PR News is a pretty big deal. They’re much more than just a magazine for PR practitioners. They offer webinars, books, conferences, job boards — the full slate of services.
And one other thing they offer? Awards. Lots and lots of awards.
Awards are cool. Getting one makes you feel good about your work, or even yourself. But it seems to this punk that there’s something icky about a company taking in tens of thousands of dollars to judge the work of not-for-profit organizations.
When I heard about the awards, it was a little disconcerting to think that nonprofits would pay $299 for the first entry and $199 for subsequent entries. With more than 400 entries last year, that meant that PR News was taking in somewhere between $80-$120,000.
That seemed a bit much. Then I looked at their awards luncheons.
For example, their luncheon on November 29-30, at the same venue as the Nonprofit PR Awards, is going to cost someone $475 to attend! And you don’t get a discount even if you buy a table of 10: you’d pay the full $4,750. If 100 people go to the luncheon, that’s nearly $500,000!
Where the Punk Does All That Moolah Go?
I contacted PR News about their awards, with a number of questions:
- The number of entries in previous years
- The nature of the event celebrating the winners
- How are the fees set for entries to this award program and the revenue spent?
- Why would PR News not offer lower entry fees to not-for-profits compared to its other awards programs?
- Does this award program have the goal of making money for PR News or its parent company?
- Are you at all concerned about the following issues:
a) that with the cost of entries, worthwhile programs at not-for-profits are missed because they choose to spend their money elsewhere
b) that the awards then become biased toward large, well-funded NFPs and the agencies that serve them
- Do you have a discount program for organizations which simply could not afford to enter this competition?
- How would you compare your awards to other awards such as the Gold Quill or Silver Anvil awards, which are comparable in fees, but are administered by not-for-profit organizations themselves and may use fees to subsidize the cost of operating the associations?
Fair Questions, Yes? Ummm…
I didn’t get a great deal of detail in response.
“Thanks for your interest in writing about the Nonprofit PR Awards. We receive roughly 400 entries every year and have an event at The National Press Club in Washington DC to honor the finalists. At PR News, we are advocates of the power of nonprofit public relations.
“It’s an area of the PR discipline that often goes unrecognized, so we launched the awards program many years ago to benchmark excellence among communicators in the nonprofit arena. We honor both nonprofits and the agency partners that help move the needle for the nonprofits…
“In order to properly administer the program and offer industry benchmarking, we do charge an entry fee. We receive entries from all sizes and budgets and take great pride in the platform we provide to nonprofits worldwide.
“We do not disclose financial information. Thank you for your interest,” wrote Diane Schwartz, the SVP & Group Publisher of Access Information’s Media/PR Group, the parent company of PR News.
While entries may come from organization of all sizes and budgets, it certainly looks as if the awards are dominated by large PR agencies and very large nonprofits. In 2011, for example the first 10 winners listed are:
- MWW Group
- National Shooting Sports Federation
- American Cancer Society
- American Airlines
- Howard Brown Health Centre & Public Communications Inc.
- Western Connecticut Health Care
- United Nations Foundation
- Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation
- “4 GreenPs” The National Children’s Centre
- Pentagon Force Protection Agency
It seems to me that these awards are taking lots of money that could be better spent on, say, doing the actual business of the not-for-profit.
What happens to that money when it gets to PR News? Only they know. And they aren’t saying.
I think that’s a shame. I also think that statements like this one, from Bawden & Lareau Public Relations, make a lot of sense:
You’re as good as your last work, not your last award. We just don’t enter any award competitions. It’s that simple. If a client has an award competition they would like to enter, we will assist them and prepare the material so it truthfully reflects the work that has been done and presents the work fairly, objectively and with the highest production values possible.
What about you – how do you feel about the approach PR News is taking? Let’s start the discussion.
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