The Best of the Best – Behind the Scenes with Super Bell Judges

At the upcoming Bell Ringer Awards ceremony on June 1, not only will we celebrate the tremendous communications work from the past year, we will also unveil the Super Bell award, the best-of-the-best campaign in our region.

Earlier this week, the elite Super Bell judges convened to review the top campaigns, discuss their merits, and ultimately select the final winner, to be announced at the end of the night on June 1. Here’s an inside look at the people and judging process.

The diverse panel included:

  • Gene Carozza, senior vice president at PAN communications (the agency perspective)
  • John Carroll, a veteran of both the advertising and journalism worlds, and an assistant professor at Boston University (representing the media)
  • Julie Dennehy, Dennehy PR, and a past president of the Publicity Club of New England (the voice of the independent practitioner and Pub Club leadership)
  • Rick LaCroix, vice president of corporate communications at Cognizant Technology Solutions (an in-house, B2B perspective)
  • Steve Quigley, associate professor of public relations, Boston University (an academic perspective)
  • Mark Stephenson, a corporate communication and branding executive (in-house healthcare and consumer backgrounds)

We don’t tell you this so you can hound them for the inside scoop. Instead, it’s to show you the caliber of judges, diversity of thought, and overall credibility of the process. In addition, longtime Publicity Club board member, Karen Reynolds, facilitated a fair, impartial and detailed discussion that helped the judging panel narrow down the candidates to the ultimate winner.

To break the ice, Karen helped the judges get to know each other by talking about recent movies, the best meals they can cook, and the biggest shifts they’ve seen in our industry over the past-10 years. So we’ll share those tips all with you, too, in the interest of transparency. I have omitted the names, though, just to protect the judges from requests to have you cook for them.

Recent movies seen, in no apparent order: Beauty and the Beast, The Circle, Hack Saw Ridge, Hidden Figures, and La La Land

Our judges’ best “drop the mic” dishes they prepare: Mom’s spaghetti sauce, potato latkes, pasta with clam sauce, some drink in a glass, chocolate chip cookies, and finally, pork tenderloin infused with pepper and thyme with a Dijon/wine/shallot sauce.

The trends that have impacted the industry over the most over recent years, according to our Super Bell Judges, are:

  • Uber – changed transportation forever, reducing stress and increasing convenience
  • Digital enabling media connections, and also driving reporting, such as robots reporting on earnings releases, and seeing wire headlines updated four times in a day
  • PR broadening to integrated marketing
  • Twitter and image-based communications (memes, snaps, etc.)
  • Finding new ways to make your boss look good and get them home in time for dinner
  • Measurement – and as much as we’ve evolved, a lot of agencies and companies haven’t stuck with strategies that focus on real measurement and impact
  • Managing the influx of millennials into the workplace, changing the way we service clients, adjust management styles, and structure benefits

As far as judging, our panel factored in several elements. First, they looked at who had the biggest hill to climb, the biggest challenge overall. Then, who came out successful, exceeding objectives. Judges kept their eyes open for creativity, engagement, and storytelling. The judges also looked at the social implications of the work, as well as the relevance of the campaign to the overall business or nonprofit.

According to the judges, this process was deliberate, informative, open-minded, smart and educational. Opinions swayed and perceptions shifted. Another judge said it is an honest, thorough, robust and courageous process, a journey even, where you dare yourself to challenge either other to make the hard decisions.

Judges had some advice for next year’s Bell Ringer entrants, as well.

  • Tell the truth – don’t oversell
  • Be authentic – no hyperbole (when you hype, judges expect you to really deliver on the numbers)
  • Substantiate all numbers
  • Measure with credibility –specific, measurable, realistic objectives, carried throughout the plan and included as part of the evaluation
  • Use more narrative and storytelling, less jargon
  • Show the judges how you created something new, or if you are building on a previous campaign, explain what new elements, strategies and tactics you implemented this year.
  • Illustrate the “wow” factor – how is this different from a similar campaign done by another industry player, how is this creative, how is this really award-worthy

So after taking this journey for the 2017 awards, the judges arrived unanimously on one winner. One judge said he was happy with the winner, that he would be proud to showcase the campaign in other forums. Another said the decision was hard, but it was the right one. So who will win the Super Bell? We’ll have to wait until June 1 to find out. Click here to get your seat so you don’t miss out on the premiere PR awards event in New England.