Cynicism comes easily, but the recent PRSA Silver Anvil Awards blew errant cobwebs off those feelings of good will and celebration for the work and people of the industry.
It was not just the sight of the Stanley Cup on stage, introduced by National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman in honor of Bernadette Mansur's PR Professional of the Year Award. This fairly jaded crowd went wild at the site of the trophy. What better evidence of Mansur's contribution, and the fact that the NHL has truly left its troubles behind it, than the childlike excitement that close proximity to the trophy generated.
Al Golin, whose eponymous firm GolinHarris celebrates 50 years this year, was also honored. His speech touched on this era of authenticity. "Who would have thought that an old-fashioned idea of a spelling bee could be the subject of a hit Broadway musical, a major motion picture, and a network TV show?" Golin noted. "Let's... help find the authenticity at the core of our clients and organizations."
But the evening's highlight was the earsplitting whoop of joy given up by Jack Berkman of Berkman Communications, whose firm won the consumer technology award for its work with wireless headset provider Jabra. As Berkman ran past me on his way to phone the entire world about the win, he grabbed my hand and burbled, "Thirty years in the business!" His ecstasy was palpable.
All awards events have similar high notes, but this year's Anvils served as a poignant reminder of the traditional intimacy of the PR profession. It plays out in the dynamic of the crowd, where who's there and who isn't is instantly known, where old friends and former colleagues mingle in close quarters, and every other attendee seems to be from Minneapolis.
But PR has gone through a lot of late. And though the Anvils more or less close the PR awards season, it seems like much has changed in the few months since this year began. So much so that the top-winning Dove campaign seemed like it happened ages ago.
More and more, the PR industry is less focused on itself and more on the CMOs and CEOs, advertising agency partners, branding firms, bloggers, SEO companies, and media buyers. The insularity of the discipline is being methodically eradicated.
This is a positive development, but it is accompanied by a certain sense of anxiety. That is only natural because the stakes are higher than ever. PR can spend a lot of time indulging in fuzzy rhetoric about the opportunities now in front of it, but that opening has never been wider or more inviting across more levels of the profession, in corporations and firms alike.
What that means at an awards presentation is that you realize that one is less likely to be in their company these days - and that's a good thing. The PR profession is guilty of spending too much time talking to itself, but that is becoming less often the case now. It makes the opportunities to celebrate its successes that much sweeter.