Meet the 2018 BCA Campaign and Placement Award Winners

We’re popping the digital bubbly for the 2018 Bespoke Communications Awards! As with our inaugural awards, the 2018 BCAs graced us with some spectacular submissions for all of the categories, but there were some clear standouts. To be considered for the campaign and placement spotlight awards, PR agencies across the country submitted their most successful and innovative campaigns from the past year.

Here we will hear from the winners who took home the highest prizes for Best PR Campaign, Best Media Placement, and Best Brand Activation.

Heron Agency, PR Campaign

How does it feel to win PR Campaign? How is your team going to celebrate?

Like we won the PR lottery! We were jumping up and down and squealing and hollering! This campaign launched a new major not for profit museum in Chicago, the American Writers Museum, so it felt like our baby that we presented to the world. Then, our baby got an award….wow!  We plan to celebrate with a lunch that will include the bubblies for sure. Veuve Clicquot here we come.

What is your team most excited about right now in terms of industry trends, campaigns you are working on, etc.?

Our agency is growing very quickly and we now represent everything from premiere brands Paper Source and Orangetheory Fitness to a new apparel company called Clutch, as well as hotels, theaters and restaurants around the country, and more. In terms of industry trends, we all agree that influencers are here to stay. We have spent a lot of time at the agency vetting who we feel are the most credible, and who we think will make an impact for our clients. Always striving to be on the forefront of trends, we have been tracking the constant evolution of the Facebook and Instagram algorithms, and that homework always results in the benefit of our clients.  It is evolving and we love to stay on top of it!

What does a “PR campaign” really mean to you in a digital age?

It means you have to be on your game all the time! The digital age is making it so that news cycles are changing every minute. Jumping on what news just came up online is what a spry and savvy agency needs to do to be a part of the story where as our old news cycles were more “news of the day” focused. Vloggers are now another element of campaigns and allow with their forum the opportunity for a potential customer to get a strong idea of what the client offers. A successful PR campaign now means integration of marketing, social media and influencer relations to truly impact a business’ bottom line.

How does your team plan to tackle the rest of 2018? What are a few things you’d like to focus on? i.e. business development, fine-tuning your team’s craft, etc.

We are focusing on making sure that we cultivate a great team as we grow, and fine-tuning our internal structure to continually improve efficiency in our workplace every day. We would love to grow particularly in the retail sector.

If we looked inside your purse/work bag right now, what PR survival must-haves would we find?

The most popular items in each of our team members’ purses include: a phone (aka our lives, email, schedule, contacts, social media, camera… you get it), a phone charger, a portable charger, a backup charger, and another charger. (Joking, but only about the last charger). Our business cards. Kombucha. Starbucks gift cards or portable coffee mugs because we thrive on caffeine. Simply Square snack and protein bars for on the go sustenance. Altoids. Flip flops for the minimal breaks from our high heels. Paper Source journals. Chanel red lipstick. Our red Heron Agency umbrellas that we had specially imprinted.

In a few sentences, tell us what you think we can expect from PR agencies/practitioners/social specialists in the future.

PR agencies will need to day-to-day keep identifying social media personalities, navigating whose platforms are effective. More metrics and accountability will continue to push to the forefront as the progress of artificial intelligence will only move our profession to be thought of more as a science and less about flash. Brands and companies are not interested in simple, traditional PR campaigns, which means that the multi-faceted strategies that we already employ will become greater community standard (we think that we practice PR in a very innovative way at Heron Agency). Brand language and standards used to be for big box corporations and that will trickle down moving forward which is good for the client and the PR practitioner.

Victory PR, Media Placement

How does it feel to win Media Placement? How is your team going to celebrate?

We are thrilled! We all worked so hard on the placement that won and are so, so proud of it. To be recognized by an organization and a board of judges who we have admired throughout our entire careers is incredibly rewarding.  We pride ourselves on celebrating “life’s little victories” and this was the perfect excuse to pick that up a notch – in this case that meant planning a special lunch with our moms.

What is your team most excited about right now in terms of industry trends, campaigns you are working on, etc.?

This is a really exciting time in general for Victory PR. We’re growing rapidly and reaching goals that not long ago, we would have never even considered setting.  What I’m most excited about in terms of the industry is how so many people are willing to simplify their approach to PR – there’s real beauty in a story well told to the right audience and letting that work speak for itself. Having the chance to do that for brands you love is a thrilling thing.

What advice can you give our PR readers about landing client spotlights and media placements?

The best piece of advice when it comes to landing client spotlights and media placements I can offer is to be smart, do the work, and then trust yourself.  It should go without saying that a publicist must understand the needs of the media as well as she understands those of her clients. Do the work to understand the nuances of the outlets and the people you’re pitching and if you believe in your heart that you have a solid story, stick with it. Turn it over to find new angles you might not have previously considered and revisit different outlets in the same category. Chances are, the pitch will land. We were told countless times by media, other publicists, etc that the story we were pitching wouldn’t work, and that it most certainly wouldn’t work for the media we were pitching. But it did.  And then it won Media Placement of The Year!

How do you make sure your pitches are fresh and relevant?

There are basically two ways we make sure our pitches are fresh and relevant. We consume media obsessively. That includes popular consumer media as well as industry-specific media relating to our clients’ industries. We also ensure that the communication between VPR and our clients is just as much a priority as the communication between us and our media colleagues. That way we catch the pitch topics that our clients usually don’t realize would make amazing stories.

If we looked inside your purse/work bag right now, what PR survival must-haves would we find?

My iPhone!!

In a few sentences, tell us what you think we can expect from PR agencies/practitioners/social specialists in the future.

I think there is a growing sense of camaraderie between agencies and their owners. I’ve developed a number of relationships with other owners recently that probably wouldn’t have flourished in the past.  My feeling is that transparency that comes with living your life and building your business on social media has ushered in a desire to collaborate more and learn from one another. They say a rising tide lifts all boats and I feel like that’s kind of what’s happening among agency owners. Which benefits everyone involved – the owners, the employees, the media we’re pitching, and most certainly the clients.

Are there any new or exciting changes happening at Victory PR?

There are but we can’t yet say since the details are still being worked out! But we’re excited to share the news soon!

Element Brand Group, Brand Activation

How does it feel to win Brand Activation? How is your team going to celebrate?

Element is elated to have been part of the Tradesy team and won this award! We plan to pop a bottle of bubbly and toast to many more exciting brand activations to come.

What is your team most excited about right now in terms of industry trends, campaigns, you are working on, technology, etc.?

We’re excited about how accessible editors are willing to make themselves over social media. Just the other day we pitched a super top tier fashion editor over Instagram direct messaging and received a response within moments!

How do you ensure proper planning and preparation before, during and after an activation event? What stage do you feel is the most challenging? How do you keep people engaged?

The weeks leading up to an event are crucial in terms of getting the right audience to attend. We spend hours curating invite lists, doing follow-ups, and pitching our clients for pre-event coverage in order to build anticipation, especially if it’s for a launch or reveal. However, sometimes the biggest challenges we face happen after events. Getting through the event is only fifty percent of the work. The other fifty percent is ensuring the right conversations are being had about our client across an array of verticals through our post-event pitching efforts.

What are three tips that you’d give to PR pros (entry-level and/or experienced) that want to be as prepared and as creative as possible for their next activation?

Operate with 25% less anxiety. While it’s important to have a fire under your behind, cut the fat when it comes to unnecessary stress and you will be able to think more clearly and creatively. Always print out backup documents. While we often operate on tablets for media check-in during events, you never know when there will be a technical error. In this case, you can avoid a mess at the door by making sure you still physically print out all of your necessary documents as backup. Look for untapped opportunities. We had a client who originally planned a Coachella activation but ultimately decided moving the event to Stagecoach, where there is less brand noise, so there was less competition and greater ROI. We were amongst the first to activate in the space.

If we looked inside your purse/work bag right now, what PR survival must-haves would we find?

Definitely a portable phone charger! Cell phones always die when working events. Also, a personal hotspot is great to have in case you’re in urgent need of Wifi during an event. We also keep extra FedEx slips with us in case we need to make any last minute red carpet placards.

What is your team focusing on most during the rest of 2018?

We are excited to be working on San Diego Comic Con with one of our clients this summer! We are firing on all cylinders preparing for this event right now.

In a few sentences, tell us what you think we can expect from PR agencies/practitioners/social specialists in the future.

We expect clients to push for online coverage over print, as there is direct click throughs to purchase their products. We also expect PR agencies to more so treat influencers as media outlets in terms of product placement. In the future, we think clients will be just as happy about an influencer post than they would be about a media placement today.

About This Author

Acasia is the PR Coordinator at Palmer Public, Inc. With a focus in brand building, strategic partnerships and media relations, Palmer boasts a reputation in overseeing many successful campaigns. A proud graduate of The University of Alabama (ROLL TIDE), she is currently in pursuit of her Master's degree in PR and Advertising from DePaul University.