Crafting a winning PRWeek Awards entry takes creativity, commitment, and determination. PRWeek speaks to former judges to gather some advice.
In early December, a panel of about 80 judges will deliberate and debate over scores of entries for the annual PRWeek Awards. This group of recognized industry leaders has a mission to identify the highest standards of excellence in PR and to honor the outstanding achievements of organizations and individuals.
The judging process is intense. And with some judges reviewing up to 100 entries, standing out – for the right reasons – is vital.
Sally Susman, SVP of policy, external affairs, and communications at Pfizer, and the 2010 Judges' Chair, says last year's winning awards demonstrated “a remarkable level of skill, imagination, and terrific execution.” In judging the Campaign of the Year award, which was given to Dreyer's and Ketchum for “Dreyer's Beat the Blues with a Taste of Recovery,” there were several factors to consider, including creativity, execution, and results.
As Susman notes, each award category has its own unique set of requirements that entrants are scored on, and judges like to be wowed in these areas. But it doesn't stop there, as several judges testify. There are certain attributes that winning entries consistently display, including a professionally presented and articulate entry that accurately follows the guidelines.
So evidentially, to make it to the Awards shortlist, entrants need to put together a succinct application that demonstrates a great idea. But there are more specific ways to grab the judges' attention.
Something all judges agree on is that, while stylish presentations will certainly impress, it is hard facts –namely impressive ROI and quantifiable metrics that tie into overall business objectives – that earmark entries for the shortlist pile.
As Mike Fernandez, VP of public affairs for State Farm and the 2011 Judges' Chair, notes, “A creative approach will catch our eye, but clearly articulated objectives with metrics underscoring real results will win.”
“These days, PR is about so much more than just generating publicity for a product or brand,” adds Susman. “PR has demonstrated its ability to affect the overall business – and, in some cases, sales – and the most successful campaign entries will accurately reflect this shift. Results that tie back to the business are such an important component.”
The right amount of detail
While it is often true that the devil is in the detail in executing a winning campaign, the same doesn't necessarily ring true when writing up a winning entry. Jennifer Cohan, MD at GolinHarris, who has served as a judge several times, believes that too often entrants confuse strategy with tactics and, as a result, don't end up telling a compelling story.
“Entrants should fight the urge to include every element of their campaign because they risk burying great ideas under the weight of tactical details,” she adds.
Overreliance on media impressions to demonstrate value should also be avoided, suggests multiple-time judge Julian Green, director of media relations at MillerCoors: “I really want to see how the work tied into the overall business objectives and actually solved a problem or changed behavior.”
Kim Hunter, president and CEO of Lagrant Communications and longtime judge, believes simplicity is king when it comes to grabbing judges' attention. “Just answer what is asked,” he says. “It sounds so easy, but you would be surprised at the number of entries I come across that don't follow the directions given.”
For Hunter, campaigns organized into concise award entries stand out. “If I have to dig for the information, it is not a good sign,” he adds. “Make entries user-friendly, easy to understand, and don't ramble on.”
Avoid simple errors
Astonishing as it sounds, for an industry that prides itself on telling great stories, not all entries meet basic standards of editorial excellence. Typos, poor grammar, and sloppy narrative make a bad impression.
Judges advise starting the application process early and getting a third party to review. “A well-written entry that reflects passion will truly shine through to judges,” says Cohan. “It is a real pity when what would otherwise have been a winning award falls short because of the way it is put together.”
The PRWeek Awards process can often be complicated. Nonetheless, every year a carefully selected group of very senior industry heavyweights willingly give up their time to take part in judging. “I am always inspired when I judge the PRWeek Awards,” says Fernandez. “There are lots of clever people in the industry who do some terrific work. It is heartening to see.”
TOP 10 TIPS TO WIN A PRWEEK AWARD:
Read and follow the entry guidelines and answer the questions asked.
Unfocused narrative fails to impress judges.
Budget details, metrics, and ROI information are absolutely essential.
It doesn't matter how creative a piece of work is if it doesn't tie into defined business objectives and show ROI.
Get the right people to write the entry.
Don't delegate the task to the office intern. Get people who were involved with the work to play a part in the entry procedure.
Don't submit an entry at the last minute.
Allow time for your entry to be edited and proofread, preferably by a third party.
Look beyond media impressions.
It is not just about press clippings – show how your efforts have changed behavior.
Make sure your entry is relevant to the chosen category.
If you are entering the same piece of work more than once, avoid the temptation to copy and paste. Tailor the information to suit the category.
Get to the point and tell the story.
Let the judges clearly see the smart thinking behind your entry.
Avoid unnecessary details.
Fight the urge to include every nuance of a piece of work; keep it relevant and let the great ideas shine through.
Include relevant supporting materials.
Extras such as multimedia assets and client testimonials can make an entry more impactful.
The only way to win is to enter.
PRWeek Awards are open to companies of all sizes and each submission is judged independently.