The Jury
Charting the future of public relations

The In2 SABRE Awards - North America Pointers From The Judges

This year's In2 SABRE Awards - North America jury includes judges from some of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies. Among them: Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, Levi Strauss, Oracle, Bloomberg among many others.

We asked new and recent judges to provide guidance on what compels them to advocate for an entry during the judging process. Here are a few pointers to consider when crafting your entries. 

Angela Martin, West Coast Communications at Bloomberg
"In a world where we are constantly being inundated with information, advertising, and branding, I am looking forward to seeing how participants stood out in a unique and organic way. I'm also going to be looking for teams that have mastered the ability to track and measure the success of their campaigns meaningfully."

Burghardt Tenderich, University of Southern California 
"I'm hoping for well-documented cases of how practitioners are pushing the boundaries of PR by exploring new and innovative ways to engage with a target audience. Make the cases fun to read/view/listen to."

Brandon Borrman,
I'm really looking for entries that make me smack myself in the head and say, 'why didn't I think of that first?!' Programs that push the boundaries of what qualifies as PR and result in laughter either through their humor or from a sense of awe." 

Diana Wong, RSA Security 
"I’m looking for how teams connected analytics and attribution to building a campaign, and how the brand was used to strengthen (or re-build) reputation. I’m looking for entries that show how the campaign connected, resonated and engaged an audience – what action did it inspire and did I have a similar intended response."

Elizabeth Owen, Levi Strauss & Co
“In our fast-moving and complex world, people are inundated with information — push notifications, instant updates and we want (and expect) to have everything at our fingertips. I’m interested in seeing how companies have transcended the transactional and struck an emotionally resonant chord with their audiences. To see how authentic connections have compelled people to engage with content and share it."

Jessica Shambora, Marketing manager formerly of Facebook, Instagram, Houzz and others
"I'm looking forward to entries that mix new media with traditional channels in a surprising way. And as a former journalist I'm excited to see entries that are setting a high bar for branded editorial content."

Ken Shuman, Pindrop
"In most cases, I read the results section first. If that doesn't impress me, it's very hard for that entry to make my shortlist."

Ryan Jones, 2K Games
"As new digital opportunities have added more ways for PR professionals to reach their audiences directly, there is still an tremendous value in garnering unpaid, authentic conversations from influencers and media. The core principals of the PR craft haven’t lost their importance since the days of old media relations, and can form a powerful combination when fully integrated into holistic paid and earned campaign. Put simply, coordinating with unpaid, external voices to discuss, endorse and bring awareness to our clients and their offerings is still the most important part of great PR work --- there is no replacement for authentic (earned) third-party validation and discussion of our products."

Steve Mnich, Accel Partners
"The PR industry is undergoing a formative transition as a consequence of the prolific amount of digital content and noise. This evolving communications paradigm requires agencies and practitioners to rethink their own skillsets in tandem with client-facing capabilities like audience segmentation, content creation and distribution, measurement and storytelling through data and research."


Pointers From Former Jury Members

Former jury member Stephen Astle (then VP of marketing at FICO)
"Our profession is verbal, yet our species is visual. PR people are biased toward words, yet most human beings are biased toward images. Think carefully about how your entry looks – its layout on the page, the charts, graphs and photos you use to illustrate it, even the typeface you select. The judges make a concerted effort to weigh entries on their merits, but we’re human, and images matter to us."
Former jury member Stephanie Losee, (then exec director of brand content at POLITICO)
"More is not better; imagine judges combing through dozens of entries and wishing they could see a nasty, brutish and short entry that tells them everything they need to know almost by telepathy.
But when you shorten and condense, keep the relevant stuff. In an entry about innovative brand-agency relationships, please tell us what was different about the way you worked together. In a campaign entry, tell us the ROI in a way that allows us to compare cost with results. And tell us the challenges—we had a real appreciation for teams that had a tough row to hoe. We feel your pain; we’ve all been there."

Former jury member Christian Averill, VP of marketing at BitTorrent says: 
"There were many great entries, but knowing all the wonderful work that has been done in the past year, it was surprising that there weren’t even more. There are surely readers out there who know their teams have done great work. This is the opportunity to showcase it so don’t be shy.

If you have all of your plans and results lined up already, the time commitment can be as little as a few hours. In fact, shorter submissions that get to the point quickly do better when being reviewed. Plus, the exercise of putting the submission together - reflecting on the program, the results, the impact -  can help with team morale and help you to merchandize the work for new business efforts. 

Especially for PR teams, this is a chance to dispel the notion that there is a lack of creativity and bold thinking in the industry. The size of the agency didn’t matter, it was the big and bold idea we were looking for.

Keep it tight
The secret to a winning submission is to get your ideas across clearly and succinctly. The panelists reviewing the submission are seasoned professionals and will recognize great work. Long rambling introductions take away focus from the big ideas and results. Break your submission down into a few short paragraphs: the challenge, the research or insights, the big idea, the execution and the results. 

Show the big idea
Showing research and insights really helped in picking the winning submissions. But even more so when the submission articulated how those insights were then applied to the program. What was the big idea? It didn’t need to be a big research project, just something that showed your team applied insights in a bold or creative way. In some instances it was demonstrating the ability to sell the client on the concept. 

Map to the submission category
Several submissions for a particular category made no effort to demonstrate how the program related to that category. It’s worth taking the time before submitting to be sure elements come through to demonstrate how it fits the category. In the case of submissions going into several categories, take a few minutes to add some language calling out why it’s in the category. It will make a difference. 

Define the results
This may sound obvious, but include results. Submissions that did not have results or had vague results did poorly. Submissions that show how the results mapped back to objectives did well. 
It didn’t matter how big or small the results were, it’s showing that the program worked. Whether growing an audience, getting new business, shifting perceptions, or moving boxes - what was the impact?"