By: Kim Gilmore, Director, Corporate Outreach, A&E Television Networks and member of the 2009 Beacon Award Committee
Applying for a Beacon Award in 2009 is like getting on an express train- easier and more streamlined. The new process gets ACC members to their destination as potential award winners at a faster pace. As many ACC’ers know, gone are the thick binders and reams of support materials for the first round of entries, replaced with your crisp and clear 3-page summary and up to 3 electronic files which highlight the project. For those of us putting together entries, this is a big plus, and we’ll also get thumbs up from our environment, saving a lot of paper, plastic, and time along the way.
Given the new system, I am going to offer some tips for putting together an entry that can help both first timers and veteran Beacon Award entrants. There are also some tried and true practices that might be as helpful with the new system as they were with the old. I will throw out some basic starter tips and things that have been helpful to my department as we have travelled down Beacon Street.
1. Three C’s: Clear, Concise, and Categories.
With the new system in place, it is more important that ever to cut to the chase and describe your project in a clear and concise way in the 3-page summary. After writing up a draft of your entry, ask yourself how the project description might be viewed by someone who has never heard of your project before- would they understand what you did and why it was special? Also, consult the category list. Think about how well your project fits into the objectives of the category- a great project in the wrong category might get lost in the mix.
2. Creativity (Another C!)
While I’m sure each Beacon Award judge looks at each entry with a fresh set of eyes, it always helps to wake them up a little by emphasizing what is original or creative about the project. Creativity accounts for 25% of the judging criteria, so it is always good to keep the following question in mind: what was unique or important about the project? Even better, pick your best video footage and photos to showcase what you did and how it affected your community in a positive way. This is your chance to put your best foot forward in showing how your company put its best foot forward this past year!
3. Does it Take A Village to Submit a Beacon? No, but it helps!
The best Beacon projects often seem to involve a cross-section of people and have a positive benefit on a diverse community. Along the same lines, all of our companies have a broad range of people who can bring new perspectives to our Beacon entries and projects. When you’re putting together an entry, think about other groups in your company and what they might be able to lend to your application and even though everyone is busy, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to take a look at your entry. A new insight from a colleague into what you might add or how you might turn a phrase can make your entry sharper. The more the merrier when it comes to a Beacon write-up!
4. Results, Results, Results.
As someone who has judged the Beacon Awards more than once, I can tell you the hinge a winning entry often hangs upon: results. A key question judges always ask is: what was the outcome of this project? The more completely you can answer this question, and the more quantifiable and clear results you can provide, the better. As 30% of the criteria for judging, the results section is of primo importance.
So, now that it is easier than ever to enter, don’t just dip your foot in the pool. Jump in and get started. Beacon season is here!
By: Michelle Butler, ACC’s associate executive director
I’ve been involved with the Beacon Awards for almost ten years. I entered my first two years in cable when I was a public affairs coordinator for Time Warner Cable in Austin and have run the program since 2001. Below, I answer the questions Betsy Beacon asked in her post yesterday based on my experience with the Beacon Awards, but I welcome any of you to offer different answers to these thought-provoking questions.
How do you write a great three-page summary?
The first thing I would suggest you do is to take some time to glance over the large collection of finalist three-page summaries that are posted in the members-only section of the ACC Web site – www.CableCommunicators.org from the 2001 – 2008 Beacon Awards. This will show you how previous finalists wrote great, three-page summaries and will give you a model to work from for your own written pieces. Some finalists use bullet points strategically to make their pieces easier to read while others showcase their story telling skills and write a compelling, narrative summary of the campaign.
When you draft your summaries, make sure you clearly address the three sections of the project summary: planning & strategy, implementation and results. Each section is worth 5 points more than the previous section, so plan your time on each accordingly. Make sure your results match the goals of your campaign and the particular category you are entering.
Finally, be sure to check this blog regularly as this question will be addressed further in the weeks to come.
My project fits into the media relations, multicultural public relations, integrated communications, new media campaign, and public-service announcement categories. Do I benefit from entering my project into multiple categories?
Entering your project in multiple categories does increase your chances of being a Beacon Award finalist. I would strongly recommend that if you enter the same campaign in multiple categories, you edit your three-page project summary so that it clearly addresses why your entry fits in that particular category and how your results achieved the particular goals of that category and the goals of your campaign.
Which press clip will benefit my entry more: a brief mention from a major media outlet or a full feature/ front-page coverage in a smaller local outlet?
It depends on the goals for your particular campaign and which media hit best helped you accomplish those goals. On the face of it, a major media hit may be better than a smaller local outlet; however, if your goals were aimed at a community or audience best reached by that smaller, local outlet, the full feature/front-page coverage would be better. You are allowed to submit “up to three (3) electronic files of your strongest support materials”, so you could submit both.
I would like to submit the additional binder or poster of supplemental materials, but I’ve never seen one. What should I include? How should I layout my materials?
I would include the supplemental materials that best document the successes of your campaign or tactics. When laying out the materials, I would keep two goals in mind – making the binder or poster easy to read and understand while also making it pleasing to look at in aesthetic terms. Remember that the judges are going to spend 10 minutes at most looking at your binder or poster, so anything that you can do to make their review easier will improve your chances of becoming a finalist. For example, the use of labeled tabs in binders can be very helpful.
I work at a small cable system and focus on impacting the local community. How do I present my campaigns so that they stand out among entries from the big dogs?
Your small community project might have accomplished more than a campaign “from the big dogs”. Furthermore, you will only be competing with local cable systems that are similar to yours in terms of number of subscribers based on the entrant classification of your campaign.
I suggest that you stress your goals, your results and your creativity in the use of your resources. Based on the judging criteria of the Beacon Awards, 25% of your score is based on creativity, defined as “level of creativity and innovation evidenced in the conception, use of available resources, and implementation of project.” Make sure you explain in the planning & strategy section what “special concerns, important background information or challenges that you had to overcome in preparing to implement your project.” Limited resources would certainly be a challenge that you should explain in the summary.
With the economy the way it is, our department’s budget is tighter than in previous years. Any points I should include when presenting the benefits of entering the Beacons to our dept. head?
I would stress how winning a Beacon Award can help with accomplishing any of your department goals. It is also tangible proof that your department is doing good work to both internal and external audiences. The Beacon Awards are cable’s highest recognition of communications and public affairs excellence since 1989. Winning a Beacon Award will raise the department’s profile within the industry and within your company while also boosting the morale of your department. Furthermore, the 2009 Beacon Awards are easier than ever to enter, so it will not take too much time to put together the entries this year.
Do any of you have a different take on the answers to Betsy’s questions? Please feel free to offer your own advice in the comments.
By Betsy Beacon
Hi all! I’m Betsy Beacon, a cable communications professional and first time entrant to the Beacon Awards. The last year and half has been a busy time for me, full of initiatives and campaigns that run the gamut from PSAs to media relations and even crisis communication. I’m ready to put together my Beacon Awards entries and am full of questions on how to make my projects stand out.
I’m here to find the answers to those questions by asking the experts and tapping you, my fellow entrants, for advice. I’m also here to take your questions and make sure they get answered. So post your questions about the entry process—I’ll play detective and find those answers!
Here are a couple questions that have been on my mind recently:
• How do you write a great three-page summary?
• My project fits into the media relations, multicultural public relations, integrated communications, new media campaign, and public-service announcement categories. Do I benefit from entering my project into multiple categories?
• Which press clip will benefit my entry more: a brief mention from a major media outlet or a full feature/ front-page coverage in a smaller local outlet?
• I would like to submit the additional binder or poster of supplemental materials, but I’ve never seen one. What should I include? How should I layout my materials?
• I work at a small cable system and focus on impacting the local community. How do I present my campaigns so that they stand out among entries from the big dogs?
• With the economy the way it is, our department’s budget is tighter than in previous years. Any points I should include when presenting the benefits of entering the Beacons to our dept. head?
So, any advice? Feel free to comment—I need all the help I can get!
If so, ACC has a deal for you. The Beacon Award Early Bird Deadline is May 1, 2009, and it is just 4 days away. If you submit your entries by 5:00 p.m. this Friday, you will save $50 per each entry. The regular deadline is May 15.
Are you trying to make the early bird deadline? Feel free to post your last minute questions and comments and get expert answers, advice and tips from your fellow cable communicators.
By: Janice Caluda, vice president, operations, Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, ACC Board Member and 2009 Beacon Award Chair
I have been involved with the Beacon Awards for decades, and I can honestly say that it has never been easier to submit an entry. The 2009 Beacon Awards have undergone their own digital transition, and large binders are no longer necessary. Some of you who have entered or judged the Beacon Awards before may remember just how time consuming it was to compile or review those huge binder entries, and I think many of you will not miss them as you are trying to make the last Fed Ex pick up the day before the final deadline of May 15.
Earlier this year members of the 2009 Beacon Award committee and I reviewed all aspects of the Beacon Award’s process, and increased ease of entry is one of several improvements we implemented. The 2009 entries can be as simple as a three-page project summary and a CD or DVD of supporting materials. Entrants may also submit live URLs for their Web site and new media entries. While it will be easier to put together a Beacon Award entry this year, I know the quality of the campaigns or tactics you submit will remain the gold standard in cable communications. The Beacon Awards program is cable’s best way to spotlight the industry’s corporate social responsibility.
ACC members make the Beacon Awards happen, and I’d like to see more of my fellow cable communicators participate in the program this year – either as entrants or as judges. Changes in the judging procedure will allow more ACC members to participate in judging this year and have eliminated the need for travel for the first round of Beacon Award judging. ACC will mail several entries to you to review anytime, anywhere during a two-week, preliminary judging period in July. In late summer, a panel of senior ACC members, cable communications and public affairs professionals, will judge the final round in Washington, DC, and select the winning entries. Interested? Contact Michelle Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-222-2372.
The Beacon Awards have honored excellence in cable communications and public affairs since 1989, and we will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. Make sure your best efforts are recognized by entering the 2009 Beacon Awards!
Questions about the changes to this year’s entry process? Leave a comment below and an expert will answer it.
Laurie Shipley and Valerie Gillespie of Comcast in Chattanooga, Tennessee, submitted the first 2009 Beacon Award entry. They entered “Comcast is Local” in the Public Service Announcements – Cable System 1 category.
Congratulations to both Laurie and Valerie! Follow their example and enter the 2009 Beacon Awards so your great cable communications efforts can be recognized.
The Beacon Award Blog is back! For the second year, ACC brings you tips and advice on creating stellar 2009 Beacon Award entries. ACC members, and experienced Beacon entrants, will post daily on the art of creating a winning entry and answer your questions on the entry process for the next three and a half weeks.
The blog will feature:
• The Latest: We’ll explain the changes to this year’s entry process and take your questions and comments.
• Advice from Experts: We have tapped Beacon Award winners and judges to share their perspectives on the entry process and lessons learned during their past Beacon experiences. From reflections on a first win to the elements of a successful entry, posts are written by the experts to help you strengthen your entry.
• Helpful Tips: Don’t know which category fits your campaign the best? What is expected from the video/DVD portion of your entry? How do you sum up your initiative in three pages? We have the answers straight from former finalists who have made it through the entry process with flying colors.
• The Impact of Winning: The Beacon Awards is celebrating 20 years of honoring the best of the best in the cable industry. We explore the evolution of the award as well as the impact it has had on the careers of past winners and setting the standard for cable’s corporate social responsibility.
• Betsy Beacon: Betsy is a first time entrant to the Beacon Awards, and she is full of questions. Follow Betsy as she quizzes past finalists and Beacon Award Bloggers on how to put together an award-worthy entry.
The blog also provides useful links in the sidebar to your right. You can access the 2009 Call for Entries, Best Practices, FAQs and more! For more information on the Beacon Awards, visit ACC’s Web site, www.cablecommunicators.org.
Is there something you would like to know about the 2009 Beacon Awards? Leave us a comment.
Check back in soon for tips and the latest news on the 2009 Beacon Awards!