PRWEEK AWARDS: The sweetest feeling

Kate Nicholas looks forward to another hotly-contested PRWeek Awards in 2003

When the going gets tough, it does an industry good to celebrate its successes. And no one can deny the last 12 months have been some of the most challenging that many in the industry can remember.

Which is why PRWeek is delighted to have the opportunity to recognise the resilience, resourcefulness and sheer ingenuity and creativity that this remarkable industry continues to display, even in the most difficult of times.

Despite the incredible challenges faced, industry players have continued to create groundbreaking campaigns, skilfully manage reputation issues, and, even in these straightened times, to launch and run highly successful public relations consultancies and departments. While many have made dire prognoses about the fate of public relations in such difficult circumstances, it has continued to grow as a strategic business discipline, and to develop its importance as one of the most effective of marketing communications tools.

The PRWeek Awards provides an opportunity for the industry to celebrate its sustained growth and success, and to fete those who continue to push the boundaries of creative and strategic thinking about comms.

Winning an award is also tremendously important at a personal level.

Putting aside altruistic motives, there is little to top the thrill of beating your peers at a glittering PRWeek awards ceremony at Le Meridien Grosvenor House. And, long after the spotlight has left your table, the experience of being recognised for your creativity and sheer professionalism leaves you with a delightful afterglow.

If winning an award feels good at the best of times, it perhaps feels even better when the industry is facing tough challenges. There's no doubt a PRWeek award is a very valuable addition to your CV at a time when exciting new roles are scarce, and, although the major bloodletting in terms of staff cut-backs now seems to be over, a gong on your desk might prove a useful insurance policy!

So how do you you lay your hands on one of these coveted PRWeek awards?

The first step is to read this feature. The second is to use the entry form, which you will find inserted in this issue and available to download at www.prweek.com.

It is now 17 years since PRWeek handed out its first award, and the awards process and event have undergone quite a few changes during this time in order to keep up with the evolution of the industry.

The categories (listed in the panel to the right) remain broadly the same as in 2002. However, this year PRWeek has introduced, for the first time, a new category celebrating the success of the rapidly growing number of specialist consultancies who have built a reputation for their expertise in a specific sector, or for dealing with a very specialist target audience.

The judges will be looking for evidence of share of the consultancies' chosen market, as well as an in-depth knowledge of that market and innovation.

Also back by popular demand this year is the Broadcast category. Broadcast remains one of the biggest challenges to this industry. Public relations originated as press relations, and, despite many advances, the growth and proliferation of broadcast media continues to create ongoing challenges in terms of getting to grips with this most powerful of mediums. So we will again be awarding companies who have managed to place broadcast at the centre of their campaigns in an imaginative and appropriate way.

As always, however, the judges will continue to look for creative approaches to the broadcast medium across all categories, in the same way that they will expect a good understanding of e-PR and good use of planning, research and evaluation as the prerequisite of an award-winning campaign.

Once again this year, we have gathered over 40 leading industry experts who will judge all the entries in two rounds. This expert panel will be chaired by head of corporate affairs at News International Alison Clark, one of the leading practitioners in the UK today, who also has a unique insight into the world of the media, with which so many PROs interact (see panel).

So what will the PRWeek Awards judges be looking for? Undoubtedly creativity will be at the top of their list. This doesn't mean they will just be looking for wild and wacky stunts, but rather an appropriate and creative response that met the organisation's core objectives. They will also be looking for properly planned campaigns with clear objectives, demonstrable results and proof of effectiveness.

Above all, they will be looking for the 'I wish I had thought of that' factor.

On a slightly more mundane level, it helps if you read the rules carefully and do not exceed the required two A4 pages for your entry, as between them the judges will be viewing more than 700 entries. Deadline is 7 July.

And finally, remember, you can't win if you don't enter. Good luck.

PR EXCELLENCE WHAT WILL THE JUDGES BE LOOKING FOR?

News International director of corporate affairs Alison Clark says she was honoured to be invited to chair the judges of this year's PRWeek Awards, particularly as global events have led to a new angle on an old debate in her twin fields of newspapers and public relations.

'There has been a lot of discussion on the issue of 'embedding' journalists into military units, and the resulting military and media relationships during the Iraq conflict,' says Clark.

There are other crossovers between the media and PR, which will inform Clark's chairing of the awards: 'I'll be looking for simplicity and directness, and a balance between brevity and clarity. These are as important to the world of PR as they are in the world of newspapers.'

Clark, an economics graduate, joined News International in 1993 as external affairs manager, responsible for government, political and regulatory affairs. In January 2000 she was promoted to corporate affairs director, adding community affairs, media relations and communications to her responsibilities.

Previously, Clark worked in Westminster and in public affairs with the Saatchi company Rowland, Sallingbury Casey.

Clark regards the PRWeek Awards as an ideal opportunity to take stock of how the industry is evolving, and to recognise the value of PR's adaptability in a tough economic climate: 'There are so many different disciplines under the umbrella of PR now, and it has become an essential tool in the industrial, commercial and regulatory world. We have some talented practitioners in the UK and these awards highlight some of that excellence.'

Clark will be urging her panel of judges to be tough critics of public relations practice that doesn't come up to scratch. 'However, as well as flair, creativity and originality, I'll be looking at the credibility of PR in each entry, and how suitable the tactics used are for the client and their product. For me, the winners will be about really effective PR, not just noise for the sake of it,' she says.

Clark will look for entrants who have evaluated their work to prove PR's effectiveness: 'Measurement and evaluation are almost impossible to do properly in PR, but the more PR is measured and people communicate the effectiveness of their work, then the more the wider business community will understand it.'

CATEGORIES

Specialist & Technique Categories

Research

Promotional Activity

Crisis Management

Public Affairs

Broadcast

Product & Promotion Categories

Healthcare: Ethical

Healthcare: OTC/Consumer

Marketing Comms: Consumer

Marketing Comms: Business

Technology

Corporate & Public Categories

Financial

Public Sector

Not for Profit

Internal Communications

Corporate Publications

Corporate Communications

People & Agencies

Communicator of the Year

New Consultancy of the Year

Specialist Consultancy of the Year

Solo Practitioner of the Year

Young PR Professional of the Year

Gold Awards

PR Professional of the Year

Public Sector Department of the Year

Private Sector Department of the Year

Consultancy of the Year

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