Looking a PR award gift horse in the mouth

In the business of public relations, Unspun‘s never known a firm or consultancy to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially where PR awards are concerned.


And awards there are plenty, mainly run by those who see the PR industry as a source of livelihood. Cover them, write about them and then hope like hell that the PR people, who tell all their clients that PR is several times more effective than advertisements, would advertise in their magazines or websites. Google the term “PR awards and here’s what you get:

PR, however, is a funny profession. While it has many smart people who are all too aware of what a serious, prestigious award could do for them and their business, they rarely support such efforts in a big way. The bog boys in the PR industry are the biggest culprits as they are somehow too niggardly to finance a big show. Hence while the advertising industry has the Cannes and other glitzy awards, most PR awards are modest in scale and rival the pomp and fanfare of an awards ceremony for the homeless.

This perhaps has contributed to the thirst for recognition by PR practitioners, so much so that even when the awards categorization and judging process are obscure, they nonetheless gladly accept an award if they are named winners. And then they go on to PR to death the award they won, but were too parsimonious to support in the first place, because it is self serving and good PR (read: free promotion) for their firm.

Like most PR people, Unspun was quite flattered last week when he received an email from The Holmes Report telling him that his office, Maverick, has been named a finalist in the SE Asia Consultancy of the Year category, along with APCO Worldwide, Fortune PR, Impact Asia, Indo-Pacific Edelman.

This was really something. When Unspun was but a whippersnapper in the PR industry The Holmes Report was a much respected publication, being almost the only one of its kind covering the PR industry. My American boss at that time, an ambitious self-serving youth who believed in his own spin to the extent that he thought it was reality, coveted to be mentioned in it.

In recent years, however,  the Holmes Report seems to have lost some of its glitter for Unspun, probably because he broke free from the boss-who-loved-himself and partly because social media made it easier for companies to scope out and assess potential PR consultancies to engage, without having to rely on it. Still the Holmes Report represents some form of recognition cache.

Wow! Was Unspun’s first impression when he read the email. Us PR consultancies in Indonesia must be really kicking ass in SE Asia since we together make up three of the five names. Then Unspun read further and wasn’t so excited by the rest of the email ,which talked about the marketing opportunity for my company to advertise in their report card that goes out to tens of thousands of PR people throughout the world.

This made Unspun curious. As far as Unspun knew, the only information that the Holmes Report had of Maverick was a self-filled written questionnaire and an online questionnaire asking about the firm’s financials and clients. This was, IMHO, not enough information for them to assess whether we’d qualify as a Consultancy of the Year in this knack of the woods. Unspun wondered whether the Holmes Report had sought additional information from other sources like our clients (none of them have told us of any attempts if there had been any).

Finally, unable to contain his curiosity much further Unspun wrote to the Holmes report, asking them what was their criteria for  qualifying us as a finalist; and what criteria did they use to decide on the ultimate winner. Unspun sent an email to them to this effect and is now awaiting a reply.

After sending it, however, Unspun couldn’t help wondering if he’s scuttled any chance we had of winning the award, for the sin of looking a gift horse in the mouth. That, however, is not the quandary. It comes if we win the award, is no wiser how we won it. Would we then accept it with some embarrassment, or would we PR the victory shamelessly to death?

. In Indonesia there is MIX magazine, regionally there is Media and internationally there is, one supposes, The Holmes Report.

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