This Month in PR History

By: Jeff Rodriguez, GFW PRSA Historian

August 1968: There is no sure-fire way to win a Presidential election. But there is a pretty reliable method for losing one, and it was clearly demonstrated 50 years ago this month when Democrats gathered in Chicago to nominate their Presidential candidate. Conventions are supposed to help bring the party together, but this one was a political — and PR — disaster.

To be fair, 1968 was a tough year for everyone. MLK and Robert Kennedy both had been assassinated, and the Vietnam War was tearing apart both the country and the Democrats. Many delegates arrived in Chicago angry at the party, and they were joined by an “army of protesters” outside. Nervous city officials responded by surrounding the convention hall with steel fence and barbed wire, and the main doors were bulletproofed. As CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite said, the hall resembled a police state.

Most people have heard about the “riot” instigated by the Chicago Police; on August 28, tempers flared and the cops began clubbing protestors, journalists, even passers-by — “unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence,” as an investigation later reported. The media — those still standing — covered much of it. The New York Times called it a “pitched battle,” Newsweek called it “The Battle of Chicago” and The Washington Post called it “an atmosphere of hatred.”

But for Democrats, the scene inside the hall was just as significant. Angry delegates booed and yelled at each other and at least one delegate, with cameras rolling, was forcibly removed by security officers. Then when NBC’s Dan Rather attempted to interview the delegate, he was grabbed and pushed down, bringing a new definition to the idea of “on the ground reporting.” And when a Senator spoke out against the police violence, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley was seen on camera yelling something he later claimed was “You faker.”

There is disagreement about how much long-term damage the convention did to the Democrats, but here are two telling stats. First, in 1964, LBJ won 61 percent of the vote; four years later, Hubert Humphrey got less than 43 percent. Second, while Democrats had won eight of the 12 previous elections, they lost seven of the next 12. Probably not the best metrics.

No doubt the Democrats who gathered in Chicago that summer were hoping for some “in-conventional” thinking, but the riots and inner conflict were a bit more than they had bargained for. And as every PR pro knows, if you want to beat an adversary, the first step is to not beat on each other.

When in Nigeria…

As part of her Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship, FWPRSA’s advocacy chair, Amiso George, had the opportunity to give a workshop on “Understanding How Public Relations Can Enhance the Work of HR Managers,” to a variety of companies in Lagos, Nigeria! Thanks for representing FWPRSA all the way from Nigeria, Amiso!

PR for Small Business

Brian Murnahan, FWPRSA’s treasurer & president of Murnahan Public Relations, wrote an article about the essentials of PR for small business in the July issue of FW Inc.! We’re proud to call you a member, Brian!

8 Tips to Writing a Winning Worthy Award Entry

BClaire Armstrong 2 (1)y Claire Bloxom Armstrong
Public Relations Director, PAVLOV

From the pride it brings to your team/agency, third-party credibility and validity it gives to your work and services, and recruitment opportunities it provides for both new business and star employees, it’s difficult to overstate the value of winning a Worthy Award.

Be sure to take some time before you start the entry process to maximize the quality of your submissions and ensure your entry stands out. Here are 8 tips to help you do this:

  1. Plan Ahead.
    Draft an outline of what you want to get across before you start writing. The entry system now takes place entirely online, and the allowed copy length for both Programs and Tactics is 1,500 words (1,600 if you include the optional 100-word synopsis).
  2. Tell A Story.
    Judges like a clear narrative, so borrow some techniques from PR Writing 101 and emphasize the 5 Ws: Who, What, Why, Where, and When – and throw in a little “How” if you have time and space.
  3. No Jargon!
    Did you “utilize and leverage existing resources to achieve your goals and exceed KPIs?” Well, cut it out. Jargon like that takes up precious space and words, and conveys nothing about what you actually did. How about this instead: “We transformed the streets of downtown Fort Worth into an outdoor art gallery and performing arts venue.” Much better! Skip the big, flowery words, and cut to the chase.
  4. Don’t Ignore The Fine Print.
    Check the category descriptions and entry guidelines to ensure you are covering all of the criteria for the categories you are entering. Keep to the maximum word count (300 per section) and upload only the maximum number of supporting materials (5 per section). Otherwise, you risk annoying the judges at best; at worst — being excluded from the category.
  5. Choose Supporting Materials Carefully.
    There is so much temptation to upload everything, but don’t do it. Choose the best and most impressionable media clips, videos, images, and testimonials to support your case.
  6. Explain Your Results.
    When you reach the last section of your entry, it’s tempting to make a series of bullets — ad equivalency values, impressions, followers, engagement rates, etc. But the storytelling shouldn’t stop here. Put those numbers in context. What do they mean for your client? How do they contribute to overall business goals? How did the organization and target audiences benefit? Share results beyond numbers — comments, stories, or changes in business practices, for example.
  7. Think Like A Judge.
    The judges might be reading/judging 10-20 submissions. Think about that and put yourself in their shoes before submitting a final draft and make it as easy as possible for them – they will appreciate it and look at your entry in a more favorable light. Make it an easy read with clear objectives. Consider having an internal judging panel assess the entries before they are submitted – if you can’t convince your own colleagues, you won’t convince the judges.
  8. Connect All The Dots.
    Most importantly, don’t expect the judges to draw conclusions for themselves. What seems obvious to you as an expert in your category and someone immersed in your client’s world for a year or more will not be obvious to the judges. Educate them about the challenges you faced, the uniqueness of your strategy, and the significance of your results. Because the truth is, great work and great results are just the first step. Great entries win Worthy Awards! 🙂

Entry tips for the 5th Annual Worthy Awards!

By Carolyn Bobo, APR, Fellow PRSA

The Worthy Awards are back! The annual contest, like those held by other chapters, gives area communications, marketing and public relations professionals an opportunity to honor and celebrate creativity, strategic thinking and professional ability.

Worthy entries will be judged by professionals like you who understand the challenges of time, budget, staff and other factors that go into efforts to support our organizations or clients. Don’t be shy; identify your best efforts and enter them. But be sure to allow plenty of time to think about your work from beginning to end and prepare a strong narrative to showcase your project.

Terminology and tactics have changed over the years, but the fundamentals of our profession remain the foundation for contests: research, planning, execution and measurement. Read the entry form closely and be sure to explain:

  • What was done?
  • Why did it matter?
  • How was it measured?

Some tips for entrants:

Explain any type of research. A textbook campaign includes qualitative and/or quantitative research, but that isn’t always feasible or necessary. Judges know this, but they expect your entry narrative to show your knowledge of options and professional literacy. The judges want to know that you observed the public or market, and then thought about how to reach it. Use textbook terminology. For example, best practices review, media audit, literature search, anecdotal reports or even a brainstorming session may be described as secondary, informal research.

Explain the strategic purpose of your entry. Was your intent to create name recognition, influence behavior, increase sales, raise funds? Describe any factors about the program or tactic that will help judges understand your decisions. Judges are not likely to be familiar with our market and geographic area, so be sure to include details about population, annual sales, number of employees, consumers, etc., that help them understand the scope of your efforts.

Explain which tactics were chosen and why.

Remember that the judges won’t know that your tactic was spot-on unless you tell them. If your work required extraordinary skills or a budget challenge, be sure to say so. If media relations are part of your entry, be sure to note that we work in the fifth largest media market in the country (Nielsen) and that there is fierce competition for mass media attention.

Describe how the target responded and how you learned about its response. Program evaluation and measurement may be a replication of preliminary research or of other activities. For example, measures can be election results, a sales increase, ROI, donor or donation increase, or the number of participants/responses that exceeded expectations. Include as much measurable and anecdotal response as possible; describe future plans.

If comprehensive research was not needed, say so. For example, “More than 5,000 people in our target public responded to the activity. We expected only 3,000, so we did not repeat our preliminary research to measure interest.” 

Or, if the goal was “to generate five media stories,” the result must show five (or more) media reports. If the purpose is “to raise awareness,” the results must show a measurable increase in awareness.

Remember that evaluation results must must must match your stated goal or purpose, i.e., “Why our work mattered.”

Good luck!

(Carolyn has been a member of Fort Worth PRSA since 1999 and was previously a member of contest-hosting chapters in New Mexico and South Carolina.)