PR awards offer so many benefits: they are brilliant for publicity, open up new networking opportunities, and of course provide valuable endorsement and recognition.
What’s not to like?
Reputation is important in the PR world, so of course you want to get a few wins under your belt.
But writing up award entries can be expensive and time-consuming.
They always seem to be the last thing you get round to doing, so all of a sudden you have a stack of them to write with fast-approaching deadlines (and that’s on top of your client work).
To give you a push in the right direction, we’ve spoken to several PR judges to bring you some top tips straight from the horse’s mouth.
Without further ado, here are some tried and tested ways to nail your award entry.
Top Tips From PR Judges
Your objectives should have a leading role
Our first set of tips highlights the importance of objectives. Laying out what you set out to achieve with your campaign and marrying that up with the actual results you achieved.
Know the basics
Have a Clear Objective and Strong Creatives…
Karan Chadda: “For the entries I’ve seen, the outstanding ones have had a clear objective and measured specifically against it. Strong creatives seem to always generate discussion among judges, too.”
…Then Make Sure Your Entry Matches
Michael White: “As an occasional judge, I read backwards from measurement. So, perhaps try writing an entry the same way. Clear results that support the strategy really matter.”
But Whatever You Do, Don’t Retrofit It!
Laura Sutherland: “Really consider why you are entering — is it because it’s groundbreaking work?
DO NOT evaluate retrospectively by adding in KPIs and manipulating goals at the end. You should provide evidence that you haven’t done this. On top of this, your strategy and delivery plan need to be clearly separate and your budget needs to be mentioned, as it makes a difference to judges perceptions of the work.”
Results Matter…but bigger doesn’t mean better
The results of your campaign are equally as important as your objectives when it comes to PR awards. Of course, judges are going to sit up and listen to entries that garnered incredible results, but your campaign doesn’t have to have gone viral as these judges point out…
Focus On Results (and If You’re Using AVEs — Grow Up!)…
Ella Minty: “Award entries are not about the amount of fluff and blurb you put in them, nor about the collaterals that accompany the entry (design etc.) unless they are presented as proof/evidence. Award entries are about results.”
“My advice to all the PR agencies/consultants out there who use AVEs in award entries and present them as a measure of their success, let alone lying to their clients by claiming the ‘PR value’ they achieved is equivalent to the advertising value of an article of the same word-count placed in that publication/platform, would be: grow up.”
Ella offers loads more great advice here.
… But Say It How It Is
Mary Whenman : “Say it how it is, you’re not changing lives or building movements when you’re actually driving footfall or social engagement.”
Impact Is More Important Than High “Vanity” Metrics
Paul Sutton: “Judges want to see evidence that you took the time to fully understand the business challenge presented to you, and that at the end of a campaign you related your results back to that business challenge. So focus on providing that evidence in the easiest to digest format you can.
It doesn’t really matter how great your metrics or creative ideas are if there’s no evidence they actually changed behaviour or beliefs. Talking endlessly about the tactics you employed is meaningless without this and, speaking as a judge, I’d choose a campaign with far less reach or engagement if the end results achieved something over one that maxed out on ‘vanity’ metrics but had little overall impact.”
Clarity is the secret sauce to a winning entry
It’s a given that you know your campaign inside out, but PR judges don’t. Make sure your entry is easy to understand and is presented as clearly as possible. Our next batch of judges will vouch for that.
Does Your Entry Pass the “Mum Test”?
Stephen Waddington “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.’
Honesty is also incredibly important.
He continues “Candour goes a long way in an award entry. It’s a rarely used tactic. Judges are practitioners who will sympathise with your honesty.”
Stephen has tons more advice for PR award entries here.
Make Your Entry Scannable
Paul Sutton: “ If you think judges sit and read each and every carefully crafted word in your entry and are swayed by your exceptional use of the English language, you’re sadly mistaken. In my experience, judges start by scanning your entry for triggers that interest them, and only if they find those triggers will they take the time to read your entry in full. So evidence is really important in the form of key statistics or easy-to-digest bullet points.”
Avoid Judge Yawns With a Stand-Out Entry
Lou Greeves: “Done well, case study videos can wow judges. Your judging panel will have ploughed through reams of award copy before they even get to your entry. A good video with a strong story arch — clearly setting out the brand’s challenge, how you overcame it and the results, can re-engage judges and better connect them to your story.
If you decide to amplify your entry with video, plan it well. Big production doesn’t necessarily get big results. Stand out with exceptional, authentic storytelling that showcases what you do and the impact you deliver to your clients and their customers.”
Hopefully, these tips will help you ace awards season and hopefully get you some wins under your belt!