of which was actually chosen from shortlisted entries) with commendable evidence of pre-testing, message analysis etc, while entries to many of the other categories frequently provided scant evidence, often relying on advertising-value equivalents (AVEs).

This year we have dispensed with the Proof Award and will be placing greater emphasis on proper R&E throughout the entire spectrum of campaign entries.

This doesn't mean awards for enormous commitments of funds, rather evidence of properly-planned and targeted campaigns, and a demonstrable link between the initial objectives and results.

For a guide to what the judges will be looking for, it is worth looking at the IPR's most recent edition of the Planning, Research and Evaluation Toolkit.

But most of all, our judges will be looking for the ability to think creatively - the approach to problem-solving that makes the judges think 'I wish I'd thought of that'.

The winners will be those who can demonstrate really appropriate creativity; who put something back into their clients; and who can prove the core role that award-winning PR can play in all organisations.

Good luck.

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