8 Jan 2018

As a frequent judge of healthcare communications awards, I’m often asked what makes a winning entry or campaign, and whether this changes from year to year.

Well, sometimes a campaign simply stands out head and shoulders above the rest, but you’ll usually find that its winning creativity has been underpinned by rich insight and depth of strategic thought. By measuring the overall impact of campaigns, not just shiny creative (no matter how shiny), awards judges are seeking to understand the thought process behind the work, including channel selection, efficient and effective implementation, and to establish the clearest possible link between objectives and programme/agency performance.

Are there any trends to be aware of this year? It certainly continues to be difficult for pure product-based work to compete against less constrained pro-bono and disease awareness campaigns when it comes to health awards, but great ideas and execution will always win through in the end. Innovative uses of technology, whether as a means of communication or as a platform for delivering diagnosis and care, continue to grow in importance. In Ireland, for example, we have seen companies (MedMedia Group) bring forth their creative ability to help pharmaceutical and health sectors gain awareness by supporting their clients and communicating their messages, which can sometimes be a challenging task at hand when working with a range of different stakeholders.

Taking us away from healthcare for one second and moving towards corporate relations, we have seen an outstanding display of achievement from various companies across Ireland. This year, Lidl Ireland created a campaign that built on their corporate reputation, with the goal of driving increased awareness amongst all stakeholders (public included) of the significant contribution they make to the Irish market. By focusing on the way they support local Irish suppliers and building on their reputation as a leading employer in the Irish Market Sector, their message resonated, achieving great results. Combining traditional and social media outreach alongside in-depth stakeholder engagement, the campaign was hugely successful and won the award for ‘Best Corporate Campaign’ at the PRCA’s Excellence in PR Awards.

For me, it’s always been about campaigns which clearly answer the ‘why?’ and ‘so what?’ questions, that is to say, why are we doing this, and at the end of the day what difference will it actually make? Work that is thoughtful, has purpose, strategic intent and integrity always resonates well with judges, and if it’s the kind of programme that makes you think “I wish I’d done that”, then you’re home and dry.  Execution matters too though. Even with the right strategy, work that’s poorly thought through and delivered will fail to make an impact. Knowing how to structure your story and how to maximise its reach through the right channels is just as important as coming up with a clever creative idea.

Lastly, a word on the continuing debate about whether awards matter, and to whom. Having won plenty, I can tell you that they matter to the winners. And having lost some I really wanted to win, that mattered to me too, maybe even more than the ones that I and my teams were fortunate enough to win. Identifying and sharing best practice, thought-leading ideas and creative vision is an important part of the way our industry develops, our people judge their success and we as an industry demonstrate our value.