I was honored this year to be asked by Paul Holmes to serve as a judge for the Sabre Awards. It was my first judging experience and I found it very rewarding and learned a lot. Across the five categories I judged there was a lot of great work by obviously talented professionals. With so much great work, it often comes down to which entry does the best job of demonstrating, through an effective measurement effort, stated objectives were met or exceeded. While there were good examples of this practice, there were many more submissions that simply failed to demonstrate the true success of their impressive campaigns.
Here are the three most common oversights of the non-winning entries I reviewed:
- Objectives Not Measurable – The majority of the stated objectives in the entries, as written, were not measurable. One cannot measure, ‘Increase Awareness’ or ‘Generate Coverage’. One could measure, ‘Increase Awareness From 10% to 25% in the Next 12 Months’ or ‘Generate 1,000,000 Impressions in the First 6 Months of the Campaign’. (See my previous diatribes on measurable objectives here)
- Strategies Masquerading as Objectives – If objectives are ‘what’ we want to accomplish, then strategies are ‘how’. Sentences beginning with action words like, ‘leverage’, ‘educate’, ‘promote’ or ‘communicate’ are almost always a strategy and not an objective. Also, media coverage is almost always a strategy and not the objective. The vast majority of award entries had one or more strategies posing as objectives.
- Measurement Misaligned With Objectives– By misaligned I am referring to an objective that is an outcome (or influence) supported by measurement of only outputs (or exposure). If we are trying to create awareness or change an opinion, we can not demonstrate success by only reporting on the number of impressions generated. Great programs articulate the desired business outcomes, write PR objectives aligned with these outcomes, and then report on the metrics directly tied to the PR objectives.
In summary, many of the entries made the hard stuff (great creativity and execution) look easy, and the easy stuff (writing proper objectives, measuring the correct metrics) look hard. Better than the other way around I guess. And lots of room for improvement.