The trouble with contests and awards


There’s been much comment and discontent about Indonesia’s poor showing in the New 7 Wonders of The World Contest. In the conversation led by, among others, The Indonesian blogosphere’s Comeback Kid, Priyadi, many Indonesians are criticizing the methodology of how the New 7 Wonders were chosen.

The problem in their arguments, however, is that Indonesia chose willingly to enter into the contest, knowing full well that the selection process may not hold a candle next to Ceasar’s wife, so it is a bit churlish to complain when, having been complicit in the progress of the competition, you turn around and criticize the organizers.

Unfortunately, however, most of us – Unspun included – are suckers for that whatever slim chance at recognition and victory that we tend to overlook the flaws of a contest or award, only to have these very same flows come back in their mocking glory when we do not win any prizes.

Unspun knows this feeling only too well. Last week Unspun was invited by some friends to join their table at the SABRE Awards that was organized by the Holmes Report. Unspun went there because 1. The spot was free, courtesy of my friends and Unspun’s a cheapskate and 2. Unspun’s firm had been short listed as finalist in two of the award categories.

Unspun was skeptical of the awards from way back (see this link) but so hard wired are we all to optimism and The Slim Chance that he trekked to Singapore for the dinner. When the results were announced, the spoils went mainly to the Big Boys of PR, who also happened to be sponsors.

At this point Unspun reasoned, you could interpret the results several ways: Big Boys, because of their resources, are inherently more creative; Big Boys have more clout because they also happen to be the sponsors of the dinner (or conversely, because they are aware of how good they are, they sponsored the dinner so that they could be recognized); Small Boys generally can’t compete with the Big Boys; Big Big Boys rule,maven against other Big Boys.

Unspun wasn’t alone. There were others more skeptical than him. Many questioned the impartiality of the awards, pointing to the close connection between the viability of the organizing body and advertising/sponsorship for its existence. This, however, is a bit unfair because the Holmes Report did conscript some judges who should be impartial although,
Ironically, they did a bad job of PR-ing that fact.

Unspun thinks that the Holmes Report’s present dependence on sponsorship and advertisement leaves its credibility vulnerable but at least they are trying to do something to recognize PR.

The real problem is that the organizations with the heft and resources to really do something for the profession – the Big Boys – are doing squat to set up a forum where good PR work can be recognized and encouraged in a manner that is much more beyond reproach. (Human psychology is such that if you belonged to a Big Boy team and won an award, the fact that you are intelligent enough to figure what Unspun’s said so far would not stop you from The Ecstatic Moment When your firm or team’s name is announced). Then again, if you are a Big Boy, why would you want to upset the apple cart?

So there you have it. Unspun is probably churlish for complaining (and would he write a completely different post if his firm had won an award that night?) but at the same time feels that the whole matter should be brought up for a good airing and unspinning. Any opinions from the PR fraternity?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Thanks unspun for this super site. Seems like there\\\\\\\’s always something new I learn even after being in the field for 10 years.

    Like

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