What the 2023 Prime Awards say about excellence in PR: insights from a judge

This year, I had the honour of judging the 2023 Prime Awards, and with it came many valuable insights into the incredible work done throughout the media industry. As an awards program designed to recognise excellence within healthcare communications in Australia, I was thrilled to evaluate entries in three distinct categories: Corporate Social Responsibility, Best PR Campaign – Commercial and Corporate, and Sustained Excellence.

The calibre of entries across these categories was truly outstanding and made for an incredibly enlightening, thought-provoking, and, at times, challenging experience. If you’re like me and you love getting an inside look into the strategy used for impactful PR campaigns – or if you’re simply wanting some insight into how to create a great awards entry – keep reading to hear my thoughts from the 2023 judging process.

Characteristics of a winning entry

The winning entries, in my perspective, were those that not only understood consumer behaviour but also crafted campaigns that addressed the entire consumer journey. This extends past simply capturing attention and incorporates influencing change, sustaining new habits, and encouraging repeat behaviour. Effective campaigns navigated objections, built trust, ensured accessibility, communicated benefits, and facilitated easy incorporation into consumers’ lives. These comprehensive strategies not only impressed me but showcased a deeper understanding of the multifaceted aspects of the consumer experience.

Outcomes aligning with objectives

Campaigns where actual outcomes aligned with the overarching objectives and purpose of the organisation also stood out. Whether it was a legislative change, government funding, increased sales, changed attitudes/understanding, or behaviour change, the winning campaigns always demonstrated tangible, real-world impact.

Deep understanding of stakeholders

Another common denominator of successful submissions was a profound understanding not only of the opportunity at hand but also of the stakeholders involved. This included delving into the psychology of their behaviour, motivators, challenges, circumstances, needs, and influences. Strategic analysis, incorporating research before and after the campaign, and understanding practical realities were vital components of a winning strategy.

Short and long-term thinking

Finally, the concept of thinking both short and long-term throughout a campaign was another crucial element. Campaigns that showcased a robust strategy with the potential for sustained excellence were more likely to catch my attention. Across all facets of PR, a successful campaign is one that goes beyond immediate success and considers the lasting impact it can have.

Entries that missed the mark

While the calibre of entries in this year’s Prime Awards was incredible, there were naturally a few submissions that fell short. Entries that missed the mark were those that oversimplified the process. A formulaic approach, such as creating a generic media release, enlisting a well-known personality, and counting coverage as success without assessing impact or relevance, was a red flag.

Failing to include CALD communities

Another disappointing feature that emerged from the judging process was the lack of consideration for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities in many campaigns. All you need to do is look at entries that did address the needs and nuances of diverse communities to see that they experienced notably higher engagement and uptake.

This underlines the importance of tailoring campaigns to a broader audience, acknowledging and respecting cultural differences, and ensuring that the message resonates across all segments of society. Targeting a narrow demographic – one that thinks, looks, talks, and acts like the campaign creators – is a major detractor from campaign success in our diverse world.

Lack of collateral

Another critical point that I found lacking in some entries was the absence of collateral and helpful information. Providing downloadable guides, Q&As, informative videos, materials in multiple languages, and myth-busting communications are not just optional but vital components of a comprehensive campaign. Additionally, being enamoured with novelty at the expense of a well-thought-out strategy and execution that delivers results was a drawback.

Although it was my third year judging for the Prime Awards, I was blown away by the innovation, commitment, and depth of understanding demonstrated by the nominated campaigns. This year there was a record number of entries for the awards program, with my fellow judges and I all agreeing that the submissions represented some of the best we’ve ever seen.

The campaigns presented weren’t merely about garnering attention; they were about creating lasting impressions, fostering change, and leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of public relations and corporate social responsibility.

For anyone contemplating becoming a judge in the future, my best advice would be to allocate ample time for thoughtful consideration during the judging process. Judging for awards programs can be a time-consuming task, but you can learn a lot from witnessing the inner workings of such amazing campaigns. Prepare to be inspired by the professionals challenging the norm and achieving truly exceptional outcomes from their work. The effort is demanding, but the rewards are worth it.

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