It’s Time to Disqualify Award Entries that Do Not Comply With the Barcelona Principles


From the Desk of Katie Paine

I recently read 4 awards entries, each a highly touted case study of content marketing success. Every single one broke the first cardinal rule of measurement: They didn’t measure results against the stated objectives.

I won’t name and shame because the people who submitted them are probably good decent young people who are either unaware or just weren’t thinking much about what the Barcelona Principles say about connecting goals with results. Sooner or later that has to change.

The problem is twofold:

One, whoever submitted these entries clearly has never read or has no inclination to follow the Barcelona Principles. So the people behind the Principles need to do a better job of educating their target audience. (I wonder if they’re measuring their PR?)

Secondly, the organization and people that judged them need to change their criteria for success. Instead of simply accepting any entry from any organization that ponies up the entry fee, they should state clearly that any entry that does not show results that reflect the goals and objectives will be disqualified. Whenever I’m asked to judge awards, that’s the first thing I check. A judge’s goal is to eliminate as many entries as possible on the first pass, and the question I use to do that is: “Do the results reflect the objectives?”

Example #1: Evaluating a Video Campaign

A pet food company launched a video campaign designed to “Reinforce the key message that puppies need specialized nutrition.” You’ve probably watched the video. I’m a cat person, and my experience with dogs is that they bite me. But even I watched the video. It was cute. I got the message that puppies were cute but also a pain in the ass and needed a lot of attention. It never dawned on me, until the text appeared on the screen at two minutes in, that the message might be about puppies needing special food.

What they measured: “Views, likes, and shares.”

What they should have measured: Percentage of views that watched longer than 2 minutes, and pre/post understanding of the nutritional needs of puppies.

Example #2: Evaluating an Advocacy Campaign

Then there was an advocacy campaign designed to “Change the perceptions about retail workers.” The goal here was to change classic stereotypes about retail workers from “burger flippers” to customer service professionals.

What they measured: Popularity of the video and views.

What they should have measured: Pre/post perceptions of retail workers among the target audience.

Example #3: Evaluating the Success of an Innovative Press Release

A well-known car company recently got innovative and issued a press release entirely in emoji. It was a brilliant idea, given that their target audience was young international consumers that do virtually all of their communication on mobile devices. But that wasn’t what they reported on.

What they measured: Earned media lift in traditional news media, and total potential audience.

What they should have measured: Reach and awareness and preference among young, international mobile consumers. At the very least they should have only included the impressions from mobile devices.

It’s been said that we should award the habits and the people that we want to become. Instead far too many organizations continue to award prizes for work that reflects activity and vanity metrics, rather than the objectives-related outcomes that best practice and industry standards require. So my message to these organizations is: Either change your entry instructions to be more honest (and admit that the only reason you are doing all these awards is for “free publicity”), or change how you award measurement success. ∞

Thanks for the image to Capitallibre.

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