How to create award-winning PR campaigns

by | Apr 18, 2016

Last week I hosted a PRCA seminar on how to create award-winning PR campaigns, with Gemma Moroney and Damon Statt, the planning & creative team from PR agency Mischief. 

They shared insights behind their award-winning ‘Farage Swings for Europe’ campaign for Paddy Power.

Damon shared that part of the Paddy Power brief included an unusual request – “don’t get arrested!” And whilst there was a light-hearted aspect to the brief, in keeping with Paddy Power’s on going agenda from the in-house Mischief Department, the bottom line was all business. Make the Ryder Cup the best ever in terms of bets and revenue. With a budget of just £40,000 the team had to find relevant insights to take the coverage from the back pages and into the mainstream media. The Mischief team shared how they used the rivalry aspect between Europe and the US as the angle to make the Ryder Cup and golf, relevant and meaningful to those who did not have a direct interest. Farage was chosen as the man to front the campaign and Damon talked about the need to have conviction in the idea, which meant in this case walking away from it if Farage was not up for it. But he was and agreed to do it for free. The resulting campaign won Mischief Campaign of the Year at the national PRCA Awards in 2015.

Farage swings for Europe PRCA winner

Mischief’s Planning & Creative team Gemma & Damon

Mischief also shared some of the principles behind how they get to really compelling ideas. These include being brutal at every stage of the process, thoroughly testing and assessing whether an idea is the best it can be and ‘hunting fossils.’ Gemma told us that the Mischief team are inspired by the metaphor of a palaeontologist discovering a fossil and exposing it for the first time in millions of years, something that no person has ever seen and the excitement and thrill that inspires. They strive to make work that feels fresh, new and unseen. A great creative ambition and an approach that is clearly paying off.

We also had a lively panel debate on what judges are looking for, their pet peeves and how to make an award entry stand out with Vodafone’s Amanda Andrews, Steve Earl MD, Zeno Group, Alex MacLaverty, Group MD from Hotwire PR and MSL’s Creative Director, Blair Metcalfe.

Insights from the panel. There were four key themes that were reiterated by all the judges throughout the session as advice for anyone looking to enter their work into awards, which were:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Clarity
  3. Impact
  4. Results

Amanda said that she is looking for work that “is edgy” – pushing the boundaries in a particular category or area and added that Vodafone themselves increasingly use this criteria as a filter for their own ideas.

Hotwire Group MD Alex suggested that any potential entry gets “stress-tested” before your commit your resources behind writing a full entry. As part of the ‘how to write a killer award entry’ course I run for the PRCA I always suggest that the team really interrogates whether the work is good enough to standout in a pile of awards. In my opinion, you’re much better off entering one crack hot piece of work that has a good chance than flooding the awards with some that are weaker.

So list 5 reasons why the work deserves to win an award. Then ask your harshest critics in the business what they have to say about it.

If you do enter – also be honest in the entry and refrain from exaggeration – ‘the Internet exploded, early adopter buzz was massive’. It seeds doubt about honesty and undermines what is true.

Avoiding doubt about the campaign results was a topic by raised Zeno Group MD Steve Earl. He advised that the entry should make crystal clear which campaign results are earned and which are paid as part of any campaign. In particular, paid support and the results for digital assets in Twitter, YouTube etc are stated clearly on the entry. Without this information it’s very difficult to assess the different working parts and merits of a campaign.

MSL’s Creative Director, Blair Metcalfe told any budding entry awards writer never to assume that the judges will go to any supporting materials as time is so short. He said that he starts by reading the first and the last line of any entry – so make sure your objectives and evidence are front and centre, and clear from the off.

Find out more about the next PRCA “how to write a killer award entry’ course here. Good luck if you’ve entered the DARE awards! The PRCA national awards open in a few weeks’ time.

If you’d like more insights into brilliant creative work and how to create award-winning PR campaigns, see our next ‘how to be a creative ninja training’ open training dates here.

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