How to prepare the perfect Blacksmith entry

By Kathleen Williams, APR

Yep … it’s time to seriously crack down and get your Blacksmith entries together. And here are a few tips gleaned from our panel of Blacksmith experts who shared their wisdom last week at a PRSA brown bag.

Kathleen Williams is Communications Coordinator in Clermont County and was 2014 co-chair of the Blacksmiths.

Kathleen Williams is Communications Coordinator in Clermont County and was 2014 co-chair of the Blacksmiths.

Panelists were Tom Schick, APR, Fellow PRSA, Elaine Zeinner, APR, and Jonathan Kissell, APR. All have won the coveted Blacksmiths, and Elaine was last year’s co-chair of the Blacksmith Committee. All have extensive experience as judges as well.

Q: How do you know if you’ve got award-winning work?

A: Put yourself in the mind of a judge. Would you give it an award if you were judging it? Try to be objective when assessing the merit of the work.

A: Make sure you have specific objectives and measurable results.  If you’re soft in these areas, you are not going to win.

A: Put aside projects throughout the year that have gotten a strong response.

Q: How do you decide which category to enter?

A: Really dissect the Call for Entries and the categories listed. Don’t “enter just to enter.” If judges see something entered multiple times in multiple categories, and it’s weak in one category, they may not give you the benefit of the doubt in another category, even if it’s a better fit. Don't be afraid to "game the system" a bit, said Tom: Pick a category that’s likely to have fewer entries.

Q: Why is the summary so important?

A: It’s the first thing the judges look at. MAKE SURE IT’S PERFECT! Make sure you’ve written clearly and concisely; make sure you use same headers as in the summary template, so that judges can follow along easily. Write a persuasive “pitch” so that judges can’t wait to read the full entry. Judges will often scan the components of the entry – all the more reason for the summary to be perfect. “It’s the most important part of the entry,” Elaine said.

Q. What about professional recognition awards?

A. It’s a unique category that is double-judged by the reciprocal chapter and a local panel to make sure the recipient isn’t a “paper champion.” “Take a step back,” Jonathan said, “and ask does this person really deserve an award?”

Q. Other tips?

A. When putting together your entry, details matter! If the entry asks for three consecutive newsletters, don’t enter two. Pay attention to what the entry category calls for.

Know the difference between goals and objectives. And to reinforce, make sure your results are quantifiable.

Don’t overplay your role. If this was a team effort, or if someone else was the lead on the project, acknowledge that.

Volunteer to judge. You’ll learn a lot that way.

Entries are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 10. Good luck!