Award-winning PR campaignIf you’ve volunteered your time with PRSA, IABC, AMA, or any of the other alphabet soup industry organizations, you’ve likely spent time reviewing award entries.

It’s a thankless job—and it’s extraordinarily laborious.

One year, while volunteering for PRSA, we all agreed that any entry that used media impressions, advertising equivalencies, or Facebook followers as metrics would automatically be disqualified.

We each took our piles of entries to our corners and started in.

After an hour, we took roll call.

How many entries do you think remained?


Three entries remained.

There were 943 entries that year.

And only three had true measurable results.


The unfortunate thing is we had to go back and un-disqualify all of the entries.

We couldn’t really reward only three organizations.

It’s bad on the organization’s side and it’s bad on our side.

We have to allow organizations to enter awards that aren’t tied to measurable results because our industry can’t figure out the correct PR metrics.

That makes me want to cry.

The alphabet soup organizations have to require better…and we have to do better.

Start with the Why

We can’t individually get the alphabet soup organizations to change their requirements, but we can individually change the way we enter awards.

And that begins with creating programs with objectives and results that tie back to business goals.

Without a documented plan upfront that details what you are trying to achieve with the campaign, your awards submission is just an irrelevant, boring monologue of tactics.

And, trust me, that’s how most turn out, so you’re not alone.

No one cares if a piece of your content went viral, but we unfortunately reward that with awards.

The truth of the matter is that “went viral” means millions of people saw it, not just 10 times your usual audience.

And who cares if it’s not your audience who saw it?

I know, I know. It feels good.

But unless it also was a supporting factor in achieving one of your organizational goals, it’s just fluff.

The same way a profile piece in the local business journal is just fluff if it doesn’t drive new business.

So before you put together your list of campaign tactics and your timeline, start with why.

  • Why are you crafting this PR campaign?
  • Why are you deploying these specific strategies?
  • Why will anyone care about this PR campaign?

Document Your PR Campaign Metrics

Just yesterday, a client Slack’d and asked us for some help brainstorming some ideas for a mini plan she’s writing.

I said, “What’s the end goal?”

I’m positive everyone around me is tired of that; she just wanted some creative tactical ideas to put in her plan.

But I refuse to provide ideas without having the end in mind.

It should be the same for you.

After you get through your whys, start looking at your end game.

  • What is the outcome this PR campaign will deliver?
  • How will this PR campaign and its components be measured?
  • What does success look like?

It’s important to have solid metrics agreed upon in order to measure the success of your PR campaign, and take that top awards slot.

Only by setting achievable goals that you can measure against objectively can you be sure that your PR campaign drove results.

And it’s those results—not the quality of the printing on your pretty brochure or the number of followers the influencer you tapped has on Instagram—that’s the difference between an award-winning PR campaign and PR busy-work.

Agencies Aren’t Off the Hook, Either

These same principles apply to agencies that are asked to complete award submissions on behalf of clients.

It may be uncomfortable, but it’s important you push them for their project brief, goals, and results.

Of course, if you’ve created the entire PR campaign from scratch, you have all of that documented.

But if you came in mid-year or there’s an award submission they want your help writing that isn’t in PR (and that happens quite often), you’ll need to push them on the true results of the campaign.

If your clients can’t produce this information, unless it’s purely a brand beauty and popularity contest, you should push back on submitting the award for them.

If you don’t, the lack of an award, after they’ve paid both for your time working on the submission and the awards fee, will end up as a black mark against you and your efforts in the client’s mind.

What to Include in an Awards Entry

Every award entry in the world asks for objectives, strategies, tactics, and results.

When you begin your PR campaign, create a one- or two-page document that details those four things.

And then, every week, month, and quarter, update it in those four areas.

Some things will change—so they’ll need to be fluid.

But make sure you’re checking domain authority and keyword rankings every two weeks.

And then execute tactics that drive new and engaged website visitors.

You can do this through earned and shared media.

Then look at how you can create the opportunity to gain new email addresses.

Owned and paid media works really well here.

And then, of course, which tactics are you using to nurture leads into sales conversions?

Paid media, particularly email drip campaigns, work really well here.

When you look at this as a whole, you’ll see it’s an integrated PESO model PR campaign with six specific metrics:

  • Domain authority
  • Keywords
  • Website visitors
  • Email addresses
  • Qualified leads
  • Sales conversions

Elevate an Industry, from the Inside Out

I guarantee, if you turn in submissions that follow this outline, you will win the awards.

Every time.

And not only will you win, but you will force the alphabet soup organizations to require real, measurable results be included in every submission.

The only way to change this is from the inside out…and we all have to do our parts.

The next time you submit for an award, use this method.

And, little by little, we’ll change the requirements of award submissions.

Together, we’ll elevate the entire industry.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich