9 top tips to win a PRWeek Award

Awards season is upon us - check out Steve Barrett's essential 9-point guide to producing winning entries.

The PRWeek Awards are the pinnacle of achievement in the communications industry.
The PRWeek Awards are the pinnacle of achievement in the communications industry.

The call for entries into the 20th edition of the PRWeek US Awards launched today.

It’s the most prestigious awards program in the communications industry and anyone who is shortlisted, an honorable mention, or a winner can be justifiably proud that they have scored in the Oscars of PR.

I’m delighted that our chair of judges this year is The Home Depot’s Stacey Tank, one of the most inspiring PR pros out there, and someone who has now been elevated to oversee three business units at the home improvement retailer.

The awards are super-competitive, so here are a few tips on presenting your top work, agency, or individuals in the best light.

  1. AGENCY CATEGORIES - If you want your agency to shine, you must produce a video to help present your case, especially in the Medium and Large agency categories. Last year, only one of the 20 agencies in the running in those two categories didn’t submit a video. The firm had had a great year. But the judges weren’t impressed with the lack of a video component to its entry and didn’t put the agency through to the shortlist stage. Also, submitting your standard creds video is not going to cut it – you must tailor the video to the category and task at hand to make the case for your firm with the jury of top PR professionals.

  2. EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE – You must back up the effectiveness of your campaigns with evidence of real business results, concrete outcomes, or changes in behavior. If I’ve read one agency submission touting advertising value equivalency to back up the so-called success of a campaign, I’ve read a thousand. As the Barcelona Principles stated way back in 2010, AVE measures the cost of media space or time and does not measure the value of PR or communication, media content, or earned media. It’s irrelevant and annoys the judges.

  3. MORE EVIDENCE – Similarly, Facebook Likes, retweets, social media views, and web traffic are not evidence of the effectiveness of a piece of communication. This data has to be backed up with hard evidence as outlined above.

  4. DON’T BURY THE LEDE – Judges have stacks of submissions to read through and human nature dictates that they are looking for easy excuses to discard entries. Keep it simple and get to the point. Don’t overwrite and make your compelling case as high up in the submission as possible. Grab the judges’ attention, keep them engaged, and tell them a story. You’re in communications – you know how to do this!

  5. VETTING PROCESSES – The task of submitting awards entries is often left to junior staffers at agencies and sometimes doesn’t even cross the desk of the firm’s C-suite or CEO. This is not a good way to operate. Instigate a thorough approval process that leaves enough time for your senior staff to review the entries and ask for changes if necessary. Some firms have members of staff whose sole responsibility is submitting awards entries. If you’re going to succeed in the PRWeek Awards, you must apply the same level of rigor to your submissions.

  6. PLANNING – Everybody’s been there. The awards deadline is three days away and you suddenly realize you haven’t even started your entries yet. You can take advantage of the extended PRWeek Awards deadline, for a surcharge, but the best way is to plan well in advance and leave sufficient time to put your best foot forward. One of the reasons ad agencies do so well at Cannes is that they are already working on their entries for the following year when the Festival of Creativity comes around each June. The entry deadline this year is October 1, so you have plenty of time to work on your submissions – let’s get started!
  7. WRITING & SPELLING – Make sure all entries are edited and proofed rigorously. Nothing annoys judges more than spelling errors and bad writing in awards entries. Believe me, it prompts a discussion about the poor standard of writing in the PR industry every single year…

  8. OBJECTIVE VIEWPOINT – Have someone who’s not familiar with the campaign look at the entry before it is submitted, for a reality check. Sometimes the team of people who activated the campaign are so deep in the weeds of the work that they can’t see the wood for the trees. Does the story hang together as a standalone piece of communication for someone who’s never seen the work before? Your third party will be able to give you that independent viewpoint.

  9. PRWEEK UNCOVERED – We’re broadcasting a webcast on Wednesday, August 29 at 2:00pm ET to help you put together the most effective awards submissions possible. Moderated by PRWeek managing editor, Gideon Fidelzeid, the webcast includes an overview of the 2019 program, including category changes and entry guidelines; what jurors look for in an entry; analysis of 2018’s Campaign of the Year; an opportunity to ask questions of our jury experts; and an analysis of the value of a PRWeek Award. If you can’t watch it live, it will be available on catch-up, so be sure to check it out.

Good luck and I look forward to celebrating the 20th anniversary of the PRWeek US Awards in New York City on March 21 next year.

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