7 Tips to Submit a Winning PRism Entry from Two Time Best in Show Winner

Holly Michae, APR, 2015 and 2016 Dayton Area PRSA Best in Show Winner

I often joke that I am pretty good at PR and damn good at writing award entries. I like the challenge of “reverse-engineering” calls for entries, but now that we have this rubric-based entry program, there is no question what the judges will need to award you the points—so give it to them.

Here are a few of the things I am always sure to do when competing in the PRisms:

  1. Follow the directions
    This sounds basic, but I have been judging PRSA awards programs for 20 years and I am amazed at how many entries I have seen where basic instructions for submission weren’t followed. Follow the submission to the letter. This makes life easier for the volunteers who coordinate the program AND for the judges.
  2. Hack the judging sheet
    You may be thinking, if I don't win, it's because I had no idea what the judges were looking for. WRONG. Look at the PRism entry guidelines document (I have the one from last year saved on my desktop for easy reference), there is a section called Award Marks of Excellence that tells you EXACTLY what judges will be looking for to award you points.
  3. Make it easy for judges to give you the points
    Related to hacking the judging sheet, make it easy for the judges to give you their full allotment of points for each section. For example: Last year’s entry guidelines document noted that in the evaluation section, you should include two lessons learned. In my entry I had a heading called Lessons Learned and both of the lessons listed underneath and numbered to make it obvious there were two. I made it easy and I got the points.
  4. Objectives
    This is one of the most basic things that lots of very smart and talented PR pros absolutely screw up when writing an award entry. Your objectives for the program to which you believe you deserve an award need to be measurable. Saying that your objective is to raise awareness of _______ is NOT going to work unless you have a way to measure before and after awareness.

  1. Research
    Similarly, research. Research, research, research. You may not have had the budget for a big survey but did you look and see what worked last year? Did you run it past a few people in your target audience? Did you throw the idea out to a few smart PR people for their thoughts? All of this counts. It's all about how you write it up so the judges can give you the points. If the entry guideline mentions primary and secondary research, then you write about primary and secondary research--using those terms.

  1. Label your stuff
    When assembling a collection of materials to support your written entry, please consider that the judges won't know the significance of a document unless you tell them. So be sure to add notes to documents that might be less than obvious to a judge.
  1. Be a judge yourself
    Lastly, the very best way to become great at writing award entries is to volunteer as a judge. I have been judging PRSA entries at various levels since the early days of my career and it has made a huge difference in how I write them for my own projects.

    Writing award entries is a skill and I can tell you from experience that entries that make the judges' jobs easier will win almost every time.

Holly Michael, APR is associate vice president at Fahlgren Mortine. During the course of her career she has worked for the region’s largest companies, including NCR, LexisNexis and Premier Health. Michael is a former president of the Dayton Area PRSA chapter and has earned a Silver Anvil, PRSA’s highest recognition for communications campaigns. For the last two years, Holly has won the Dayton PRSA “Best in Show” PRism, achieving a perfect score on her entries. Here are seven tips from Holly on how to prepare a winning PRism entry. 

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