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You Don't Want Me As Your Judge, Unless ...Part 6

By Richard B. Barger, ABC, APR

Originally Posted

There are no magic tricks to successfully entering competitions, just an ability to follow instructions and pay attention to details. If you look back over the previous five parts of this series, you'll find detailed comments on these important points:

  • Follow the instructions

  • Put together an excellent Work Plan

  • Pay attention to detail

  • Adhere to the deadlines

  • Present your material in a way that helps the judges

  • Write strong objectives

    • Evaluable

    • Action-oriented

    • Support the objectives of the organization

  • Measure results

    • Baseline or planning research

    • Tracking research

    • Project evaluation

Your excellent work is not sufficient to win most communications competitions. Although at one time competitions rewarded "pretty" work, today the best contests reward planning and process. Have you submitted good, business-oriented work? Do you know what you're doing? Can you explain it? Although entrants screw up again and again on the mechanics of entries, those shouldn't be all that hard for anyone with the patience to read and follow instructions. The biggest weaknesses in competition entries are the sections on objectives and evaluation.

  • Communications objectives always should be designed to change or reinforce opinions, attitudes, actions, beliefs, and behaviors.

  • Objectives always should have a built-in, quantifiable outcome with some internal mechanism for measuring success; we need to aim to improve results, and then measure to see if we hit our target.

What if I Can't Perform? There's always the concern, What if the results of my research show we're not performing? Mark Weiner, Chief Executive Officer of Delahaye Medialink, offers an excellent answer to that question in his recent CornerBarPR.com column, "Here's the Key to Spring the Lock of Limbo." He says, "My response is always that, without objective third-party measurement, [you] may never know the extent of [your] accomplishments, or how to uncover opportunities for improvement. "Research does, on rare occasion, validate failure. And sometimes this can be painful. But certainly nothing good comes from not taking the risk of learning the truth." Smart professionals, he says, are willing to take the risk. "So much can be gained professionally from applying research to public relations," he says, "including reduced risk in decision-making, positive change, professional advancement, and bigger budgets." "They actually embrace their mistakes so that they may be identified, isolated, and corrected. Of course, in addition, they relish their victories, because their wins are validated and can be merchandised that much more credibly to those who fund PR programs." Leave It Out There for Anybody to Look At Put another way, if you're good at what you do, don't be afraid to have your work evaluated. It can only make you better. Doing the right stuff. That's the key to succeeding, both on the job and in competitions. Once you're doing the big things right, you can turn to the smaller items that differentiate merely good programs from those that are truly excellent. Here are a few examples that work very well in business planning and particularly well for communications competitions: Research. Don't just do "research," do planning, tracking, and evaluative research or measurement. Look at what you know at the beginning of the project, track your results as you implement your plan, and evaluate the results with an eye toward improving your performance in the future. Planning. Take a strategic planning approach. Conduct a detailed situation analysis; do environmental scanning. Take your planning to the next level of sophistication. Perspective. Give short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term solutions. Whether you're writing an ops plan or answering an accreditation oral, you'll move up a notch or three if you don't just deal with the immediate effects of the current problem. Look at how you can affect outcomes down the road, and make that part of your planning process. Let me suggest two resources that I've found particularly valuable in setting objectives and measuring results:

Once you've decided to incorporate best practices into your everyday work, your outcomes will improve and your competition entries will all but write themselves. During the course of these columns, a couple of thoughtful questions were submitted. Because I want to cover them in some depth, I'm going to extend this series and deal with them next time.

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