Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

Confessions of a Public Relations Industry Award Judge

This behind-the-awards advice from Stephen Waddington will help you ace your next communications measurement award entry. For more tips, read “Your Measurement Award Entry Is Probably Crap: Here’s What to Do About It.”

I’ve been judging industry awards. It’s good to see what other agencies and organisations are up to. Here are twenty-one insights that may prove useful if you’re looking to win an accolade for your public relations work.

#1: Proofing

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.

#14: Value

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.

#17: Honesty

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.


Reprinted with permission from Stephen Waddington’s fascinating and eclectic blog. Go read it now.

Stephen Waddington

Stephen Waddington

Stephen Waddington is Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.
Stephen Waddington

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