Silver Archer National Award for Public Relations

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CHALLENGE

According to the authors of the project, the community of professionals in the sphere of public relations management developed in Russia by the year 1996. This was evidenced by the competitive expansion, level of related spheres development (advertising, marketing, political consulting), qualitative change of the customer demands – transition from purely executive “functional” tasks to the development of integrated projects, solution to which could only be achieved by cooperative efforts of the entire industry. All these signs provide evidence of certain maturity of the Russian PR industry. At the same time there have always been mixed feelings about PR: the use of PR-technologies for questionable purposes during, for example, political struggle, provided for a number of negative connotations of this term (“dark PR” etc.), which were transferred to the entire activity as a whole. A necessity has emerged of a sectoral institution capable of developing socially recognized standards and approaches to PR activities. All these considerations led the project authors to the necessity of creating a professional award, which would be regarded not only as the award for technological excellence (otherwise, the award would have been significant only within the industry), but also as a way of emphasizing the role of PR specialists in improvement of the social framework as a whole.

The project is focused on two audiences: firstly, on the professional PR specialists community itself, and secondly, on the society stakeholders – i.e. persons interested in the activities of PR specialists and companies. The stakeholders include customers, representatives of related professions (advertising, marketing, journalism etc.), investors, communities and social groups, the relations with which are managed by PR specialists, State government bodies, mass media and others.

The development of the project assumed emphasizing of two types of objectives: conceptual and organizational. Conceptional objectives included those, the solution of which was aimed at creating the internal “content” of the award, the implementation of its features, for assigning such qualities to the award that enabled the achievement of objectives set for the award itself as a tool for improve the level of the profession integration into the domestic society. Conceptional objectives were not only addressed at the stage of the award creation, they are continued to be addressed in the course of its existence. They primarily include:

  • development of efficient mechanism of identifying and recognition of the best professional work examples of the industry specialists;
  • ensuring intra-industry information exchange;
  • development of scientific and practical database of the industry;
  • drawing of public and mass media attention to activities of PR professionals, their loyalty development;
  • drawing of attention to the industry on the part of the State bodies and agencies;
  • ensuring the nation-wide coverage of the award;
  • promotion of customer base for professional industry participants;
  • maintaining objective character of the award operation, enhancement of its reputation as an institution actually reflecting professional and public trends.

The second type of objectives – organizational ones – were primarily addressed at the stage of the award creation, but they continue to be addressed in the course of its existence, they include:

  • creation of “internal customer”, i.e. creation of permanently active institution managing the award; it was represented by the established Executive Directorate of the Award;
  • development of the award “format” codified in award regulations, including the development of evaluation standards, category structure, competitor evaluation procedures and approval of such evaluation etc.;
  • involvement of founders;
  • creation of the award symbols including its title, visual representation, prizes etc.;
  • involvement of competitors, including by way of developing and providing methodological assistance for the preparation of applications;
  • fund raising, creation of a system for working with sponsors;
  • selection and engagement of experts and members of the jury;
  • arrangment and holding of the annual awards ceremony.

SOLUTION

In late 1996, at the initiative of the Agency the Executive Directorate of the Award was established, the award regulations, composition of categories and other regulative documents were developed in cooperation with it, the title was invented and registered, visual imagery and the prize were created. The creator of the Silver Archer statuette was sculptor Alexander Parkhomov, the person well familiar with the profession, at that time employed by Kommersant newspaper. The award was officially established in June 1997.

The major role in creating conditions of the projects competition was assigned to the Expert Board, which was composed of the representatives of the top-rank Moscow PR agencies – successful practitioners, who, relying on their experience, could develop the system of project evaluation and arrange among themselves the way it will be established.

The expert task included the establishment of criteria by which the nominated projects can be evaluated. In general, the opinions turned out to be quite similar, which allowed reaching common ground and establishing an institution that enables to evaluate advantages and disadvantages of the projects participating in the competition with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The evaluation criteria developed at that time exist up to this day with insignificant changes:

  • the singularity of the campaign concept
  • strategic planning
  • the use of various PR methods and tools
  • complexity of the tasks set
  • correspondence of the result to the tasks set, scope, including the availability of qualitative changes in the specified audiences
  • public response based on the campaign results, peculiarities of the project: participation in a tender, cost effectiveness of the project, conducting of research

The experts wanted to secure themselves against the penetration of subjective factors into the system. The procedure is arranged in such a way that each line item of the evaluation sheet is assigned its own weight. In case two projects are difficult to compare due to their practical equivalence, then some other criterion will be taken into account. In 2,000 the project evaluation scale was expanded from 100 to 1,000 points. This change was motivated also by that fact that the number and level of projects increased significantly and the larger scale enabled to register various details.

The choice of the award founding partners, despite the seriousness of this process, had tactical nature. The project creators believed and still believe that professional PR community is able to independently act as the “holder” of the awards, at least represented by the major industry association – the Russian Public Relations Association (RASO). RASO was invited to become one of the founders of the awards in the first place, given the fact that the agency R.I.M. was not formally a member of the association. For the purpose of attracting mass media attention, the Russian Union of Journalists was invited to join the founders of the award. In order to institutionalize the relations between small/medium-sized businesses (which are the professional PR companies) and State institutions, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation was invited to join the founders.

An important tactical decision, ensuring independence and objectivity of the award, was the creation of effective system of working with sponsors, which eliminated the need to cover the award expenses at the cost of “sale” of the categories. For this purpose the evaluation of projects submitted to the competition was arranged in the form of two-stage procedure. First, the experts from among the leading industry specialists evaluate the projects according to the formal professional scale, following which, this evaluation is considered and approved by the jury of the award. Independent advisors, who are not eligible to take part in expert evaluation and the work of the jury of the award, provide methodological assistance to the competitors in the preparation of applications. The jury of the award, on its part, does not have powers to recommend “as award winners” any given projects or scientific works, it may only interfere to resolve a disputable situation.

The choice of the title of the award was motivated by the desire the find metaphoric expression of efficiency of PR technologies – simple, accurate, silent, strong – “stylish” weapon. Thus the image of an archer came into existence, whose arrow has already been shot into the target. The archer became “silver” in order to reduce the pathetic element – public relations management is subordinate to the public interests, that is why it was decided to drop “gold” from the title.

Similar “moderate” approach was chosen for the scenarios of official awards ceremonies. The project creators did not consider the award as “entertainment for millions”, but at the same time they had no intention to limit themselves only to a “private party”. The creators realized that the only newsworthy event for the mass media within the framework of the annual award cycle is the direct announcement of winners. Therefore it was decided to conduct the award ceremony in a spectacular way to the extent possible, providing not only event line, but also video footage.

The first awards ceremony has held in January 1998 (based on 1997 results). For its conducting the project creators developed the award sponsor package, which has since been the basis of relations with involved business sponsors. Subsequently it was decided to involve a number of social and political mass media in the cooperation as permanent media sponsors of the award.

In 2001 the project creators issued and distributed in the mass media a collection of projects – winners of the awards of 1997-2000, which for the first time in the Russian practice enabled to present particular PR projects to the public. The success of the book brought to life a specialized publisher program of the award.

The establishment of Supervisory Board in 2002 changed the award financing structure, facilitating for the project creators the process of raising sponsor funds. At the same time, while reflecting the role which the award started to play in the society, its title was somewhat modified: from being the “Award for Public Communication” it was turned into the “Award for Public Relations”, which, despite the simple transposition of words, clearly specified the expansion of its subject domain.

In 2004, based on the long-term cooperation with regional PR awards (such as, PRoba in Saint Petersburg, White Wing in Yekaterinburg, RuPoR in Voronezh, Bolshoy Krug in Samara etc.), as well as on the basis of a number of regional rounds of the Archer, the development of the Silver Archer infrastructure as the major national award with regional stages was completed. Their winning projects automatically become the Archer competitors.

RESULT

The Silver Archer award actually demonstrates the best professional examples, sets industry standards and reflects the trends of professional community development. The number of the award participants and their geographical representation is constantly growing.

Both the market participants – professional agencies and the representatives of corporate communication services struggle for the award. Their participation shares are almost equal, which suggests that the award has become the central event not only for the PR community, but also for the media and communications community as a whole.

Over the past years the experts and the jury of the award have been increasingly evaluating the projects not only from Russia, but also from the CIS countries. In 2012 the award was held on the territory of the United Sates for the first time under the new category “Communications in the Global World”, which can be considered an entry to the international arena.

Over the years of the award existence more than 1,000 coverages, interviews, and stories, directly related to the awards were published in the national press.

According to Integrum.ru the award has become the second largest covered business award in Russia.

The collection of the best projects – winners of the award is annually included into the list of the best business books on advertising and PR (according to web portal OZON.ru, chtivo.ru etc.), the edition size is increasing year by year.

Over the years of the Silver Archer award operation it has become the public institution, in the absence which it is impossible to imagine relations between society and PR professionals.

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