Why most PR campaign award entries suck

No matter how good your PR campaign was, a badly presented entry will not even make a shortlist, let alone win at the region’s top comms awards, writes Lewis PR's Scott Pettet

Scott Pettet

Each year I typically find myself involved in the judging process for a handful of regional public relation and communications industry awards.

It’s something I quite enjoy and gives me – on occasion – a bit of insight into industry ‘best practice’. It also gives me insight into the general state of awards entries, which for the most part is poor. I might even go so far as to suggest most entries suck.

I write this, therefore, in in the interests of improving the breed and, from the perspective of a judge, I have mapped out some of the key areas to focus on when developing an award entry.

Get the category right

Yes, regrettably this has to be said. All the time I see entries incorrectly categorised with B2C campaigns masquerading as ‘internal communications’, B2B campaigns entered as ‘crisis and issues’ and so on. A waste of the entrants’ money, and the judges time.

Seize attention immediately

A judge will typically have anywhere from 50 to 100 or more entries to judge across a variety of categories. And they generally don’t have a lot of time. As soon as the judge opens your written entry, the document has to pique their interest, or at the very least not make them glaze over. I’ve lost count of the number of award entries that have immediately turned me off simply because they look like a dog’s dinner. Tiny fonts, all crowded text, no visuals.

Be visual

I just mentioned visuals above. So I’m going to mention visuals again. Visuals. You get the idea. Your entry has to stand out. It has to be easy on the eye. Make me sigh with relief when I click on your entry – not squeal in horror. Perhaps consider a graphic designer to help develop a template. It’s not rocket science, but sadly seldom actually done.

Don’t rely on attachments

Given the requirement to review up to 100 awards entries, many judges – myself included  – may not get chance to review your swanky video production, interactive infographic library, immersive mobile app or any such other diversion. As such, ensure that your written entry encapsulates all of the required information and can stand alone.

Winning big is all a matter of ticking the right boxes

Brevity rules

Less is without doubt more. Be brief and to the point. Don’t labour or go into needless detail. Lots of text will detract from your entry and potentially result in it not being read in its entirety.

Objectives and results

Possibly the two most important aspects of your entry. Firstly, make sure you have them (yes, many don’t). Secondly, make sure they align. They should be opposites sides of the same coin. If a correlation is not apparent the entire entry is compromised, no matter how clever the strategy or creative the execution.

Understand the criteria

In my experience, most awards programmes are very specific about the criteria upon which the award will be judged. Clearly, some entrants do not heed this. Be sure to understand the criteria and address each and every point.

Don’t assume you’re known

Often awards entries will be written on the basis that the reader will know exactly who the brand is and what they do. This may be the case with very large brands, but for most a brief descriptor will be useful so the judges are not left scratching their heads as to who on Earth you are.

If you follow these simple guidelines, I guarantee you’ll be head and shoulders above most entrants right from the get go. But if it doesn’t tick these boxes, it’s far less likely your campaign will be shortlisted, no matter how good it may have actually been.

Scott Pettet is the senior vice president for Asia Pacific at LEWIS PR. This article was first published on his LinkedIn page


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