2010 Sabre Awards Dinner

Even in a deep recession, the public relations profession is turning out amazing and meaningful work for clients.
That thought has resonated for me during the last month, since I attended the SABRE awards dinner at the gorgeous Cipriani building across from Grand Central Station in New York City in May. More than 1,000 public relations professionals had gathered for one of the big three awards shows to honor the best campaigns and teams in our industry (the PR Week Awards and Silver Anvil Awards are the other two major national awards).
Paul Holmes, the organizer of the SABRE Awards – which stands for Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation – set the tone for the evening when he remarked that despite all of the economic troubles that have challenged our industry, the number of entries for SABRE recognition set a record (1,700) and the quality had never been higher.
As Paul noted, public relations has demonstrated that reach and frequency are not enough to create successful outcomes in today’s world. There must be engagement as well, and public relations has taken a leadership position among the communications disciplines in creating engaging, meaningful campaigns. This is particularly true in the realm of social media, which our profession has done a remarkable job of weaving into the overall communications mix.
Over the course of five hours (from the first cocktail to the closing coffee), Aleasha Vuncannon and I had the opportunity to talk with fascinating professionals from around the country, review the lists of finalists for the awards in each category, and enjoy the pageantry of an event as a participant (instead of as a behind-the-scenes organizer, which is our normal role!).
And when our time came, when the finalists for the top campaign in the category of Educational & Cultural Institutions were announced, we were thrilled to hear that our work in partnership with the International Civil Rights Center & Museum had been recognized as the best in our business. We had felt like it was worthy of this recognition. We knew how hard our team had worked and how much had been accomplished. Yet, we still held our breath in anticipation as the winner was announced, because every campaign that had made the finals had strong results.  It felt good to scream when we heard the results.
Here is a brief glimpse into the work that we did for the grand opening of the International Civil Rights Center & Museum:

After the dinner, Aleasha and I walked through Times Square at midnight, dressed in our best clothes, carrying a deceptively heavy trophy and reflecting on the evening (not surprisingly, no one batted an eye at us or thought we were out-of-place in the crazy scene that is Times Square). It feels good to do great work for clients, to create campaigns that generate meaningful results and advance our client’s objectives. We do this work not for awards, but when we strive to be one of the very best agencies in our industry, it is evenings like this that provide the mileposts to let us know that our agency is on the right road.

In tough times, tough leaders communicate

I recently attended the annual employee meeting at one of our client companies. Although I had no formal role in the process (their internal communications team does a great job organizing every facet of the event), I have been fortunate to attend the past five annual meetings. This year’s meeting – although smaller and more low key – may have easily been the best. The executives in this company focused on the core issues that employees are focused on in these turbulent times. With clear, compelling speeches and examples, they laid out the case that:

  • The company was on the right track to navigate difficult financial times, and that there is  a clear path forward that will allow the company, and its employees, to be successful.
  • The leadership of the company is committed and capable. At a time when corporate leaders are either being publicly ridiculed or jailed, it was critical for employees to see that their executive team is up to the task at hand.
  • Employees are the bedrock of the company’s values and vision. The capstone of the annual meeting was an awards presentation (complete with crystal trophies and $1,000 checks) that celebrated teamwork, innovation, leadership and community service.

Our client, like virtually every company in the U.S., has faced many tough challenges in recent months. But the character that was shown in how company leaders address those issues and lay out a vision for the future goes a long way to ensuring that its employees are committed to tackling the challenges ahead.