Do awards recognise the best campaigns, or just the most glamorous ones?
There is no question that it is a great feeling to collect a top PR award at a prestigious ceremony. But it’s not so pleasant wearing your hands out clapping other people, while your efforts go unrewarded, despite having achieved remarkable results.
Although Joanne Milroy, partner at PR firm Eloqui, has won her fair share of awards, she feels it is hit and miss in terms of campaigns that pick up trophies. She says: “Often we do excellent work, but it doesn't fit into one of the award categories or it just doesn't inspire the judges. One issue is that awards are very biased to the short, time-limited campaigns of 12 months or less. Many reputational programmes or campaigns should and will take much longer than this to build momentum and achieve results.“ Milroy also says that it is less easy to win an award with an unglamorous product or issue – despite the fact they are often the hardest campaigns to crack: “You don't see many widget manufacturers get on the trophy podium.”
Another problem with awards is that there are so many schemes to enter, it is hard to decide which ones are worth the bother. Stephen Waddington, managing director of PR agency Speed, thinks there’s been an “outbreak” of new award schemes this year. And he thinks he knows why: “Media owners clearly see it as a means of generating revenue in a market when advertising is down and moving online.” Waddington says that if you are entering awards, the challenge is distinguishing between the different schemes to decide which ones will add value to your reputation. Even then there is no point in entering unless there is a good chance of winning.
If you are sure of your campaign, and you are happy that the award is worth having, you still face the sheer hard work that entering entails. However, Waddington believes that despite the time and effort it takes to complete applications, the rewards more than make up for it: “It's a great team night out, especially if you're a winner, it's motivational for the team and it impresses clients and prospects.”
Adrian Brady, CEO, of public relations consultancy Eulogy!, agrees that awards are worth the effort, as they emphasise to both clients and your own team, which work is worthy of praise. He adds: “What better form of congratulation is there than your competitors acknowledging a job well done? Anyone who says awards are not important has either lost interest in the cut and thrust of running a business or brand, or they simply don’t produce work that's good enough to win.”
Brady also believes that it is part of our business culture to admire winners: “In business we often use sporting triumphs as analogies for what can be done in business and hail the likes of Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Sarah Webb (from three blondes in a boat) as being achievers we should aspire to emulate. We don't do this on the basis of their track record in coming second! Don't kid yourself that awards are not critical.”
Juliet Bernard, editor of The Knitter magazine:
“Last year Macmillan Cancer Support was our charity of the year. We created a campaign called the Macmillan Comfort Blanket which raised over £32,000 for the charity. To do this the editorial team at The Knitter, Future's inhouse PR and the PR lady at Macmillan, all worked as hard as we could to ensure something we believed in was a success using mainly social networking and digital marketing. We have been shortlisted for a CIPR Award and a New Media Age Effectiveness Award. For me, it is an important way to say thank you to everyone who worked so hard, but also to say to our respective industries that big budgets don't make for the best campaigns.”
Julia Ruane, head of PR at digital agency DigForFireDMG:
“Awards are important because they stop you just doing 'the job' and get you thinking, before you start a campaign, exactly how you can make it stand out. PR isn't neuroscience. The job itself on a day-to-day level rarely stretches you. To stop it becoming just another job, and to make sure you're really adding something useful to your client's brand (and bottom line) you need a motivation to stretch your creativity that little bit further. Awards help do that.”
Jason Gale, founder of integrated PR marketing company Handmade UK and creator of the London Lifestyle Awards:
“I am great believer in awards and the benefits to the businesses that win, are runners up or even just enter. I think if you win, the publicity can be great, but more importantly, the morale boost it gives to your team can be tremendous. Team members like to be, and should be, recognised by industries for the great work they do. Entering the awards focuses the mind on what has been achieved and the process that went into the success. We have not entered awards in the past due to time constraints and we wanted further development in the company before doing so, however in the future we look forward to entering and winning many awards.”
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