February President’s Message

BeanlandI absolutely loved seeing how engaged the audience got at our last luncheon presentation, “Creating Winning Virginia Public Relations Award Entries.” We were joined by past awards chair and current president-elect Andrew Ryan, APR who served as moderator, VCU’s Anne Buckley, APR, and Rob Richardson, who was with Drive Smart Virginia when he won several awards last year. All three gave great insight on how to prep your work for entry, and it was fun to hear audience members share their own experiences.

If you missed it, here were some of the takeaways:

Concentrate on your summary
All the gorgeous collateral that accompanied your campaign is lovely and definitely has its place in your entry. But focus the majority of your efforts on your summary. Use headings to clearly identify the pieces of your summary that address background, research, planning, implementation and evaluation.

Provide background
Remember, our entries are judged by a reciprocating PRSA chapter. This year, we’re partnering with a PRSA chapter in Hawaii! Provide enough background to help judges who may never have been to Virginia, let alone heard of your organization, understand what’s at stake.

Don’t ignore the research
The research you rely on doesn’t necessarily have to be original research; there’s lots of great secondary research out there that you can adapt to meet your needs. Use your research to help illustrate your organization’s problem.

Keep your objectives measurable
If you identify clear, quantifiable objectives, it’ll be so much easier to demonstrate the success of your tactic or campaign. When you get to the evaluation portion of your entry, bring it back to those same objectives. If judges see that your work delivered real, quantifiable results that met your objectives, they’ll be falling all over themselves to give you top marks. Just remember—saying that you improved employee satisfaction doesn’t mean much; showing that you increased employee satisfaction, as indicated on your company’s annual survey, by 10 percent is much more valuable.

Address your budget
Worried your small-budget campaign can’t compete against the big boys? When it comes to awards, big budgets don’t necessarily beat out smaller ones. The key is to identify what you had to work with and whether, during the implementation process, you stuck to that number. If you went over your budget, indicate why. If you can’t share an exact budget amount because of corporate policies, say so.

Pay attention to your deadlines
This year, our regular deadline is Feb. 23. You’ll pay extra if you take advantage of our late entry deadline, which is Mar. 2. Full details are available on our website.

Win or lose, plan on coming to the party
The Virginia Public Relations Awards will take place May 21, 2015 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The event is a great way to recognize the outstanding work our profession produces but it’s also a terrific way to enjoy a night out with your colleagues. I hope you’ll plan on being there!

Rachel Beanland, APR
2015 PRSA Richmond President
Washington and Lee University
(804) 616-6723