East Central District of PRSA 35th Annual Diamond Awards Accepting Submissions

The East Central District of the Public Relations Society of America is calling for shining examples of public relations campaigns and tactics for its 35th annual Diamond Awards competition. The Diamond Awards are presented to public relations practitioners who have successfully addressed a communications challenge with exemplary skill, creativity and resourcefulness. The Diamond Awards are open to any public relations professional who is a member of the 15 chapters in the PRSA East Central District or any nonmember whose place of business is within the district’s boundaries. The East Central District covers the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

This year’s contest is proudly hosted by the PRSA Dayton Area Chapter - Dayton, OH.

The 2012 Call for Entries is available here.

Entries are due on Monday, October 1. For more information, contact Natasha Baker, 2012 Diamond Awards Chair, at 937-545-1821 or by email at nbaker@nlbcommunications.com

Program Recap - Writing Winning Award Entries

PRoof Award entries are due March 1, and WMPRSA offered a free program to members on January 26 on how to write winning entries.  Brian Burch, a former WMPRSA Board Member, judge, and winner of numerous awards has now made his tips available here: WRITING WINNING AWARD ENTRIES: A Holistic Approach January 26, 2012 Brian Burch, Public Relations Director, ArtPrize

Big Ideas

Award-winning public relations campaigns are often the result of a “big idea.” It’s important for public relations campaigns to embrace this type of creative thinking or design thinking in order to break through the clutter and chaos of an increasingly fractured media landscape in order to have real impact.

It’s these big ideas that are the greatest contenders for awards, but an idea is not a plan. Creative, big ideas have to solve communications problems using original, strategic thinking. They also need to show some elements of risk, relevance, impact and originality.

Plan Early, Document Everything

The key to writing a campaign entry that will win an award is following the basic tenants of good communications. No level of “wordsmithing” will cover up a mediocre or weak campaign. Starting with a plan, executing deliberately and documenting the process will help your efforts when it becomes time to create the award entry.

  • Databases
  • Journal
  • Budget
  • Track progress in real time (starting metrics are as important as final metrics)

Clearly Define Measurable Goals

Among the greatest missteps of a public relations campaign is to believe that media clips alone will win an award. While highly impressive and definitely a factor, the most important part of a public relations campaign is how it impacted the core business of the organization.

  • Sales objectives
  • Website Traffic
  • Audience increase
  • Fans/Followers/Influence

Even if something as intangible as awareness is the key objective, ensure that there is a metric that can quantify growth or prove that the messages of the campaign were carried through.

Start Writing: Start at the End

It might seem counterintuitive to start with the results of your campaign, but it shouldn’t be. Your results are likely the reason you’re submitting the campaign for an award, so build off of them and meet your goals and objectives in the middle. This will help ensure that you’re carrying a narrative throughout the entire entry.

Intro Paragraph

Think about writing an entry as you would write a press release, each sentence needs to entice the reader to do one thing—keep reading.

An easy-to-grasp introduction providing an overview of the entry should provide a summary of the campaign and what worked. The intro sets the tone with key ideas and goals, but it’s not the narrative, so get to the point, fast, and make it easy for judges to understand the program and the important takeaways.

Target Audience

Understanding an audience is critical to establishing a comprehensive strategy. Therefore it’s important to define the audience—its attitudes, beliefs and desires. It will prevent the juror from making assumptions, show you’ve done your research and will create greater appreciation for strategy and execution.

Research and Results

The two elements that separate a good entry from a winning entry are the research at the beginning and the results at the end. When writing an entry, these are literally at the beginning and end of your draft, but the two are inherently connected and therefore should be written in parallel.

The creativity of a campaign can be found in the opening paragraphs and then carried through the strategies. The research provides the justification for those strategies. Winning entries provide evidence based on primary or secondary research to support the following:

  • Risk
  • Relevance
  • Impact
  • Originality
  • Evaluation

In addition, you need it to provide a comprehensive understanding for your audience and objectives. From those stem your strategies and tactics.

Two things to remember:

  • Primary research is conducted by you.
  • Secondary research is conducted by someone else.

Research is hard evidence, not anecdotes or stories. Dig into sales data, market share, survey results, census data, etc. All of these can provide the facts that determine why the campaign was important and timely. It will also support how much risk was involved in the campaign and therefore how important the strategy was to its completion. They also provide the metrics for results.

Results are the tangible items that explain how well a campaign accomplished its goals and made a difference beyond media coverage or positive anecdotes. What was the change and how did it positively impact the primary business?

Strategy

There’s often confusion for award entry writers on the difference between a strategy and a tactic. The best way to describe the difference is a strategy refers to a direction or conceptualization of how to reach an objective, while tactics are the individual executable components used to reach that objective.

In the narrative, outline the strategies, how did you decide to divide and conquer. What were the key influences that led you to that direction?

The Drama is in the Challenge

Your project was probably really difficult, and there were probably obstacles along the way. The most memorable award entries are the ones that called out the tactical challenges they faced — whether budget, time, unforeseen events – and illustrate how they adapted to overcome the challenge. Judges care about the end results, equally important, it is what you did to get there – research, planning and execution, and what happened along the way. Sell the drama of your program.

Evaluation

Every line item in the evaluation should match a stated goal, objective, item of research and strategy. Just saying that you wanted media coverage and showing a bunch of clips isn’t enough. Analyzing reach, impressions and how the target audience reacted makes a convincing case. Show that the organization will receive a return on investment as a result of your program. There needs to be a direct correlation between what you wanted to accomplish and what you did accomplish.

Support Materials

Ensure support materials are comprehensive by going through research items that are mentioned in the two-page narrative are included in the support materials. If you call out an action or tactic in the summary, then there should be documentation in the binder. Too often the binders lack substance and need to be more than just a “clip book” of resulting coverage.

Items to include:

  • Primary Research
    • Survey Results
    • Qualitative and Quantitative Data
    • Analysis of Results
    • Budget
    • Creative concepts
      • Diagrams
      • Wireframes
      • Photos/video/audio clips
      • Key quotes

PRSA East Central District Diamond Awards Due Date Approaching

The East Central District of PRSA will hold their 34th annual Diamond Awards soon, and the deadline for submissions is September 19, 2011 (with a late deadline of September 26). More information is available here:

Six Tips to Craft a Winning Awards Entry

So, you want to write a winning awards entry but are not sure where to start. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many pr professionals struggle to boil down their efforts into a concise, thorough summary with supporting documents.

With East Central District’s Diamond Awards season upon us, read these six tips to crafting a winning awards entry before you even hit “save as” on your summary Word doc.

1. Think Metrics

Without metrics, how is success defined? Strong entries start by identifying measurable goals and objectives and end by demonstrating their wins and shortfalls. Judges need to clearly understand what you set out to do (e.g. improve readership by 10%; raise $25,000; sell 1500 more tickets; increase Facebook followers by 20% in 3 weeks) compared to what was achieved.

While qualitative data is acceptable, hard numbers demonstrate this best. Stating that you “received several emails saying how great the music was at the event” frankly won’t cut it. If you must use qualitative results, do what you can to show how this was purposefully - even scientifically - gathered (e.g. fill-in-the-blank evaluations).

2. Don’t Assume

Keep in mind the judges do not have any history with your entry topic. Do not assume they will fill in the blanks. When writing, pretend you are explaining your logic - why you did what you did - to a stranger on the street. Keep it pithy and to-the-point - like the 30-second elevator pitch you may have seen on TV. Double check your explanation does not have any gaps by asking a colleague (preferably not from your organization) to poke holes in your entry.

3. Share your Challenges

Don’t count out your entry if your project did not reach the set objectives. Rarely is there a clear path to any goal. In fact, the twists and turns along the way often create heart in an entry. Take advantage of explaining the challenges showing how you adapted to changing circumstances and re-directed your project to accommodate them.

4. Enter the Correct Category

While it may seem simple, all too often excellent entries are entered in the wrong category. To avoid this embarrassing blunder, write your entry to make a case for achieving the category objective. For instance, Brand Management entries should demonstrate how your campaign helped your organization or client manage their brand. If you are not clear on the correct category, seek advice from the chapter or committee organizing the awards.

Also, be careful to enter into the correct division - for-profit, non-profit, government, etc. While you may work for an agency, if your entry is on behalf of a non-profit client, make sure you enter in the non-profit division.

5. Know the Criteria

The devil truly is in the details. Make sure you understand and follow the limitations and restrictions for things such as font size, page count, and supporting materials. It might seem tedious, but the last thing you want is to get disqualified for a silly oversight. Take the time to triple check your entry before shipping it for judging.

6. Check out the Competition

One of the best ways to improve your summary is to get inspired by reading past winning entries. Model their flow and format, modified to meet your unique entry. Like when you are conducting research for a new project, learn what the judges liked in past years and adapt those characteristics into your piece. Ask colleagues if you can read their winning award entries, or check out Anvil winners on PRSA National’s website.

Many of these ideas were adapted from PRSA’s Anvil Podcast series. For more information, download or stream the shows on PRSA National’s website.