An Overview of Awards Changes for 2018

It’s officially awards season. Virginia Public Relations Awards season, that is. The early bird deadline for entries is February 26, while the final deadline is March 5. Start preparing those submissions!

In January, PRSA Richmond hosted a free professional development session to discuss award changes and best practices. Did you miss it? Lucky you: We streamed the event via Facebook Live and there’s a recording. Jen Guild, APR presented a case study on her winning Virginia Historical Society campaign and Padilla’s Jeff Wilson, APR shared tips for submitting winning entries. In addition, Jay Ell Alexander discussed the Thomas Jefferson Award of Excellence and Rising Star individual categories.

During the PD session, I also shared a few changes to the awards. Late last year, a steering committee with members from government, agency, nonprofit and corporate sectors looked at ways to improve and update our awards program. Here are a few highlights:

  • Updating categories: We made some language tweaks to make sure categories reflected modern day public relations. For example, Blogger Campaigns is now Influencer Campaigns, while the Web Casts category includes platforms like Facebook Live, Persicope, Instagram Live, etc. We also looked at entry data from 2014-2017, and removed categories with little to no submissions like Global Communications and Satellite Media Tours.
  • Making categories more inclusive: The team also looked at opportunities to make categories more inclusive when thinking about the size and types of organizations submitting. Similar to the PRSA National program, we created subcategories for Media Relations and Social Media in the Capital program. Media relations now has three subcategories: National, Regional and Trade. Social Media includes paid and organic subcategories, reflecting work with paid and non-paid components.
  • A judging rubric refresh: Committee members worked on updating the Capital Awards judging rubric in an effort to make tactical efforts fair and more competitive to a broader cohort. Capital Awards are scored out of a total of 42 points and are scored using three components: background/planning, technical excellence/creativity and evaluation. There are questions listed under each component worth a certain number of points, which gives the judges more context and guidance as they score the Capital entries. The Commonwealth Award judging rubric remains the same.
  • An easy-to-find judging rubric: Jen and Jeff both stressed the importance of reviewing the judging rubric before organizing your award entry. For several years, we kept the judging rubric on our Openwater Awards Submission page. In our last survey, we received feedback that it was hard to find. You know what? I think people were right. Now, you can find the judging rubric on PRSA Richmond’s website on the Capital Awards and the Commonwealth Awards

Just as the PR industry evolves, so will PRSA Richmond’s awards program. If you have feedback on how we can make the Virginia Public Relations Awards a better experience, drop me a note at


Cameron McPherson, APR
PRSA Richmond President