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Creating a Winning Award Entry Robin Mayhall, APR Corporate Communications Writer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Public Relations Association.

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Presentation on theme: "Creating a Winning Award Entry Robin Mayhall, APR Corporate Communications Writer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Public Relations Association."— Presentation transcript:

1 Creating a Winning Award Entry Robin Mayhall, APR Corporate Communications Writer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Public Relations Association of Louisiana Baton Rouge Chapter June 28, 2011

2 Creating a Winning Award Entry About Me  Baton Rouge native  Journalism degree with PR concentration from the University of Texas at Austin  PRSA member since 1991 Austin Chapter, 1991-2001 BR Chapter, 2001-present  Joined PRAL after I moved back to Baton Rouge in 2001  Accredited in Public Relations in 1998  Named a SPRF Senior Practitioner in 2004  Named 2008 Practitioner of the Year by PRAL-BR  Have been with Blue Cross since August 2003 as one of three writers in Corporate Communications

3 Creating a Winning Award Entry Some Recent Blue Cross Lantern Awards  2010  Lantern Award – Interactive Media: Blue Cross Social Media Launch  Five Awards of Excellence  2009  One Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit  2008  Six Lantern Awards Annual Reports Organizational Identity/Logo Design Signage Writing for Public Relations (two) Web Site Development/Internet  Three Awards of Excellence  Four Certificates of Achievement  2007  Lantern Award – Annual Reports  Two Awards of Excellence  Two Certificates of Achievement

4 Creating a Winning Award Entry  Sponsored by Southern Public Relations Federation  Regional competition Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida panhandle  Recognizes excellence in public relations Best of Show, Judges’ Awards, Lantern, Award of Excellence, Award of Merit  Public Relations Programs/Campaigns – 11 categories  Public Relations Projects – 14 categories About the Lantern Awards  Work completed between May 1, 2010, and April 30, 2011  Winners announced at SPRF conference, Oct. 2-4, 2011

5 Creating a Winning Award Entry Plan Ahead  Crucial first step!  Identify possible competitions you’re interested in  Be aware of deadline dates  Budget: Entry fees Copies, mounting, supplies, shipping Tickets and travel to awards ceremony/event Duplicate awards  Save samples, media clips, thank-you notes and kudos from management  And last but NOT least…

6 Creating a Winning Award Entry Set Goals and Evaluate  For Lantern Awards and many similar competitions, measurable goals and results are very important.  Before you launch new projects: Draft a communications plan Set measurable goals  Think ahead about ways to evaluate your results.

7 Creating a Winning Award Entry Set Goals and Evaluate, cont.  Blue Cross annual reports consistently win awards, especially those related to design.  But it is always hard to evaluate results (management does not allow us to survey recipients).  For several years, we’ve been able to relate the results of our annual advertising effectiveness survey to the success of the annual report.  We align goals for the annual report to overall advertising/marketing goals, making it the “cornerstone” of our marketing communications for the year.

8 Creating a Winning Award Entry What to Enter  Look at your budget and select your strongest projects/campaigns.  Identify projects or campaigns that showcase your best work and show evidence of the PR process (Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation).  Choose the appropriate category in which to enter each project.  Review list of categories at  Not sure which category your work fits into? Ask! Judges sometimes move entries to another category if they deem appropriate No categories exist yet for Social Media – enter in Web, Interactive Media or Potpourri  Assign staff members to prepare various entries.  Set an internal deadline in advance of the entry deadline to give plenty of time to pull everything together.

9 Creating a Winning Award Entry How to Enter  Use online submission process at Recommend composing in Word doc first, then paste into blanks Can come back and edit before final submission  Complete a binder with supporting materials.  Print copy of online submission to include in binder.  Ship completed binder and payment. Can pay online via Paypal or send check Send to address on website Postmark deadline: July 8, 2011

10 Creating a Winning Award Entry Judging Process  Entries are judged by professionals outside of our region.  Each entry is judged on its own merit (not in comparison with other entries).  Points assigned in each category determine winners. “Top” award is the Lantern Award Judges can also give Award of Excellence or Certificate of Merit  NOTE: Judges are instructed to look for evidence of the four-step PR process (Research, Analyze, Communicate, Evaluate).  Judges also award a Best of Show and a Judges’ Award (entries are compared against each other for these awards).

11 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing the Award Entry  Read all instructions thoroughly before you start.  Review your judges’ notes from the previous year.  Gather needed background material, such as: Project samples Survey results/reports Media clips/coverage reports Comments and thank-yous Entries from other awards that you can re-purpose for the current competition  Write a first draft, following the instructions closely.

12 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Lantern Award Entry  Four sections of the entry: Research (500 words) Planning (250 words) Implementation (500 words) Evaluation (250 words)  Many of you will recognize this formula as “RACE,” or Research- Analyze-Communicate-Evaluate.  Each of the four sections has a maximum word count, but don’t worry about it too much when writing your rough draft.

13 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Communications Plan  Useful first step — even for small projects.  At Blue Cross we write at least the basic outline of a plan whenever we are asked to produce a special event, brand a product, launch a new program, etc.  Going through this process helps make sure all bases are covered.  If you enter the project in the Lantern Awards later, include the written plan — judges like to see one.

14 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Lantern Award Entry, cont.  Research Also known as a situation analysis, this is a statement of the current situation, recent history and internal and external factors that have led to a need for the public relations project or plan. Also briefly name or introduce the project Include your target audience(s) in this section  Research is the key to the first and fourth steps of the four-step process and the award entry.  Research and evaluation should be tied together from the beginning of your campaign planning.  Research and evaluation are usually given less time, money and effort than goal-setting and the actual communications tactics.  Many communicators mistakenly believe that research is inherently too expensive and difficult for small organizations, nonprofits, etc.  Many communicators equate “research” with doing a scientific survey.  In fact, there is a wide range of valid research techniques available to us — many of which are “free” (except for the time investment).

15 Creating a Winning Award Entry Types of Research: A Quick Refresher  Formal vs. informal research Formal research uses the scientific method to ensure that the results can be extrapolated to a larger population — for example, a scientifically designed telephone survey. -Objective and systematic data – “hard” data -Generally uses random sampling -Highly structured -Can be repeated reliably -Can be used to confirm informal research Informal research means that the results cannot be used to draw scientifically based conclusions. -Soft data -Open-ended, unstructured -Can use to begin the research process -Exploratory, probing research -Use to identify what formal research needs to take place It’s important to note that “informal” does not mean “unreliable” or “invalid”!

16 Creating a Winning Award Entry Types of Research: A Quick Refresher  Primary vs. secondary research These terms refer to the source of the research information. Primary research means that you and your coworkers conduct the research or examine the evidence personally, firsthand. -New or original data -You design and carry out research that’s specific to your current needs Secondary research means that you investigate secondhand evidence — e.g., the results of someone else’s studies or the report of someone else’s primary research. -Secondhand, sometimes older data -Uses what’s already available Again, both types are perfectly valid.

17 Creating a Winning Award Entry Types of Research: A Quick Refresher  A brief list of research types Mail or telephone survey Focus groups Roleplaying Communications audit Website survey Public relations audit Man-on-the-street polls Advisory panels Readership study Database search

18 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Lantern Award Entry, cont.  Planning This is the “analysis” phase, in which you can relate the situation to specific goals and objectives for your project. Remember that objectives should be specific and measurable  Implementation Describe the project in more detail in this section, including your tactics and timeline. Briefly outline your communications plan Describe how various tactics relate to the target audiences and objectives described in previous sections

19 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Lantern Award Entry, cont.  Evaluation If you thought ahead both while executing the project and while preparing your entry, this section should almost write itself. Include anecdotal evaluation: letters/emails of praise, thanks from customers, kudos from management, etc. Include media hits if appropriate Most important: evaluate how your project succeeded in meeting the goals set forth in the Research section Remember: if you didn’t meet every goal, be honest and use this as a learning opportunity

20 Creating a Winning Award Entry Evaluation, cont.  Media clips are a valid measurement. Take them a step farther by giving your client, boss or awards judges a context: i.e., “positive half-page article appeared on the front page of the business section of the top local daily newspaper.”  Anecdotal evidence can be valuable. Letters and emails from customers, attendees, management “Testimony” from sales force, account managers, etc., that a program is gaining acceptance or helping to drive sales Other awards won for the same project Again, context is important!

21 Creating a Winning Award Entry Evaluation, cont.  Benchmark and evaluate when you can. Pre- and post-testing and/or surveys Compare to previous year’s results/attendance/sales Compare to industry standards  Tell judges what you learned. Don’t be afraid to admit it when not all the news is good You can learn from parts of a campaign that missed the mark Adjust goals for next year/next program Use any negative feedback to improve future efforts

22 Creating a Winning Award Entry Evaluation, cont.  Some additional ways to evaluate your efforts: Specific measurement: Things that can be measured quantitatively, such as number of clippings, attendance at an event, percent answering a certain way on a survey. Semi-specific measurement: Items that an experienced professional can get a reading on, but that lack numerical measures, such as the balance of coverage in the media or the audience’s reaction to a speech. Acceptance on basis of judgment: Do complaints overall decrease? Does management believe efforts have been valuable? Recognizing value of input: Have your concepts led to marketing themes that have captured buyers’ enthusiasm? Has the stance of the organization recommended by PR staff been well received by its publics? Prevention: What didn’t happen as a result of public relations advice, such as issues that were blunted before they arose. Guidance: A general absence of issues and alarms may be testimonials to the PR department’s overall efficiency.

23 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Lantern Award Entry, cont.  Edit and Proofread When you finish writing your entry, set it aside for a while. Write another rough draft, or just work on another project. When you’re ready to go back to your entry draft, read it through carefully: -Add anything you might have left out the first time -Copyedit and proofread for spelling, grammar, etc. If time permits, ask someone else to edit and proofread your almost-final draft. If you’re writing an entry for a project that someone else developed or worked on, let that person read the entry, too.

24 Creating a Winning Award Entry Writing a Lantern Award Entry, cont.  Trimming to Meet the Word Counts Cut out unnecessary words and phrases. Abbreviate your company name when you can (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana becomes Blue Cross or BCBSLA). Use active verbs instead of passive ones. A few examples from some of my own entries: -“In order to effectively portray” became “To portray” -“As already explained, the theme…” became “The theme…” -“The report was designed with a pocket inside the back cover” became “The report had a pocket inside the back cover”

25 Creating a Winning Award Entry Compile Your Entry Binder  Even with the online entry system, you need to submit a binder containing the project itself and any other relevant samples.  Follow the instructions on labeling your binder, how many copies of the entry form to include and where to put them in the binder.  Include your communications plan, no matter how brief.  Included printed samples of communications: Posters, table tents, banners and flyers Ads, including scaled-down prints of outdoor advertising Brochures, newsletters Letters and email messages Press releases, media kits, other media materials Photos from events or photos showing signage, décor, etc.

26 Creating a Winning Award Entry Compile Your Entry Binder, cont.  If you have online and other multimedia materials, consider including both a CD and some representative printouts: Websites Online ads Blog and message board posts Articles posted in online publications, including companion sites to print media Presentations Videos Music and audio Radio and television ads Interactive presentations, websites, demos

27 Creating a Winning Award Entry Finishing Up  You’ve done it! You’ve compiled a winning award entry.  Get it to the post office or FedEx box on time!  While you wait anxiously to hear whether you won, make plans to attend the next SPRF conference.  After the conference and awards banquet, be sure to bring home your winning entry binders and the judges’ comments. Review these carefully now — and you will want to do it again when you start the entry process next year.  Order duplicate awards for everyone on the team who worked on the winning projects … and for the boss.  Promote your success internally (employee newsletter, staff meetings, etc.) and externally (press release to the local media — such as the “business honors” section or “people in the news”).  Update your list of awards and be proud.

28 Creating a Winning Award Entry Q & A  Questions are welcome now!  Feel free to contact me later at

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