Any journalist or editor knows the value of a really good PR/marketing person for a company, either in-house or outside agency. We at SNEWS are reminded of that daily when PR folks come through with the information we need quickly and efficiently, or make us pull out our hair trying to get the tiniest detail. We also hear constantly from our fellow journalists and editors, free-lance and staffers alike about this.
So, we decided, if companies can give journalists awards, then we journalists should and can give PR/marketing agencies and staff our own awards for excellence. Being an independent voice, SNEWS chose to make the first "Editors' Voice" awards a reality.
With this award, we hope to establish a standard for the creativity and the energy the media need from PR and Marketing folk beyond sending us ridiculous promotions such as a Barbie car, a test tube, a leaking snow globe, endless faxes with no story hook, or product touted as a market leader in innovation when it's not.
Here's how it worked
More than 70 of our media friends representing the crème de la crème of the free-lance and staff editorial world from both outdoor and fitness participated in the nomination and voting process. Each editor or journalist was asked to provide us with nominations in two categories: best PR agency and best in-house/company-employed PR/marketing individual. SNEWS did not define "best" but left it to each participating journalist to decide who served them best. Only those people or agencies that received at least three nominations made it into the final round of voting.
The proud finalists are …
Any agency or person who made the final list can be very proud of the accomplishment since we journalists are a very notoriously picky -- ok, ok egotistical even -- bunch. The finalists are:
PR Agencies: Backbone Media, Thibeault, Stanwood and Partners, Carey Kerns, Peak Exposure, Anne Tommasi, Horizon Communications, CGPR, and The Phelps Group/Judy Lynes for Teva.
In-House PR/Marketing Person: Hal Thomson of Patagonia, Kitty Graham of Cascade Designs, John Cooley of Marmot, Jennifer Gombas of Mountain Safety Research, Ashley Devery of Lowe Alpine (formerly with The North Face), Sue Clifford of L.L. Bean, Julie King of Life Fitness, Paige Boucher of Mountain Hardwear, Emily Kaplan of Columbia Sportswear, Lee Weinstein of Nike, Cynthia Amon of W.L. Gore, Ann Obenchain of Kelty, and Jeanne Wallace of Malden.
And the winners are…
For the best PR Agency: Backbone Media
For the best in-house PR person: Kitty Graham of Cascade Designs
(SNEWSnote: It was a very close battle among Paige Boucher-Springer of Mountain Hardwear, Hal Thompson of Patagonia, Kitty Graham of Cascade Designs, and Sue Clifford of L.L. Bean (really, it's not just because of the lobster lunches).
Journalists, be heard
Do you really expect a bunch of journalist just to name a name and slink off? Oh, how silly… We have opinions!
A summary of comments about the PR Agency award: Backbone Media epitomizes the perfect PR program. They know the products of their clients sometimes, it seems, almost better than the clients themselves, and equally important, they understand the needs and markets of the publications they work with. In other words, media are not bombarded by press releases or PR fluffery for stuff in which there is no professional interest. When media calls with a request related to a particular story assignment, they instantly know what piece of gear, from which client, would meet the needs of that editor and story. More impressively, they never try to force something that's not quite appropriate in an attempt to shoehorn one of their clients into a review or story. Best of all, Backbone appears as interested in acting as if it is the media that are the clients as it does in serving the needs of those who are paying them to be clients and in the end, that means everyone gets served at the highest level.
A summary of comments about the in-house PR person award: The ebullient one. Always on attention to get an editor what they need when they need it and sometimes even before the editor even knows they needed it. Though a company flak, nothing gets sugar-coated simply for the sake of trying to make bad news sound, well, less bad. Kitty tells it like it is. When Cascade decided to stop selling their ViralGuard, media were notified with complete details via emails, phone calls and more. Any questions were dealt with quickly, efficiently and with honesty.
Lessons From Missteps
Wonder why your company or agency is getting less coverage than you might wish for in some cases and perhaps more scrutiny than you would like in others? Perform a little self-analysis using the following summary comments from our voting panel. These represent true-life experiences:
- Listen up…this is the No. 1 pet peeve: There is little or no follow through on repeated requests for samples or for simple requests for product information. Then, when the requested product doesn't appear in print because it was never received or received late, the editor get deluged with calls and emails complaining.
- The only time an editor hears from the company or agency is when a new product is being pitched even though that product has absolutely no value or place to the receiving publication or journalist.
- The only other time an editor hears from the company or agency is before a show when you are swamped and almost less inclined to be as attentive as later.
- Editors get sent stuff that is, well, cute, but has no point -- click here to read our Wastrel Awards from earlier in the year.
- Editors get calls lecturing us on how to cover a story because we clearly have not done our research and don't really understand the issues. This typically happens with the PR person who is a former journalist….sigh. Or it can also happen on the flip-side with a PR person who has utterly no journalism experience but is a bit of a wannabe.
SNEWS View: We will chime in here with a personal view: It does appear to us that too many PR agencies and in-house PR folk take the view that their primary job is to cover any company shit with layers of rose petals so all anyone sees is color. Bottom line is, if something smells, it doesn't matter how you try to pretty it up, it's still smelly. A lesson from media 101 -- and the folks who received nominations above understand this well -- if you provide the media with the truth, even if it hurts a bit, the story disappears quickly and usually quietly. If you don't, you are actually cranking up the engines for a long road-trip through layers of dirt and mud that can take forever to hose off once the journey is done.
Journalists and PR folks -- it's a love-hate relationship forged of necessity. A good PR contact is worth his or her weight in gold to a journalist, and, of course, to the company he or she represents. We media admire all the effort and energy good PR communication requires, especially when you have to deal with so many whiny, self-centered, "I need it yesterday" people -- yeah, we're talking about ourselves, the collective media. Of course, we just as quickly despise those who waste our time with worthless drivel and reams of meaningless paper. We hope these awards will highlight those who are holding up the bar of excellence for others to aim for.
Until next year, then, and the next SNEWS Editors' Voice PR/Marketing Awards.