The Beacon Awards Blog is back! Don’t miss the latest secrets of success from past Beacon Award winners and judges. Your chance to save $50 with the Early Bird entry deadline is just around the corner (April 9) and all entries must be received by April 23 so get a head start on compiling your 2010 Beacon Award entry with the Beacon Awards Blog’s insider access and expert tips!
The Beacon Award Blog will feature:
• Meet the New Categories!: We’ll break down the differences between this year’s brand new categories and previous years and share a few tips on how to maximize the changes.
• Advice from Experts: Beacon Award winners and judges share their experiences with the entry process and explain the key elements to a winning entry.
• Career Benefits of Compiling a Beacon Award: Did you know that putting together a Beacon Award Entry can help you prepare for the APR exam? A past Beacon entrant breaks down the unexpected benefits of compiling a Beacon Award.
• Helpful Tips: Want to know the key to writing a great three-page summary? Curious about choosing the right category for your project? Past Beacon Award winners will answer questions about the entry process and share their lessons learned.
The blog also provides useful links in the sidebar to your right. You can access the 2010 Call for Entries, Best Practices, FAQs and more! For more information on entering the awards, visit ACC’s Web site.
The entries are flooding in from cable communicators all over the nation!
Best of luck to all entrants! Finalists will be announced in September and the 2009 Beacon Awards Gala will take place on October 26, during FORUM 2009, a part of Cable Connections-Fall in Denver, Colorado.
For more information on the Beacon Awards please visit http://www.cablecommunicators.org/awards_beacon.php
You could already be a winner and not even know it! No, this isn’t a spamming attempt to get you to click on a link that will only reward you with tons of unwanted pop-ups. I’m talking about ACC’s Special Awards. Simply by entering your project into the Beacon Awards, it becomes eligible for the Special Awards. As judges evaluate entries, they are invited to nominate outstanding campaigns for the following awards:
• Golden Beacon Award
The Association’s highest honor is presented to an initiative that has made a strong impact in the cable industry while enhancing cable’s image nationwide. Past winners have included Discovery’s Planet Earth (2008), Comcast Corporation’s Comcast Cares Day 2001 (2002), and VH1’s Save the Music (2001).
• ESPN Good Sport Award
Sponsored by ESPN, this award is given to the system project that generates outstanding community involvement through education and athletics. The network hopes this award encourages the cable industry to promote teamwork, sportsmanship and education in its community affairs programs. Past winners include Time Warner Cable’s Triple Play Championship Tournament (2008), Cox Communication’s Everyday Heroes (2004), and Cablevision’s School to Career initiative (2002).
• Joel A. Berger Award
The Joel A. Berger Award, named after the former publisher of Cablevision Magazine, is presented to a cable industry public affairs campaign that achieves exceptional results in the area of AIDS awareness. Initiatives from BET (2008’s Rap It Up Teen Forums), Cable Positive (2007’s Join the Fight: Weapon’s of Mass Instruction), and MTV (2004’s MTV News Now: Sex, School & Scandal) have received this award in past years.
• ACC Community Bridges Award
The cable industry is committed to improving the communities in which it serves, and partner organizations or individuals are often instrumental to the success of cable’s efforts. The ACC Community Bridges Award recognizes outstanding, non-cable industry partner organizations and individuals taking part in cable communications and public affairs initiatives. ACC has honored Habitat for Humanity International (2008), the National Parent Teacher Association (2007), The Partnership for Drug-Free America (2006), and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (2004) with this special award.
Nominations for ACC Special Awards are solely at the discretion of Beacon Award judges, so no need to submit any additional paperwork. Just sit back and relax—you may be a winner without even trying!
Do you have any last minute questions about the Beacon Awards?
The deadline for the 2009 Beacon Awards is only two days away! We’ve covered topics from first time entries to judging to writing a great three-page summary, but maybe we missed a topic you’re interested in.
Here’s your chance to ask us any last minute questions you have. Just post them in the comments box, and we will respond with an answer.
You have three days to polish up your Beacon Awards and entry and get it to ACC’s offices in Washington, D.C.
Though that first sentence may have scared some of you, just take a few deep breaths and a little advice from an experienced entrant, Ann Shrewsbury, Director of Public Affairs & Community Programming for Time Warner Cable. Between finding footage and editing, creating the DVD component of your entry can become a complicated process, but Ann has a few tips on putting together a clear and concise piece.
“Start more than 2 days in advance of the deadline. We seem to always be looking for b-roll and producing the videos just as the Fed Ex driver is coming to the door,” Ann advises. “I try to use short clips (5-10 seconds of each shot/piece) and use a voice over to explain what is going on in the video if it’s not obvious. Put your most compelling footage at the beginning of the video and continue in an inverted pyramid style with the least compelling content at the end.”
Hope this tip helps as you put the final touches on your Beacon Award entry.
Do you have any tips on putting together the video/DVD component?
Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a Beacon Awards judge as he or she reviews your entry? It’s a mystery no more! The exact form used by first and second round judges is posted on the Beacon Award’s page of the ACC Web site.
Before you ship off that entry to arrive by this Friday, May 15, take a look at the form and ask yourself the same questions the judges do. Questions such as:
• Are the objectives clearly stated and is the potential for measured results established?
• Does the project demonstrate efforts to increase recognition of the cable industry?
• Are there measured (quantified) results or an indication of measurable results? (Examples include sales tracking, survey data, documented levels of participation, demonstrated changes in audience behavior, and media coverage.)
• Does project reflect creativity and innovation in the concept, use of resources and implementation?
The form also breaks down the percentage of weight each judging criteria holds in the total score of an entry. Start thinking like a judge and check out the Beacon Awards Judging Form at http://www.cablecommunicators.org/awards_beacon_judge.php
Do you have any questions about the Beacon Awards Judging Process?
Your passion for your project should be evident in every aspect of your entry, but don’t underestimate the morale-boosting-power of entering the Beacon Awards.
“I enter mostly because I want the people on my team to know how much I appreciate all their hard work and value the level of excellence they strive for each day,” says Ann Shrewsbury, Director of Public Affairs & Community Programming of Time Warner Cable. “We have dozens of great projects/initiatives every year and by singling out a few of the best, it reminds us all of the quality of the work we’ve produced and how it impacts our business and our bottom line. And I love seeing my team publically recognized for their efforts.”
In addition to honoring your team, winning a Beacon Award can also boost your professional morale. Ann believes that her Beacons have impacted her career positively, offering an opportunity to highlight her professional achievements. “I recently asked one of my mentors what is one mistake she’s made in your career in management and what did she learn from it? Her response was that she didn’t ‘toot her own horn’ enough,” Ann says. “She said it is important to have a healthy ego and not be afraid to let people know when you do something especially well.”
Boost morale by entering the 2009 Beacon Awards!
How has winning a Beacon Award impacted your career?
How do you sum up a campaign that took months to prepare in just three pages? It can be a challenge, but Cox’s Carrie Braun, Community Relations Coordinator, gave me some very helpful tips on writing an effective three page summary. Last year, Braun’s entries for the Cox Connects Day Carnival, a free day of fun for members of the Boys & Girls Club, and the Cox Video Contest, a scholarship program, won in the Beacon Awards Community Relations and Education categories for Cable System 2.
Braun emphasizes recreating the event in the summary. “I tried to imagine the judges reading the Beacon project summaries as people I wanted to invite to my event, but I needed to convince them that it was worth attending,” she says. “I wanted to show that the event was well thought out and executed, and that they would have had an amazing time if they would have been there. I tried to relive the event and create an atmosphere in the summary. For the entry about the Cox Carnival, I put carnival related pictures at the bottom of the page, and so before the judges read the first word, they knew that this was meant to be a fun, light-hearted entry that highlighted a carnival for kids.”
Additionally, she suggests including multiple reviewers in the revision process. “I also asked three different people to read the entry before we submitted- one person from our team, one person at Cox who didn’t attend the carnival but knew about it, and one person who was not a Cox associate and had no knowledge of the carnival,” she explains. “That helped immensely in telling the whole story, but also helped weed out the details that weren’t important.”
Who would’ve thought that enabling the judges to visualize the event and including input from people outside your company could lead to a Beacon Award-winning three page summary?
Do you have any tips or questions on writing a great three page summary?
Hi all! I received an interesting bit of advice from last year’s Programming Publicity—Cable System 1 category winner, Ann Shrewsbury, Director of Public Affairs and Community Programming at Time Warner Cable. She entered TWC’s publicity campaign for High School Football On Demand, which featured coverage of area games in an effort to drive interest in the local channel of the system’s on demand offerings.
When deciding which category best suits her entries, she says, “I try to discern what makes this project/initiative really stand out. Is it the overall project or the media materials? Is it the production quality of a video program or the impact it had on the bottom line? I suppose I look more closely at the results of the project and try to pick a category [that] highlights the impact most.”
So there you have it, take a good look at the impact and results of your campaign when deciding in which category it will have the most success.
Do you have any tips on category selection?
The 2009 Beacon Awards are easier than ever to enter, and you can do so in four, easy steps.
1.) Choose the Project(s).
Over the course of the past year-and-a-half, your organization has probably executed several communications campaigns or initiatives. Carefully review the work your organization has completed between November 16, 2007, and May 15, 2009, to determine which of your projects you would like to submit as a Beacon Award entry. A look at the 23 categories listed in the Beacon Award Call for Entries will help you determine where your project fits best. To view projects from past years, please visit http://www.cablecommunicators.org/awards_beacon.php.
2.) Write Your Project Summary and Addendum.
The project summary is a crucial piece of your entry, as it describes the objectives and goals of the project, the tactics taken to implement the project and the results achieved. The summary should be no more than three pages and should address three key points: Planning & Strategy, Implementation, and Results. The addendum is a short description submitted on a CD in a Word file of 120 words or less highlighting the overall objectives and impact of your project. For more information on preparing your project summary and addendum, see the Call for Entries. Samples of past project summaries can also be found in the members-only section of the ACC Web site. These actual entries are good models to follow as you write your 2009 Beacon Award summary. You should use their email address as their user name and their last name as their password, all in lowercase letters.
3.) Prepare Relevant Support Materials.
As you are preparing your entry, you may want to include support materials to showcase the work and results achieved through your initiative. Remember that you no longer have to submit a large binder of supporting materials. To enhance the results section of your project summary, you may want to include up to three electronic files of your strongest support materials such as press clippings, photos, sponsorship signs, premium items, or anything else you feel demonstrates the work done on your initiative and video highlights. The video highlights must be submitted on DVD and may not exceed five minutes in length. If your initiative includes an online element, you can now submit the live URL.
4.) Package Your Entry.
Each entry must include two copies of a completed entry form (found in the 2009 Call for Entries), eight copies of the three-page project summary, and five copies of a CD or DVD containing an electronic file of the three-page project summary, up to three electronic files of your strongest materials, including live URLs, and video highlights. Video highlights may also be submitted on a separate DVD (include five copies) and cannot exceed five minutes. Please test all discs. An optional binder or poster of additional support materials may be included with your entry and will be reviewed only during the final round of judging. Package the relevant support materials in a binder not to exceed 11” x 17” or on a board not to exceed 30” x 36”. All items must be labeled with the contact name, company name, company address, entry title and category.
Do you have any questions as you put together your 2009 Beacon Award Entries? Please post them, and you’ll get advice from experts and past winners.
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.
Entries have been trickling in all week, and the Fed Ex and UPS deliveries brought a mini-deluge this morning as ACC members have tried to make the early bird deadline of May 1. All entries received by 5:00 p.m. EDT today will save $50 on the entry fee, and many cable communicators are taking advantage of that.
There is still plenty of time to put together your Beacon Award entries for the regular deadline of May 15. If you have any questions or concerns as you write and compile your entries, please feel free to post them here to get advice from many experts.
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.
« Previous Page — « Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries » — Next Page »