Saturday, June 06, 2009

Raise your profile with an award winning PR campaign

The PRSA Puget Sound May Program couldn't have been planned at a better time-- giving potential Totem Award Winners a huge head start on the awards application process and arming them with helpful tips to give them the edge.

If you missed this program, don't despair. While you might have missed some great tips from our May panelists, fellow PRSA leader Cathy Hinrichsen of C&C Communications has shared her Top 10 Tips for Creating an Award-Winning Campaign.

1. Do your homework! Find out as much as you can about the awards program.
  • Get lists of past winners. Most competitions have lists of winners online now.
  • Look at previous entries; try to get copies of the entry summaries. Some of these are online too.
  • Talk to colleagues who have entered.
  • Find out as much as you can about the judging criteria. Try to get a copy of the judging scoresheet if you can. (Many competitions are reluctant to release this, but they should not be. You have the right to know on what criteria you will be judged.)
  • Decide if this is the right competition for you based on the criteria. For example, if results count for 35 percent of the score, and you don’t have results yet, wait till next year.
  • Read articles about how to win awards. PRSA, IABC and PR Week all have articles available online.
  • Go to the awards ceremony and spend time looking at the entries. DON’T blow it off just because you didn’t win.
  • Serve as a judge. This is the BEST way to get a handle on what makes a winning entry.
2. Choose the right category and the right competition. For example, if your only results are media coverage, Totems and Silver Anvil are not the right competitions for you.

3. Make sure the person preparing your entry has a clear understanding of public relations and of your program. Don’t consider this a subordinate task.
  • Understand the elements of public relations planning -- ESPECIALLY objectives: measurable behavioral change among your target audience.
  • Understand your program’s value and be able to explain it. Answer the question “So what?”
4. Gather materials as the year progresses. For example, don’t try to compile a clip report an hour before the deadline; be sure to get a screen shot of your Web site BEFORE the company gets bought out and the site no longer exists; and so on.

5. Plan ahead. Allot at least 5-10 hours for each entry, depending on the complexity (some can take up to 40 or even more). Think about the details BEFORE the last minute. Gather the entry binder supplies early; start filling out the entry form as you begin writing the entry.

6. Take a step back and look at your entry as an outsider:
- the project - your company - our area - the industry
Get outside feedback. Ask someone not involved with the project to review the entry at the early stage.

  • Restrict your summary length to the page limit, or all that work is wasted – you'll be disqualified.
  • Note when you must submit multiple copies of the summary, entry form or even – gasp – the binder.
8. Make it as easy as possible on the judges. Remember, the judges are your audience now.
  • Start your entry summary with a one-sentence or one-paragraph description of the program purpose and results.
  • Study what criteria the judges will use to judge your entry. Set up your entry summary to follow these criteria, and name your sub-heads to follow.
  • Point out what’s significant and different. Did you exceed expectations? SAY SO!
  • Provide more than what they ask for – details, documentation – but keep it clear and simple.
  • Always provide the big picture; explain the context and relevance.
  • Explain your challenges. If you succeeded against strong odds, your chances of winning are better.
  • Organize your binder in an orderly, logical manner. Label EVERYTHING – collateral doesn’t talk.
9. Make sure your entry looks like you put time and care into it. It should be flawless. Proof it carefully.

10. If you don't win this year, learn from your mistakes and try again next year.

Be sure to check out the information on the Puget Sound PRSA Totem Awards site, including:
PRSA Totem Award entries are generally due in November or early December. Watch your Newsflash for details but, as Cathy advises, it's never too soon to start working on your entry!

Other awards programs:
Add other awards programs in the comments section-- and please feel free to share your top tips for award-winning campaigns!

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