Notes from a eurobest PR Judge: Public Relations Has a Newfound Swagger

I’ve spent the week in Belgium reviewing public relations work as part of the eurobest Festival, a three-day festival and awards show for Europe’s creative industry, run by Cannes Lions.

It has been fantastic to review so much work from across the industry, first during the pre-judging at home, and then with the jury during two solid days of deliberation (click to tweet). You can find the public relations winners and shortlist on the eurobest website.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from the experience…

1. Purpose
Award winning work should be rooted in an organization’s purpose. Entries were split between those where public relations had been integral from the outset of a campaign and those where it was applied almost as an afterthought.

2. Emotion
All the award winning eurobest campaigns can be characterized by robust planning, a human insight and a strong creative execution that engages with the public. The best also use an emotional trigger as a means to heighten engagement.

3. Wit + Wisdom
Humor is a much-underused emotion in campaigns, mainly due to an organization’s fear of offending, marginalizing or polarizing its audience. It’s refreshing when it’s done well by a brave and confident few.

4. Honesty
Brutal honesty about a challenging situation followed by an open discussion to find a solution is rare. It takes courage and leadership. eurobest shows that the public generously rewards organizations that display above average bravery.

5. Subversion
Subversion has been used as a mechanic by many of the shortlisted campaigns. Two of the gold winners used it as a means of engagement by polarizing public opinion around an issue. Its bold but gets results. Its award winning.

6. Category Constraints + Flawed Metrics
Judges want to reward good work but have to work within the category constraints. We had to leave some excellent work on the table simply because it was entered in the wrong categories. Likewise, a lot of entries continue to use advertising equivalent values alongside outcomes. It’s daft.

7. Social
There are two types of digital or social campaigns: Those that use social media or an owned digital platform as a means of engagement, and those that generate publicity for a digital or social mechanic. The former compete with the best in the digital business are rewarded accordingly.

8. Integration
eurobest featured a lot of work with paid execution as part of an integrated earned campaign. Much of it is driven by ad agencies, but public relations agencies also show a strong hand. If you’ve earned attention it makes sense to amplify reach using paid.

9. Confidence
We awarded more silver and gold awards than any other eurobest PR jury in the history of the festival. The standard of the work this year is high. Yes there were winning entries from other disciplines including advertising, creative and media agencies, but our business has a newfound swagger.

10. Organization
eurobest is organized with clockwork precision. The rigor and attention to detail is exceptional. 18 juries review thousands of pieces of work. The PR jury of eight reviewed almost 300 projects. Big thanks to PR jury president and Swedish Cohn & Wolfe boss Marta Karlqvist, and jury director Lisa Berlin.

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds