Awards Season:

Avoiding Susan Lucci Syndrome

Karen Korr
San Diego County Bar Association

I often joke that I don't know whether our Bar does really good work, or if we are really just good at submitting award nominations. I would like to believe that it is all the work, but I've learned a few tips along the way that may help to make your submission a contender.

Judge Who's Judging
First and foremost - with everything we do as professional communicators - the key is to know your audience.  While award-worthy work stands on its own, the tone, type of information you include, and level of detail vary depending on who will be judging your entry.  For example, if I am submitting something that will be judged by my peers - specifically other communicators at bar associations throughout the country - I am less likely to talk about the process and nuances of the project, since many of us who work on the same types of things likely face many of the same challenges. Instead, I aim to point out what makes the project a success story - whether it was appeasing a committee that couldn't reach a consensus, producing a Ritz Carlton project on a Best Western budget, or simply taking a creative risk that was lauded by our leadership.

However, if I'm submitting an award to a public relations association, the local press club, or a national organization, I'm more likely to give more background about how bar associations work - so that others outside of our profession get a better understanding of what it really takes to do what we do and why our "in-house" work rivals what others do on the outside.

Introduce the Judges to Your Fan Club
While I could certainly tell you how hard we work on something and why I think it is amazing, our work serves an audience that I am not a part of, so the "end users" perspective is arguably more valuable. If you created a new way to highlight your President's objectives for the year, get a quote from your President.  If you wrote a press release that turned into a big feature story in your local paper, turn the tables on the reporter and ask for a quote.  If one thing you did in your work changed the member experience for the better for just one member - find that member and ask them why your work had an impact.  Testimonials and third-party-endorsements allow you to show the real value of your work and gives judges an appreciation for how it was received by your intended audience.

Measure Your Success
When I worked in public relations, clients often asked us to measure the impact of our campaigns in various ways that for the most part translated to dollars. When working with a hotel, measurement was "heads on beds," when it was a sailing excursion company, it was how our efforts impacted the number of "butts on boats." While the world has changed since then and there are different ways to look at impact, exposure, and conversion, the lesson I garnered was that people believe in your effectiveness when you can back your success with numbers.  So in our world, numbers include click throughs, readership, visitors, attendees, mentions, tweets, followers, retweets, "likes" and sometimes actual dollars. Those numbers (especially if you can compare them to previous time periods and show your direct involvement in helping them climb) carry a lot of weight.  Use charts, graphs, infographics - anything where the measurement makes it easy to visualize how your work made a difference.

And most importantly, have someone proofread your submission, and get it in by the deadline!  Good luck to all my fellow Luminary contenders (deadline June 24!)