By: Reinaldo Llano, director, corporate community relations, Bright House Networks and member of the 2009 Beacon Award Committee
I remember like it was yesterday, but it was over four years ago. I had just joined Bright House Networks as a manager of Community Relations and on my 90 day to-do list was “Judge Beacon Awards in DC”. My boss had signed me up to be a judge. Coming from Time Warner Inc., I had worked extensively with Time Warner Cable, but now I was a formal member of the cable industry in my new role. I was excited about judging and learning about this very prestigious industry award.
January came and I spent three intensive days in DC reviewing applications from all over the country—programmers and operators alike—vying for the nod of “first-class Public Affairs program”. I was amazed at all the wonderful programs and projects that took place all around the industry. But more than anything, I was excited because I was picking up some great tips from being a judge on how to prepare my entry, since I clearly was going to submit a Beacon entry for programs I managed within my first year with the company.
Here are some of the great tips I picked up:
• Be picky about what you will enter. Make sure that the program is worthy, the results are clear, and you have a great story to tell.
• Be clear and concise when writing up your entry. I think we reviewed over 120 applications as judges, and it was intense. Those applications that were truly unique and the results were clear were the most memorable.
• Include appropriate and creative collateral. While videos are not required, I highly encourage them. Creative and clever videos got the judges’ attention. One operator even used the video to emphasize the key points of the write-up (almost like telling a story). They went on to win several Beacon Awards that year and the year after.
• During judging, I saw an entry that highlighted the key points throughout the three-page write-up that if read alone would summarize the entry.
These were some basic tips I embraced and utilized when creating my first entries.
So later that year, I pulled together my first Beacon Entry forms for two great projects that I entered in 2005: Star Teacher Awards under MSO Education, and MS150 Bike Tour under MSO Community Relations. Again, I embraced all these tips from judging and submitted my entries early to make good on the discounts provided by the ACC, CTPAA at the time.
And then it was the waiting game. I participated in judging that next year, and this time because of some of volunteer changes I was asked to be a bailiff. How neat was that? I got to help a bunch of first –time judges complete their judging experience. (I’ve been a bailiff ever since!) Then we wait some more. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….it seems almost an eternity. But then comes the wonderful day when the ACC will send out a press release announcing the finalists. We were at our annual Public Affairs conference for Bright House when the e-mail came. My boss starts shouting out all the entries that are finalists, and I almost fell out of my chair when my Star Teacher entry was called off. My heart was filled with joy, angst, and every other emotion you can think of! It was thrilling just to be a finalist, everyone says. I of course am truly competitive, so I start scanning the list of other finalists trying to figure out who the competition is and whether I even have a shot at winning. The waiting game continues! Finalists were announced in early February it seemed, and the actual ceremony was not for another month or so. Oh, the torture!
So for the time during the announcement and the ceremony, all I could think about was how cool it would be to be a first time entrant and winner! It was great PR internally for the redesign work I did on the program. My first major project and I totally re-branded it and took it up a whole other level—which is why the project won. It was proof that I had done the right thing!
Finally, the day comes, and we attend a pretty glamorous and fun-filled evening. Everyone cheers for the home team, and we all wonder how it is that Bev Greenberg from Time Warner Cable Milwaukee has become a Beacon Diva, and Comcast Cares Day from all over the country keeps winning Beacon Awards. I’m impressed by it all. I’m even more delighted when we finally reach my category (it seemed like a hundred awards were given out!). And bam! There it is. We won! I won! The thrill, the roar of the crowds (the BHN team and some of my Time Warner Cable friends who miss me!), and you do the long walk down the room to pick up your trophy. No remarks (those are reserved for very coveted awards like the Golden Beacon), otherwise we’d be there till the next day! As the evening draws to a close, our team is excited about winning a few awards, and we’re talking smack at some of the other operators about how we’re going to get them next year! Then, the dreadful next day occurs when you realized at the airport you should have sent the award home via FedEx. Sharp crystal object doesn’t fair well with airport security, post 9/11 days…. (Since then, I bring our FedEx number every year!)
And there you have it… my first time entering and winning.