Confessions of a public relations industry award judge
Here are 21 insights that may prove useful if you’re looking to win an accolade for your public relations work.
I’ve been judging industry awards. It's good to see what other agencies and organisations are up to.
Get at least two people to proof your entry. Make sure you spell your name, and your company name, correctly. Yes, really.
#2 Follow the instructions
Read the instructions, and follow the entry category headings. This is what judges use as marking criteria. Make it easy for them.
#3 The Mum test
If your Mum or Dad can’t make sense of your entry, rework it until they can. This rule applies to much of life as a means of avoiding bullshit and nonsense.
#4 Purpose and simplicity
You should be able to state the purpose and outcome of your campaign in a single sentence. Rework your entry until you can.
#5 Brevity and word count
Don’t go over the word count. 100 words is okay but 500 is plain silly. It’s likely that each judge will review up to 40 entries, maybe more.
#6 Fact checking
Judges have access to Google and other media monitoring tools. Don’t exaggerate. Let your work speak for itself.
#7 Data driven practice
Data is increasingly being used to support award entries. This is a good thing but share your working and information about the tools you’ve used.
#8 Numbers matter
On a related point numbers are good, the more the better, but make sure that they are backed up with sources.
#9 Disclose paid budgets
Paid social and paid influencers are becoming a standard feature of campaigns. That’s good and proper and helps public relations compete with other disciplines, but disclose budgets.
#10 The art of an award entry form
You don’t need to design your entry form so that it looks attractive; although a clear layout, large font and use of white space helps.
#11 Objectives and outcomes are critical
Judges read objectives and outcomes first. Everything else is detail.
#12 Additional material
Judges rarely review supporting evidence, unless there’s a tie break. Make your entry form count.
#13 Bullshit objectives
Generating buzz and creating awareness aren’t objectives. Use the Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely (SMART) model and you won’t go far wrong.
Justify your budget by clearly stating the return on investment of your campaign. It’s what counts in the boardroom after all.
#15 Spam entries
Enter your campaign in as many categories as you like, but edit it to suit in each instance.
#16 Dodgy metrics
Advertising Value Equivalent and Earned Media Value aren’t valid metrics. Neither are likes or shares. Just stop it. Follow the AMEC framework.
Candour goes a long way in an award entry. It’s a rarely used tactic. Judges are practitioners who will sympathise with your honesty.
#18 Opportunity categories
Internal communications and vertical industry categories are almost always under indexed in public relations award schemes. It’s an opportunity if these are your areas of work.
#19 Competitive categories
Media relations and social media awards are over indexed. Your work needs to be standout to win in these categories.
#20 Third party endorsement
Quoting yourself in an award entry praising your own work is daft. Use third party endorsement sparingly.
#21 Checking out the competition
Volunteering as a judge is the best way to get insight into the judging process. It’s also a great way to get a view of how other agencies and organisations pitch their work.