Have you entered your fabulous PR campaigns in awards competitions only to be disappointed when what you knew was a solid campaign didn’t get recognition from judges? You’re not alone! Rest assured it’s likely not a reflection of your campaign, but a reflection of your entry. Here are five quick tips for submitting your best possible entry:
1. Read the rules! Do the rules specify the length or certain components the entry must have? If so, be prepared to be disqualified if you don’t adhere to those guidelines. Read over the judging criteria, too. If your project is missing key elements of what is required on the entry form (say you didn’t do any research, or you didn’t complete evaluation against your objectives), then it probably isn’t an award-winning project to begin with, regardless of how beautiful or brilliant the work is.
2. Make it easy for the judges. We always advocate those writing awards entries attend one of our judging nights for awards entries from other chapters. . (Shameless plug: Join the RPRS Awards Judging Pizza Party, Monday August 20 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Raleighwood Media Group. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org) This gives you the opportunity to read great entries and terrible entries and learn what distinguishes the two. It will also help you understand what judges look for in an entry.
One of the key takeaways I learned was to keep information as simple and easy to digest as possible. Judges are often reading categories with numerous entries, and by the fourth or fifth one, your eyes and brain are tired, and you aren’t reading with the level of detail you were with the first one. I’ve found I’m much more receptive to bulleted key points than I am to a wall of text to wade through to glean the most important information.
3. Measurable Objectives. As practitioners, we harp on it every time it comes up in judging conversation. Why? Because measurement is a critical component of S.M.A.R.T. objectives. Objectives must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-specific.
Bad: Earn coverage in a national newspaper for summer campaign.
Good: Earn at least one placement in top-tier newspaper (USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post or equivalent) on or before July 31 to promote summer campaign.
See what I did there? Adding those specific components, creating a deadline, and setting an objective that can be measured (one placement in top-tier newspaper vs. coverage in a national newspaper), is an easy way to get full points for your objectives section.
Side note: this should be an early step in every campaign you work on. If it’s not, start doing it!
In the evaluation section, map everything back to your objectives. This shows the judge, at a quick glance, exactly what was outstanding about your work. If you didn’t reach an objective, explain the constraints or what you would have done differently to reach the desired outcome.
4. Leave nothing blank. RPRS revamped the judging criteria recently, and in doing so, they were very specific with the content each entry would be measured on. It’s even broken down by entry type (campaigns and tactics). Entries now follow the widely-recognized RPIE Process (Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation). Under each of these headers, we’ve outlined examples of what constitutes each step of the process and highlighted specific information you should include. The points values are also listed next to each section. Don’t give up points because you didn’t address every aspect of each step.
5. Proofread. I can’t stress it enough. I am THE WORST at proofing my own work. Despite my love for a red pen, track changes, and dashing others’ dreams of perfect grammar, I often make silly mistakes when I’m writing. Always have someone else read over your entry before you submit it. Bonus if you can have someone not close to your project read it over—they’ll have the best objective opinion on whether you’ve included too much or left out important information.
And lastly, I’ll leave you with one bonus tip: Submitting your entry is easier than ever this year! RPRS has made the entire process online, including the payment. No more begging accounting to get a check cut for your entries. No more racing across Raleigh to drop binders off before the 5 p.m. deadline. You don’t even have to get up from your desk (except maybe to ask that coworker to proofread your work).
Simply visit rprs.org/awards, follow the “click to submit” button and then click the “register” button on the top right of the page. Once you’re logged in, you can save your work and come back to your entry as much as you like. Nothing is final until you’ve submitted and paid.
You can’t win ‘em all, but hopefully these tips will give you the competitive advantage you need to take home the gold this year.