Creating winning PR Award Entries

Creating winning PR Award Entries.

The deadline to enter the WMPRSA Chapter’s annual award competition is in less than three weeks. Today I’m leading a little seminar on “how to” create award entries for the PRoof Awards.  Below is what I am sharing with attendees; really it’s appropriate for most PR award competitions, including those hosted by national PRSA.

Good PR entries start with good PR practices throughout the year.  Those practices need to be documented, so that you have material for the entry. The assembled entry is a PR communication vehicle itself and needs every bit of attention that you would put into campaigns for your clients.  It needs to tell a story and explain succinctly, to complete strangers, the problem to be resolved, the research conducted to fully understand and analyze the situation, your strategic approach, your tactical execution, and your results. Pretty simple huh?


  1. Validation (affirmation that you did it right)
  2. Justification (supporting the case for approval of future work)
  3. Recognition (for you and your client)
  4. Promotion (of you, your agency, your department)
  5. And, the #1 reason to pursue PRoof Awards not just in February but all year long: Professional Excellence. Executing PR projects and campaigns with an eye toward entering and winning PRoof Awards will make your work continuously improve, because you’re taking the right steps to Research, Plan, Execute (sometimes referred to as Implement) and Evaluate – the proven formula for successful practice of Public Relations.


While it is important to create a good entry to win an award, it is more important to do work that is award-worthy and well-documented. If you plan to enter the PRoof Awards – or any awards competition – you should make it a practice to keep complete records that document the life of your project or campaign.  Because you know in advance that you will be required to provide a write-up that describes the Research, Planning, Execution, and Evaluation, you can create file folders (online or those actual cardboard thingees) that organize what you will need MONTHS before you actually need to construct your entry.   In the middle of your campaign, if you notice that certain folders remain empty, it should serve as a prompt to either A) do more work in that area or, if the work has been done, B) save your work in the folders for award entry use.


Most of us can feel in our gut when we’ve done something really special. Not all of us can tell that story to strangers a thousand miles away in a manner that will earn Silver, Gold or Best of Show.  As professional storytellers we need to know how to educate and influence our “publics” to help our clients and employers achieve their objectives. We need to approach our award entries in the same manner:  we are telling the story about our project or campaign in a way that will earn the support (and positive reception) of PRoof Judges.  And PRoof provides the titles for the four chapters of your story: Research, Planning, Execution and Evaluation.

The Introduction

There usually is a back story to a project or campaign, which typically includes an organization’s “problem” requiring a “PR solution.”  For instance, a consumer packaged goods (CPG) company might be launching a new product for which it needs to build a market.  Or, a non-profit is launching an event as its new primary fund-raiser and needs to get the word out and deliver an experience that generates the expected results.  The “problem” stories help lay out your organization’s situation so that the judges can review the quality of the next four “chapters” of your award entry story in context.

Chapter 1 – Research

This section demonstrates to the judges that you obtained all the data and info you possibly could to provide an accurate analysis of the “problem” situation. PR professionals won’t know where to begin if they don’t have a clear understanding of the problem they are attempting to resolve.

In the best of all worlds, you will conduct formal primary research to help you better understand your target public’s awareness and understanding, giving you a very precise baseline to work with. (Formal is research that results in scientifically representative samples; primary indicates research conducted by/for your organization).  Informal and secondary research are completely satisfactory and will help demonstrate that you understand all angles of the problem you are attempting to resolve.

Include as backup documentation: audience survey results ? anecdotal evidence ? internal data ? third-party surveys ? industry best practices ? interview results ?brochures or information related to products/programs

Chapter 2 – Planning

In the intro you shared the “problem” and in Chapter 1 you elaborated on the situation based on research conducted.  In this chapter you *finally* share the “PR Solution” that was proposed.  A motto used by the Better Business Bureau is “Say what you do, and do what you say.”  In the Planning section, the PR professional “Says what they will do.” See Chapter 3 for the second part.

To the judges, this section demonstrates the good thinking that goes into a proposed solution.  For the purposes of the award entry, you need to share the strategy, key tactical components, targeted audience(s), and budget.  Above all, you need to share your clearly stated, measurable objective.  The name of these awards, after all, is PRoof. It’s hard to prove PR’s effectiveness without determining your starting point and providing a “desired future state.”

Include as backup documentation: plans with proposed budget and objectives

Chapter 3 – Execution

In this chapter you share what actually happened.  This is pure journalism in short form. You said what you would do in Chapter 2.  Now tell us what you actually did. You need to share how much time, money and effort was invested in the campaign (important to ascertain ROI).  This chapter also is the place to describe unforeseen challenges that were faced and how they were dealt with.

Include as backup documentation: work product ? news releases ? articles ? photos of event(s) ? print pieces ? videos ? supporting advertisements

Chapter 4 – Evaluation

This is where you PRove your work was successful.  This is not a beauty contest; PR is about saying what you will do and then doing what you said. So, how much did you move the needle; did you achieve/exceed the stated objective?  Were there additional benefits to the organization that weren’t even planned?  Were there failures that were helpful as “lessons learned” for the organization going forward?

This is the final chapter of your story, and we know there’s a happy ending or else you would not be creating an award entry.  Tell us why this is a winning entry, based on your PRoof.

Include as backup documentation: describe method(s) of evaluation ? share results of follow-up research ? number of placements ? impact on organization ? plans to continue ? the degree to which you met and/or exceeded stated objectives