Stay the Course – Thoughts From the PR Jury

photo[2]It’s been a week since the Cannes PR Awards ceremony for 2014 took place.  The night was filled with excitement and triumph for some, and puzzlement for others.   Questions ranged from ‘why didn’t we win?’ to “why didn’t more PR firms win?” to “what does this mean for the PR industry?”  My response to all of this is “relax and stay the course.”  Let’s not fall into the behavior of self-doubt.  No need to navel gaze.  The issue is not that PR firms can’t win, it’s that we need to think differently about how we go to win.  We have won and we will continue to win even more, but we must believe we will.

There’ve been many articles written over the past few years about how to win at Cannes.  I’ve now had the honor of serving on a jury a few years ago, and serving as the jury president this past year.  Much progress has been made, and we are getting closer to leading at this Festival but I’m challenging our industry to think differently about Cannes.  Here’s what I mean…..

When you prepare next year to win at Cannes, remember these three simple things:

  1. Universality goes a long way
  2. Cultural norms play a role in the jury room
  3. Be brave and strut your stuff

Universality goes a long way

When your agency is deciding on what work to enter into the festival, results and creativity are key but choosing work that has universal appeal is very smart.  Universal truths to which marketers from any country can relate, help create broad appeal for your entry with the jury.  Themes such as sustainable food supplies, child protection, family, power of friendship, performance testing are all examples of areas that have wide appeal no matter what market you are from.

Cultural norms play a role in the jury room

It is wrong to think that a jury member doesn’t bring their cultural orientation into the jury room.  It’s what makes this competition so exciting and interesting.  For example, certain cultural icons may not read as well in some countries as they do in the home market.   Or, did you know that brands directly citing and highlighting their competition in a program may seem crass in certain cultures?  Understanding and anticipating these kinds of cultural nuances and, therefore, carefully explaining your creative choices – from the spokesperson selection to the context for the entry – could help your entry better navigate this situation.  If you are cognizant of this dynamic, and account for that in your entry, you can maximize its appeal with the judges.

Be brave and strut your stuff

I was shocked at what little work was entered into categories like environmental, corporate reputation, crisis/issues, best use of a celebrity, best cost-effective campaign, etc.  There is fantastic work going on in these areas among PR firms in the U.S.  We all see it every day!  I realize that some campaigns are confidential and entrants can’t always share all that they’d want, but for those programs that can be discussed – enter them!  And, we PR firms should be entering into categories beyond the PR Lions.  For example, Branded Content and Entertainment, Promo and Activation, Innovation, Cyber, etc.  We have as much a right to play and win in these areas as agencies from any other communications discipline.

In looking to next year, we can continue to “navel gaze” about the Cannes International Festival of Creativity or simply realize that PR produced by PR firms is amazing; we are getting better at Cannes and we will continue to do better.  Remember, PR is still very new to the Festival compared to the other disciplines.  But, I know our industry is creative, and at Cannes, our best-in-class creative will rise to the top.  I can’t wait until 2015.

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