To Win Industry Awards Proper Measurement Is Crucial

18 Apr

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: 

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

5 Responses to “To Win Industry Awards Proper Measurement Is Crucial”

  1. Mark Weiner April 20, 2008 at 3:32 am #

    Hi Don,

    I’m always happy to find a new Metricsman post. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of awards judging. It is a great honor but it can also be a little discouraging to see how many entrants disqualify themselves by falling for the traps you’ve mentioned. What most entry planners seem not to recognize is that the first order of business for every judging panel on which I’ve served is to weed out those that don’t meet the most basic criteria such as “measurable objectives,” “research undertaken” and “evaluation.”

    As soon as judges see an objective like “generate significant buzz” or “creatively break through the media clutter” they know it’s a dog and place it in the reject pile. And when they turn to the “evaluation” section of the looseleaf and all find only clip listings or photocopied clips, they know that it’s not a winner.

    On the other hand, I’ve judged programs with budgets under $5,000 that included measures of meaningful business outcomes and they provide hope.

    Given that these awards require a lot of preparation and resources beyond the entry fee, and given how much emphasis agencies place on winning them, you’d think they’d get the simple things right…In my experience, two in five are almost automatically disqualified for the reasons you mention.

    You’re a beacon of sanity, Don…keep your light shining brightly.

  2. Don Bartholomew April 21, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for reading, your comment and kind words. I think your 2 in 5 estimate of ‘easy to eliminate’ entries is a good guesstimate. Many of the entries I reviewed would have been given a ‘C’ in an undergraduate college course. Pretty disappointing from an industry-wide perspective. Perhaps a few of these companies should hire you to advise them on their award entries. 🙂
    Cheers, DB

  3. Mariana Sarceda April 24, 2008 at 4:26 am #

    Thanks a lot for such an interesting post. I’m always looking eagerly forward to your comment on metrics and related topics. You make a good point really when you talk about the confussion between objectives and strategies and the forcing of measurements to prove something else.


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