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awardsCommonwealth Partnerships was honored to receive four awards of merit at the Virginia Public Relations Awards this week. PRSA Richmond, which organizes and hosts the event, recognized a number of professionals and organizations from around Virginia. The awards ceremony, held at the stunning Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, was a great opportunity to celebrate the success of our clients and hear about other award-winning campaigns. During the course of the awards ceremony, a few common characteristics emerged for many of the tactics and campaigns that were recognized with awards. We thought it would be helpful to share the most important components of a successful campaign. Here are four keys to create an award-winning PR and communications campaign:

  • Listen Closely: The first and most important aspect of a successful campaign is listening. It’s important for communications pros to always listen strategically. Your next great campaign could come as a result of a story you hear from a co-worker or a problem that a client brings to your attention. Listening is an invaluable art that is increasingly rare. Listen closet to what your clients and colleagues are sharing. For example, Commonwealth Assisted Living at Christiansburg shared a unique story about two residents who fought on opposite sides of World War II and had become friends at the community. Not only is that a very cool story, but it highlights the amazing residents and friendly staff (that connected the two friends), two critical factors potential residents use to evaluate a senior living community. The story was shared with media outlets and gained local and national attention, including a profile in the Washington Post. This could have been another typical resident story, but by listening closely it became much more.
  • Set Clear Goals: Understanding the broader purpose of a campaign is vital to its success. If you’re not sure why you’re doing something, stop and re-evaluate. Make sure to set clear and measurable goals at the beginning of any new PR or communications project. Ideally, these goals will be tied to your client’s or organization’s business objectives. For example, Commonwealth Assisted Living launched a new program honoring veterans at their communities. When developing the communications campaign to roll out the program and promote it, a number of goals were identified, including media placements, increased traffic to communities, more community events, and an increased number of new residents.
  • Get Creative: Although it’s becoming an overused word, creativity is the foundation of most successful campaigns. Getting creative doesn’t mean you have to do something completely different or off the wall. Taking too much creative risk can even backfire. Instead, think about an issue or challenge and how you can address it in a creative or unique manner. Is there an unexpected communications tactic you can use? Perhaps you can frame the issue in a new or slightly different way? For example, The Village at Gateway, a mixed-use community in Chesapeake, wanted to attract more homebuyers to its community. There was an unfair perception about the area. We realized that a creative solution was to showcase the improvements taking place in the neighborhood. A high-profile placement that would attract attention was ideal so we secured a large op-ed in the Virginian-Pilot where the developer outlined the major investments that were happening and positioned the region in a much more positive light.
  • Measure Your Results: The most common denominator of award-winning campaigns is that the results are measured. It’s difficult to highlight the success of a campaign if you don’t measure your results. This key also relates back to setting clear goals. Once your goals are established, create metrics to evaluate how the campaign is going. This should be done throughout the course of the campaign so you can adjust as needed. With measurable results you’ll have great information about the current campaign and can identify successful tactics to use in future campaigns as well. For example, HHHunt outlined a number of goals when it built the first Homes for Hope house in Virginia. Those goals included participation in the project, money raised for Homes for Hope, media placement, social media engagement, attendance at events related to Homes for Hope, and traffic to HHHunt’s website. Each of these goals could be measured and were exceeded. Having this information can make all the difference for an award-winning campaign.

These four steps can help you identify your next award-winning campaign. And the best part isn’t even the hardware you get to take home. Rather, our four campaigns, and many of the campaigns that won awards, all helped to meet a broader business objective by supporting the growth of their clients or organizations. When that happens, everyone is truly a winner!