I appreciated Paul Holmes asking me to serve as a judge for the Sabre Awards this year.
After reviewing the award submissions for my assigned categories and participating in a task force to select the winners, I wanted to share a few tips that will help a submission gets its due.
Before going further, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the quality and creativity in the campaigns was consistently excellent and often spectacular.
No question, the profession has moved beyond the useless debate, regarding who owns social media. Agencies and companies are blending owned media and earned media and at times paid media to deliver on a given PR campaign’s objectives.
With that said, the writing in the submissions can best be described as mechanical … which leads into what I consider the No. 1 tip:
- Apply Storytelling Techniques: I wrote about dullness of job descriptions last week. Award entries don’t rate much better with the same nouns and verbs showing up again and again. When an entry did tell an actual story, you noticed. Keep in mind the judges can be reading 20 – 30 entries or more. If an entry can entertain as well as impart the vital details and stats, it stands out.
- Explain Results Beyond Media Coverage: I was blown away by campaigns that routinely generate reader impressions in the millions. I must confess I became a bit numb to the gaudy numbers. The campaigns that captured a range of results in support of the objectives tended to be short listed.
- Avoid Advertising Cost Equivalency: I thought this 20 years ago, and I still believe it. Crunching the numbers for the equivalent cost of advertising trivializes the power of public relations. (Now seems the right time to make the point that this post reflects my personal views and should not be associated with the Holmes Report, Paul Holmes or the other judges.)
- Don’t “Cheat” with Point Size: If the campaign summary should fit on two pages, don’t cram 600+ words on the two pages by using nine-point type, single spaces and wide margins. A painful read hurts your cause. Less can be more.
- Play the Disaster Card Only One Time: It’s useful to understand when something out of your control goes astray. Nimbleness and the ability to ad lib are positive qualities. But when the “problem” gets repeated, it starts to take on an “I believe the woman doth protest too much” message.
If you’ve judged competitions, I welcome hearing your suggestions.