Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Do you have what it takes to be "Best of the Mountains?"

By Sherri L. McLendon
Gold-nugget strategies mined from "Best of the Mountain" award winners was the topic of the roundtable discussion of the Public Relations Association of Western North Carolina (PRAWNC) at the organization's first member breakfast meeting Thursday, Aug. 12, at Buncombe County Television offices. The assembled team discussed best practices to gain precious recognition in the prestigious awards competition.

The Call for Entries is now available.

Bring home the gold on behalf of your own team with the collegial advice of Jill Yarnall with UNC-Asheville; Judy Rhew Davidson and Kathy Hughes with Buncombe County Government; Rick Prudhomme with Pardee Hospital, and Brenda Murphree with Clear Point Marketing. They, together with PRAWNC past-president Jennifer Perez, with Park Ridge Health, address the finer points of judging standards, and offer the following guidelines for a stellar showing.

Find out more about submissions in this year's featured categories, which include a new social media component.

Tip No. 1
Take your time

When beginning the submissions process, entrants need to read the entry guidelines and follow them carefully. Decide what categories in which to submit, and whether your entries are in-house versus agency products based on the provided definitions.

"Don't throw the entry together too fast," says Yarnall, known for her high performance press releases. "Go above and beyond, so that it's not just good. It needs to be unique in a certain way." To do this, she recommends leaving "plenty of time" to complete the entry process.

The final step of the entry process is to include a jpeg file of the work with submissions, Perez says.

Tip No. 2
Make the Entry Stand Out

One way to showcase a project's unique qualities is to include specific information, including the analytics on the product.

A rigorous proofing process stands the entry in good stead, says Prudhomme. He and Yarnall agree that showing measurable success, analytic information, return on investment (ROI), or other returns when submitting an award furthers this objective.

"Do it justice," Prudhomme urges. "Look at the entry as a project in itself. Evaluate the criteria and its effectiveness. Most importantly, evaluate the craft of the entry – the concept and process. Make certain yours is a professional presentation." Using the language from the Call for Entries assists in this latter endeavor, he suggests.

Tip No. 3
Proof Your Work

Once you've prepared the entry, reading the guidelines carefully, obtaining outside feedback could assist in gathering a competitive edge, the panel agreed. Murphree suggests culling "anything that's not award-winning work. If it's not award-winning in quality, one shouldn't consider submitting it regardless of category."

"Either the entry shows above and beyond performance, or we change it and make it better. If it doesn't have this quality – even if the project is good – we couldn't enter it," Hughes concurs.

Tip #4
Understand the Judges

Judges for Best of the Mountains are drawn from across the Western North Carolina region or the southeastern United States, according to Perez. "We do require they are a working member in the communications field. This would correlate to all fields, including print media, public relations, graphic design, and others who can speak to a broad spectrum of communications. Also, as a basic rule of thumb, the judges should not have any of their own work submitted into Best of the Mountains, nor should they have any clients submitted," she explains.

Entries are scored on a ten point system, with a maximum point total of 60, says Perez. Judges start with an average score of six in each of the ten criteria areas: creativity, innovation, planning, implementation, effectiveness, and overall evaluation. They, they may choose to grade up for superior work or down for below-average entries.

"We ask for comments and constructive feedback on the judging form," Perez notes.

Judges working in teams of two focus on the criteria and excellence of the submission during the judging process. They may reclassify entries they feel are entered into the wrong category, and may not find that a Best of the Mountains award is warranted in a given category.

Tip #5
Watch the winners and learn

If you give it your best shot, and your project doesn't place, what is a public relations pro to do? First, consider past and current winning entries, says Amy Fowler, 2010 PRAWNC chief of staff. "It really has to be great stuff to take Best of the Mountains."

Want to take "Best of the Mountains?" Download the submission guidelines now!

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