Preparing a Winning Savvy Entry - by Michelle Van Dyke - Hillsborough County, FL
Why Enter PR Contests?
Winning awards in public relations competitions:
- Validates the success of projects and initiatives
- Reinforces the value of public information programs
- Underscores your importance to the organization
- Reinforces basic public relations principles of problem-solving, research, setting objectives and documenting results
- Makes you feel good about yourself and the job you are doing
The "O" Word - Objectives
- Objectives should be clear and concise.
- Set reasonable goals that are achievable and can be proven.
- Don't be afraid to be honest - if you had a problem to overcome, say so!
Don't Irritate The Judges (And More Tips)
- Contests of this nature are often highly competitive. A poorly-written cover letter will sink a good project, just as a well-written cover letter cannot win an award for a mediocre program.
- Enter your project in the right category.
- Follow the entry guidelines carefully. If the guidelines for a cover letter ask entrants to describe specific elements (problem statement, target audience, objectives, etc.), it's a sure bet these areas will actually be listed on the judging sheets. Address each element individually and specifically.
- Don't make the judges hunt and peck. Use subheads and bullets to make the cover letter easier to read. If you have several objectives, list them in alpha or numeric order (A, B, C or 1, 2, 3), then reference each letter or number in your documentation of results.
- Use human check! Spell check programs often miss grammatical errors and homonyms. Ask someone else to proof your cover letter if possible.
- Don't be trite. Avoid overused phrases like "unique opportunity."
- Be forthright. Don't try to impress the judges by bamboozling them with bureaucratic or textbook terms.
- Don't forget to include support materials (letters, newspaper clippings, etc.), if applicable, that help document your results. But...
- ...don't overwhelm the judges with unnecessary paper. Pick the best of your support documents to include in your entry package.
Save Yourself Some Time
- If you think you might be working on an award-winning project, keep a file in which you can stash all your notes, maps, diagrams, hard copies of e-mail messages, newspaper clippings, check lists, letters, etc. It's much easier to write your cover letter and assemble the entry with this in hand than to try to pull it all together on deadline, particularly if several months have passes since the completion of the project.
- If you plan on entering the same project into other competitions, make extra copies of your support materials, dubs of videos, copies of photos, etc., at one time.
- Make a hard copy of your entry form and cover letter for future reference.
- It is very difficult for videos to win public relations contests. Remember that you are being scored on how well you meet your objectives, in addition to the quality of the video.
- Take the time to watch your dub to make sure the image and audio level are good.
- Put TRT (total running time) on the video label to help the judges manage their time.
- Videotaped coverage of events, parades, speeches and conferences generally ARE NOT competitive - just boring.
- Longer does not mean better.
- Don't forget to document your results. The simple act of producing the video does not mean you have met your objectives, nor does the fact that people asked for copies (unless you know why they want the copies).
Toot Your Own Horn
- Let your boss and your boss' boss - and especially your elected officials - know if you have won an award.
- Don't forget to list the accomplishment in your employee newsletter.
- Send a news release to the appropriate publications.
....it's all subjective. Judges are human, and each of us has different likes, perspectives and background. It's commonplace for a project to win one competition and not even place finish in another. Keep it in perspective, and keep trying!