The ideal entry contains a summary of the assignment as well as a sample of the work. Because there are many ways to tell a good public relations case story, we have relaxed our rules when it comes to summary formatting.
Many people will choose to provide the traditional two-page written summary, but others are free to use Powerpoint or similar (we suggest 6-10 slides as an ideal length). You can even provide us with a video if you think that gets your story across in the most compelling fashion.
Whatever format you choose, the summary should include a brief description of the assignment; the challenge it presented; any research and insight that contributed to the creative strategy; details of the creative execution; and the results.
The sample of the work will vary from category to category, but can include (but is not limited too) printed materials such as white papers or company publications; links to online content such as websites and videos; sample ads, infographics or web pages; mobile applications. Content may be uploaded via our SABRE Awards website, linked to in the summary, or when hard copy is necessary mailed to our offices.
Most awards competitions look for the same things—big, bold creative ideas; flawless execution; an impact on business results. We value those things too, but the SABRE judges will ask several additional questions as they review your entries:
1. Did your creative solution take courage? Was the agency brave to suggest the strategy it did? Was the client brave to agree to it? Courage comes in many forms—admitting a mistake, fighting for an unpopular principle, taking a creative risk, breaking a taboo.
2. Was it authentic? Did the core creative idea seem to arrive organically from the DNA of the company? Was it a true reflection of the organization’s mission, its vision, its values? Did the explicit or implicit story it told about the company fit with the way customers, employees and community actually experience the company and its brands?
3. Was it engaging? In the past, it might have been enough for a public relations campaign to deliver a message. But the best campaigns today go beyond that, prompting engagement, encouraging the audience to respond both emotionally and in some tangible way: joining the conversation, participating in the debate, offering feedback, getting involved in a cause or issue.
4. Was it inclusive? The best public relations campaigns take into account the media consumed by a diverse public and makes an effort to engage with people of all races, cultures, and orientations. Our judges will look for evidence that some thought was given to issues of diversity and inclusion in the planning and execution of winning campaigns.
5. Was it shareable? Public relations campaigns have always been about persuading people to share information. In the past, it was typically a journalist sharing with his or her readers. But today it can involve almost any audience—bloggers, influencers, opinion leaders, ordinary people—sharing with their friends, via social media or good old-fashioned conversation, amplifying the message and giving it credibility and immediacy.
6. Was it sticky? Did the campaign lead to a single transaction or did it contribute toward a lasting relationship? Some campaigns are fleetingly amusing, a momentary distraction; others leave a lasting impression about the company or the brand, usually by making an emotional connection, convincing stakeholders that the company genuinely cares about something close to their hearts.
7. Was it ethical? Honesty has always been important. It is even more important today, because in an age of radical transparency any dishonesty—and manipulation or deceit—will be discovered so much more quickly and punished so much more severely than in the past.
8. Did it change behavior? There are two ways in which good public relations campaigns can change behavior. The first is by affecting the behavior of the audience (employees, consumers, voters, communities) so that they are more supportive of an organization’s objectives. Less common—but often more meaningful in terms of long-term relationship building—a good PR campaign can change the behavior of the organization and its management, bringing it into alignment with stakeholder expectations. Great campaigns may do both.
We have always taken the view that great work can originate anywhere. Big ideas don’t necessarily originate with big agencies, or for big Fortune 500 clients. And they don’t necessarily require big budgets.
Over the 20 years of the SABRE Awards, we have seen plenty of work from giant multinational agencies, tiny boutiques, and in-house teams. We have seen great work designed to promote blue-chip consumer brands and obscure business-to-business companies that few people had even heard of—before someone had a great marketing or PR idea.
And in the digital and social media age, the playing field is more level than ever. It doesn’t matter where a great idea originated; how big the budget was; who the client is; or whether the agency working on the business defines itself as a PR firm, an ad agency, or a digital and social specialist—all that matters is the quality of thinking, the thoroughness of the execution, and the ultimate outcome.
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