Monday, February 13

Honoring Communication Excellence

Relatively few industries offer professionals as many peer review opportunities and recognition as the communication industry. In addition to international and national competitions, most major markets host several local or regional award programs, some of which provide the first tier of national competition.

In Las Vegas, there are several awards programs, each with its own criteria and judging principles. A few notables include: Las Vegas Advertising Federation's Addy Awards, Women In Communications' Electronic Media Awards, the Public Relations Society of America's Tri-State Pinnacle Awards, and the International Association of Business Communicators/Las Vegas (IABC/Las Vegas) Bronze Quill Awards. There are others, enough so that most agencies and firms can only participate in one or two every year.

While we enter some from time to time (and sometimes our clients enter, given that many are agencies), my personal favorite remains the IABC/Las Vegas Bronze Quill Awards, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. It is the longest continually-running awards program in Las Vegas.

What sets it apart from the other programs (even the Addys, which is generally considered the most prestigious agency awards program in Las Vegas), is that an accompanying work plan accounts for half of the judges' score. In other words, it is not enough to produce great-looking or creative work. The objectives, target audience, budget, and documented results all contribute to the judges' assessment of the piece. Further, each entry is recognized on its own merit, regardless of other entries in the same category. Most often, judges include feedback along with the entry's scores.

Last Thursday, we were pleased to learn that all three of our entries in this year's competition received recognition at the IABC/Las Vegas Bronze Quill Awards: two Bronze Quills and one Award of Excellence. The first piece to receive a Bronze Quill was a collaborative self-promotion piece with our friends at Colorado-based Aisle 9 Design (one panel is shown in our June 2005 archives). The piece also received an award of excellence at the Addys last year.

The second Bronze Quill was earned for work with Black Gaming, which owns three of the four resorts located in Mesquite, Nevada. I was especially pleased to see their direct mail letters recognized for two reasons. First, because the letters generated results: local active response was 57 percent (78 percent in certain segments); drive-in customer response was 19 percent (53 percent in certain segments); and fly-in customer response rates were 7 percent (24 percent in certain segments). In sum, the three properties increased their response rates by 200 percent from previous mailers (despite using the same offers), customer play increased by 60 percent; and the three properties collectively reclaimed 40 percent of their inactive customers with the first mailing, which cost 60 percent less to produce than their previous direct mail. The other reason I was pleased to see this piece recognized was because our client was credited. We cannot thank our contacts there enough; they give us great direction and then, even more importantly, the freedom to execute that direction based on our extensive direct mail experience. The results have reinforced their decision to do so. As the old saying goes, you're only as good as your clients allow you to be. Here, we have met and continue to work with the best.

Additional client kudos go to ACME Home Elevator for allowing us to add honest and human elements to their news release, written by Kim Becker, vice president of Copywrite, Ink. The release, which centered around ACME's participation on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, received an award of excellence, the highest award given in the news release category this year. Approved by ABC and distributed to a broad range of industry publications and local network affiliates, the release not only generated client exposure but also provided a role model case study for why companies need to get involved within their communities.

For students taking my Writing for Public Relations class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, it also provides another example as to why the one-page news release concept is passe, assuming you have something worth writing about. Sure, one-page releases are still preferred, but in the case study above, the story demanded three pages. ABC and other media outlets agreed. Next week, I'm planning to expound more on this subject, citing an applicable concept from the least likely public relations resource: Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Until then, please keep in mind my other quip about awards: they should always be the sequel to great results, never the pilot. In other words, creativity for creativity's sake is best left to fine arts. In business communication, results come first.

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