A good PR campaign has to start with the award entry in mind

Finder's Michelle Hutchison is about to launch an app, and asked PRs to come up with a big idea as part of a tender process. They've all fallen short. Here, she argues why good campaigns have to start with the award entry in mind.

This time of year is my favourite in the PR calendar. It’s full of opportunity as we begin planning for campaigns, events and awards for the year ahead.

It’s also the most inspiring time of the year because I get to judge the cream of the Australian PR crop for the Mumbrella CommsCon Awards.

Whilst opening up my pack, an idea dawned on me: What if we turned PR campaigns on their heads? Instead of starting out with an idea then jumping into execution, what if we all flipped through award applications first and mapped out our ideas using the criteria as a guide?

This may not be a new idea. In fact, some renowned PRs may do this as part of their ideation process. It’s probably why they win so many awards. But, most don’t do this. And their ideas often fall short because they aren’t thinking like a winner.

After several years of judging these awards, I found that the winning campaigns are always the ones that are multi-layered. The years of having a one-size-fits-all approach is long gone. Now, the best campaigns include strategies for each channel over a period of time for maximum exposure and impact.

Award-winning campaigns are no longer just about the number of media clips they achieve. There’s now a bigger focus on influencing change and purpose-led campaigns that drive important messages to make the world a better place.

For example, Project Revoice with Haystac and BWM Dentsu for ALS Association created an intensely impactful video of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge founder Pat Quinn, which documented the story of his mission to help raise awareness for the incurable disease, and used innovative technology to give him his voice back.

Or American Express’ Economy of Shopping Small: Back your Backyard Report with opr. With six years of research at their disposal, they created a new angle calculating the economic impact on local communities by shopping at small businesses. They hit every angle with a white paper endorsed by the government, case studies, advocates, a web page, and gave the information to local governments.

Award-winning campaigns are created by people who have thought about how they will be shared on social media, how they will impact society, what story they will tell, what emotional impact they will have, and how they use research to make their campaigns more insightful. Without consideration of these elements, it ends up being a creative concept for a TVC.

We’re about to launch the Finder app, but tendering PRs to come up with a big idea has fallen short.

Is Australia’s PR industry jaded by clients asking for too much and giving too little? Perhaps it’s resentment from receiving too many briefs that demand an award-winning, viral campaign?

The reality is, not all campaigns will win an award. In fact, most won’t. But it doesn’t mean we should give up before the race has started.

If you want to make it, you need to think globally and create ideas with a winning formula. Competition is tougher than ever and will only get harder to cut through the noise. Start with the award in mind and you’ll end up with a winner.

And if you have an award-winning idea, send it my way: michelle@finder.com.

Michelle Hutchison is global head of communication at Finder Ventures

The CommsCon Awards will take place in Sydney on 2 April following the conference day. You can read about the shortlisted entries here, and buy your tickets to the ceremony here


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