Enter Your Firm’s Best Work to Win a 2017 Thoth Award from PRSA-NCC

By: Jillian Cameron, News Generation, Inc.

The 48th Annual Thoth Awards, hosted by the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter, recognizes and celebrates outstanding strategic public relations programs and components created in the Greater Washington, D.C. area.

Named for the Egyptian god of communication, the Thoth Awards (pronounced “tot”), is the National Capital Chapter of PRSA’s local version of the Silver Anvils. Previous winners include the National Education Association and Ogilvy Washington’s Bring Your Brave Campaign, among many others. The awards recognize work in public relations across 34 categories, ranging from public relations campaigns to tactics.

Entry to the 2017 Thoth Awards is open to both PRSA-NCC members and non-members, and will be open until Monday, June 24, 2017. But why should you apply to the 2017 Thoth Awards? As Raymond Crosby, President & CEO of Crosby Marketing Communications, puts it:

“The Thoth Awards are really worthwhile because the entries are judged by industry peers who know how to recognize great work that gets real results.  The greater Washington, DC region has a lot of high profile agencies and organizations that participate in this competition, so winning a Thoth says you’re the best of the best.”

This year’s Thoth Awards Gala will be held at the National Press Club on Thursday, October 12, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Still not convinced the Thoth Awards are for you? Here are some more testimonials from leaders in the Greater Washington, D.C. area public relations community:

“The PRSA-NCC Chapter is the largest PRSA in the country. The communications work produced in the metropolitan D.C. area is national-caliber work. Therefore, to win a Thoth Award is truly a great honor.”

– Jeff Wilson, Vice President, Padilla

“At News Generation, personal interaction with our clients is a huge priority. Being a finalist for a Thoth Award is a great opportunity to invite your clients with whom you entered to spend the evening with you at the Gala. The recognition of being a finalist or a winner positions your client as a thought-leader in the industry in front of peers. It has been a great way for us to continue to grow our relationships with clients, and shows them that the value we are providing them is strong enough to be recognized on such a large scale.”

– Kelsey Pospisil O’Planick, News Generation, Inc.

“For me, as a federal government communicator, the Thoth Award was certainly about recognition, . but so much more, too. It was exhilarating and incredibly satisfying for the entire team at the US Department of Labor to not only “go up against” work done by major corporations, international PR firms and influential trade associations, but to actually win? That was amazing! I knew that our work was as good, or even better, than work done by more experienced and bigger (including budget) Washington area PR professionals. Winning a Thoth proved it. And it was an incomparable morale booster–team members walked a little straighter and held their head up a little higher for weeks after the award ceremony.

This part isn’t as glamourous or exciting, but I think it’s still very important: The application process is a very worthwhile endeavor. It is rigorous and time-consuming, there is no doubt about that. But it makes you think (and think hard); it makes you ask yourself tough questions about your program and its results; it makes you write, and rewrite and edit; and it forces you to defend your project. You can’t just say it was great, you have to prove it. Too often, we don’t have the time to “post mortem” a project (we’re on to the next crisis). Working on the Thoth application gives you an opportunity for serious reflection and professional introspection. Everybody needs to do more of that. Especially PR people!

There was an unexpected benefit of winning several Thoth Awards, as well as winning a PRSA Silver Anvil and Bronze Anvil: our shop became known as a real talent destination—and not just in the federal space, but throughout the Washington, DC public relations community. Recruiting talent became easier (and we attracted the truly best and brightest) because we were an award-winning shop, just as cool and creative and exciting as the boutique PR agency of the moment. The team was certainly proud of that, and applicants very much wanted to be a part of it.”

– Carl Fillichio, Weedmaps, formerly of U.S. Department of Labor

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Five Ways to Know if Your PR Campaign is Thoth Award Material

*Originally published on May 23, 2016; For the 2017 Thoth Award deadlines, see dates below this article.

By Robert V. Krueger, Senior Director, Public Relations & Social Media at the Urban Land Institute

From left to right: Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR, Principal, The Hannon Group, @Willshannon; Jeff Wilson, APR, Senior Director, Business Develoment & Agency Marketing, PadillaCRT, @Wilson0507; Brigitte Johnson, APR, Adjunct Professor, Marymount University, @JohnsonHerronB; and standing Sultana Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC

From left to right: Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR, Principal, The Hannon Group, @Willshannon; Jeff Wilson, APR, Senior Director, Business Develoment & Agency Marketing, PadillaCRT, @Wilson0507; Brigitte Johnson, APR, Adjunct Professor, Marymount University, @JohnsonHerronB; and standing Sultana Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC

Every week public relations agencies, non-profits, government agencies, and private in-house communications teams research, design, and execute a variety of campaigns that help their clients achieve certain goals. But, many outstanding campaigns never receive their due recognition.

For years, public relations practitioners have entered their campaigns into industry competitions. In addition, it can be seen as a badge of honor for organizations and individuals to attach a communications award to their portfolio. But, submitting entries for a Public Relations Society of America – National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) Thoth Award or any other PR and communication award can be an intimidating process that is full of uncertainty.

A recent PRSA-NCC panel offered insight into the process and sought to break any myths surrounding what types of campaigns – both big and small – are worthy of winning Washington’s most prestigious award.  The panelists were: Jeff Wilson, APR, Senior Director, Business Development & Agency Marketing, PadillaCRT; Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR, Principal, The Hannon Group; Brigitte Johnson, APR, Adjunct Professor, Marymount University; and the discussion was moderated by Sultana Ali, APR, PRSA-NCC President & Communications Officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Based on their discussion, below is a list of five ways you can decide whether your campaign should be submitted for a Thoth award:

  1. Perform a broad-stroke litmus test: First ask yourself whether your campaign was compelling and whether there were clear, measurable objectives that were achieved. Second, did it include a well-designed and clear strategic plan or was it simply tactical? Third, was it beautifully executed? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is there evidence that your goals were achieved?
  2. Check if there was a clear demonstration of research: If you pass the litmus test, you must be able to prove you utilized primary and/or secondary research in designing your plan. Judges of any PR competition always want to see a foundation of research. Before developing a campaign, you should do an environmental scan and see if there is any secondary research available that is applicable to your goals. In addition, even if you do not have the budget to conduct primary research, many organizations choose the more affordable route and latch on to other firms’ research through omnibus.
  3. Determine whether the execution was both targeted and strategic: Was your campaign planning targeted and based on your research? Did you have a primary and secondary audience? If securing media placements was one of your tactics, did the outlets that covered you make sense regarding target audience and objectives?
  4. Evaluate whether your results were both measurable and mirrored your objectives: Was the execution appropriate to the audience you were targeting? Did the target of the execution match the target audience of your client’s goals? Also determine whether your campaign results data proved whether goals were achieved. When doing this, make sure each result matches each stated objective.
  5. Be able to state your client’s problem and how you solved it: Judges always want to see if your submission can explain what the problem was for your client—and how your campaign helped solve that problem.
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Susan Matthews Apgood, News Generation, Inc., kicks off the event

Of course it is always best to keep these things in mind before you research and design a campaign. The panel suggested to always craft a campaign as if you would one day submit it to a competition. An additional piece of advice offered was to serve as a judge for other communication competitions, get additional training through PRSA’s APR accreditation, and to review the entries of winning submissions – all which can help you become familiar with the components of a winning entry.

*Updated from original post:
The early bird deadline is Friday, June 30, 2017, and the final deadline is July 24, 2017. For details on submitting, please visit: http://www.prsa-ncc.org/thoth_awards.

Thoughts On Our Profession, Past and Future

Judy Phair, president of PhairAdvantage Communications, LLC and a former president of PRSA National, was inducted into the National Capital Chapter Hall of Fame on September 18 during the annual Thoth Awards Gala. Below is an excerpt from her acceptance speech. She can be reached via Twitter and LinkedInAJ4A1052-2775787939-O

The National Capital Chapter Hall of Fame is one of the most esteemed in our profession, and I want to express my deep and heartfelt thanks for this honor.  With your permission, I’d like to take just a few minutes this evening to share some thoughts on our profession, past and future.

The members of the Hall of Fame have inspired me with their accomplishments, their integrity, and their advocacy for our profession.  Looking at their names leads me to reflect on what a difference their accomplishments and those of many others in our profession have made – and how much more there is to do.  Here are a few examples:

Equality and diversity – As a woman who was a teenager in the Mad Men era, I benefitted from wonderful parents who instilled in me the belief that it was possible to pursue and succeed in the career of my choice.  That was very different from the experience of many of my friends.

Bill Novelli Judy Phair Samantha VillegasWomen have come a long way since then, but, while there are more women than ever in our profession, they are still scarce at the very highest levels – and continue to make less money than their male peers.  Ironically, while men may predominate at the highest levels, fewer and fewer men are entering our profession – and that’s not good, either.

In addition, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans are underrepresented – and we suffer from it.  So, we also have some work to do in this area.

  • We must all be ambassadors for our profession – I think the reputation of public relations – our brand, if you will – has improved. However, I still hear the term spin-doctor more than any of us would like.  All of you in this room have helped build a better reputation—and will do so in the future.

PRSA offers us one important way to work together for our profession.  Like so many in my generation, I came to public relations from journalism. I’m not sure that I really knew much about the profession then, but I quickly fell in love with public relations and its potential to make a positive difference.

I connected with PRSA, and found a special community of others who shared my passion for our profession.  I believe even more today than I did then that this is indeed a higher calling.

PRSA has helped me advance my career, work with an incredibly talented group of colleagues, and learn the joy of mentoring others.  I’ve also come to understand that recognizing what you don’t know is always more important than what you do know.  Education is a lifelong process.

  • Every one of us must speak up when the practice of public relations is misused and work tirelessly for the highest standards of ethics and excellence in our profession.   In today’s fast-paced world, where information – accurate and inaccurate, beneficial and harmful – can circle the globe in seconds, we must conduct our work in an environment defined by ethics and excellence.  It is crucial to economic progress and human rights.
  • I hear a lot about how much public relations is changing, but I wonder – it seems to me the technology and the tools may be different, but some things remain the same. Developing an effective strategy, based on research and understanding, remains at the core of our craft.  And no matter what technology we use, relationships – built on trust — are the currency of public relations.

We must effect and enhance all communication – whether it’s a blog, a tweet, a Facebook post, an op ed, a You Tube video — in an atmosphere of respect and trust for our audiences.

  • We are an increasingly global profession.  Some of my most exciting work in the past 15 years has involved learning about new cultures such as India and China – and also learning that the same basic tenets apply to effective communication in these regions.

You can’t communicate if you don’t take the time to know and understand your audiences. For example, in helping some colleges in the Midwest attract more students from India, we did some research that reinforced some pretty basic principles:

  • Personal contact is more valuable than electronic outreach
  • Generic doesn’t work
  • Messages need to be targeted for specific audiences and cultures
  • And, authenticity and transparency are non-negotiable.

Whether in Mumbai or Baltimore, the audiences we are trying to reach want to be served, not sold – involved, not told.

  • A few other observations:
    • If I were entering the profession today, I’d grab every international opportunity I could – we really are in a global marketplace.
    • I’d be sure I knew sound business principles and practices – we need to speak the language of our employers in order to effectively communicate with them.
    • And if I were just starting out I’d probably be a whole lot better at touchscreens than I am today.  When you begin your career with a typewriter, it’s hard to get over the need to pound those keys!
    • Finally, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that no one succeeds on his or her own.  Each of us owes so many others for what we are able to accomplish, and I strongly believe that each of us has a responsibility to give back to our profession – through volunteer work in PRSA and other organizations, through mentoring, through sharing our passion, our knowledge, and our connections.

In fact, becoming a member of the Hall of Fame makes me feel that I have an added responsibility to work harder for our profession, and to help future leaders achieve their dreams.  Our daily work offers us all an opportunity to make a difference.  I hope that we all grab that opportunity.

See You on Stage!

NKDEP Kidney Sundays Toolkit_Page_01

At Ogilvy, we view entering the PRSA-NCC Thoth Awards as an annual opportunity to showcase work that exemplifies our creed: ideas and solutions that make a real impact in fresh, original, and noteworthy ways.

Ogilvy Washington submitted entries to more than 20 categories last year and was recognized across nine– winning three Thoths and six Certificates of Excellence. The thrill of the evening was taking home our very first Best in Show award for “Kidney Sundays Help African Americans Understand Their Risk for Kidney Disease,” with the National Kidney Disease Education Program.

Entering the Thoth Awards offers your organization the chance to reflect on the work your team does throughout the year and be recognized for it. While winning is great, the pursuit can be just as satisfying. Of course the formula for winning Best of Show is a closely held secret of the Thoth judging committee, but here are a few helpful tips that helped us create winning entries in multiple categories:

  • It starts with the work: Great campaigns are rooted in solid research and deliver real results that make a positive impact for your client. Tell that story!
  • Every detail matters: Support your entry with meaningful data, detailed results and demonstrated success.
  • Enter in multiple categories, but tailor each submission to the language and requirements of each specific category.
  • Dare to take a fresh look at your campaign.It is likely that there is a supporting element of your campaign that deserves the spotlight. The Thoth Awards offer the opportunity to bring those elements to the forefront in the “Component” categories.  Don’t miss this chance to win!
  • Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t win last year – every new client campaign provides a new opportunity to be awarded for your work in partnership with your client.  The value of losing is in learning why you didn’t win. Request the score sheet to determine how you can refine and retool your campaign approach. We do – and we’ve learned a lot about our work in the process.

Think your work could be a winner – Enter it in this year’s Thoth

We are looking forward to a great Thoth Gala in 2013. See you (hopefully) in the winner’s circle!

Tiana Allen, Account Supervisor, Ogilvy Washington

Ellen Birek, Vice President External Relations, Ogilvy Washington

Thoth winners and the art of storytelling

Thoth winners (l-r) Adam Shapiro, Jewel Jones and Juanita Thompson spoke at a recent IPRA luncheon.

By Jay Morris

In public relations, a good story wins the day every time. Whether it’s pitching to a reporter, making your case on Capitol Hill or influencing public opinion, a compelling personal story always trumps the dispassionate recitation of facts and figures.

At last month’s IPRA luncheon, Adam Shapiro, senior vice president at Lipman Hearne, credited good storytelling for the success of a Thoth Award-winning campaign his firm created for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. He stressed that PR practitioners need to be good storytellers and should always look for the “human interest side” of a client or issue.

“Look for unusual stories or contrarian views,” he said. “Think about the people behind the headlines.”

He gave as an example getting a Powerball lottery winner on the “Today Show” who had agreed to donate his winnings to establish scholarships for local high school Hispanic students. As a result of this segment, Chrysler decided to become a Hispanic Scholarship Fund donor and is now the Fund’s largest contributor.

In encouraging IPRA members to “think behind the headlines,” Adam cited advice from NBC News Correspondent Bob Dotson, who says any good story contains four key elements:

  • Scene setting
  • Foreshadowing
  • Conflict
  • Resolution

Adam said that every news story or marketing message, no matter how short, should contain these elements.

Of course, even good stories can miss their mark if they aren’t delivered by an appropriate spokesperson or if they fail to reach their intended audience. Building trust with an audience is absolutely essential, as evidenced in another Thoth Award-winning campaign by Senior Account Executive Jewel Jones and Senior Art Director Juanita Thompson at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

In their remarks to IPRA, Jewel and Juanita stressed the importance of understanding cultural values when targeting minority and ethnic communities. The two are the architects of the “Kidney Sundays” outreach campaign aimed at the African-American faith community on behalf of NIH’s National Kidney Disease Education Program, and they won “Best of Show” at this year’s Thoth Awards.

They stressed the need for authenticity and compassion in partnering with Black churches to explain the high risk of kidney disease among African-Americans. The Ogilvy team found success by encouraging church members to discuss kidney health in small group meetings called “conversations” where members could share stories and a volunteer, using a toolkit developed by Ogilvy, could provide useful information.

Juanita and Jewel also talked about the value of partnering with other groups and described how they leveraged the networks of the American Diabetes Association, Chi Eta Phi Sorority and BlackDoctor.org. By utilizing their partners’ channels, they were able to tell their client’s story to a lot more people.

Ultimately, good PR is about telling good stories that resonate with an audience. Quoting from the celebrated director Frank Capra, Adam noted, “Drama isn’t when the actors cry, it’s when the audience cries.”

Jay Morris is president of Jay Morris Communications LLC in Alexandria, Va. He is on the PRSA-NCC Board and can be reached at jmorris@jmcomllc.com.

Wanna Be A Star?

Want to be recognized as a PR star?  Submit your program or component for a 2011 Thoth award and get the recognition you deserve.  Early bird deadline is June 17 and the regular deadline is July 8.  There are 35 categories, with additional categories added this year, which means more opportunities to achieve recognition.

It’s Thoth Time…Be Recognized as a Star

The call for entries for the PRSA-NCC 43rd Annual Thoth Awards is now open.  This signature event is the Academy Awards of the Washington-area communications industry and annually recognizes the most outstanding, strategic public relations programs and components from the region’s top professionals.

Need some Thoth training?  On Wednesday, May 11, learn how to create an award-winning Thoth entry by attending a PRSA-NCC workshop. A panel of past Thoth winners will provide insider tips that will make your submission shine. For more information and to register for this workshop, visit http://bit.ly/ThothTips.

The Thoth Awards’ more than 50 categories offer many opportunities for corporations, associations, government organizations, and agencies to showcase their most successful communications projects and components.  Be sure to check out all of the program and component categories – this year there are more than 20 new subcategories.

Category descriptions, entry forms, and guidelines are available at www.prsa-ncc.org/thoth_awards. Early bird entries are due Friday, June 17, 2011, and offer discounted entry fees. The final deadline is Friday, July 8, 2011. PRSA-NCC will honor the star-studded winners at the Thoth Awards Gala on September 22, 2011. Follow #Thoth2011 on Twitter to be a part of updates and insight about this year’s awards.