PRSA Silver Anvils 2014

This year I had the honor of joining 150 of my colleagues in judging the 2014 PRSA Silver Anvil Awards. In New York, Thursday night at the AXA Equitable Center in New York, PRSA recognized 156 finalists at a celebratory ceremony hosted by Cat Greenleaf of NBC’s “Talk Stoop” series.

The overall winner or Best of Silver Anvil Award went to AT&T and FleishmanHillard for their multi-year public service program It Can Wait, an initiative to eliminate texting while driving.

According to AT&T’s winning entry, the organization’s national online survey of 1,200 15 to 19 year-olds found that 75 percent of the respondents said texting while driving is “common” among their friends. However, the problem doesn’t only exist with teenagers. Nearly half of adult commuters admitted to texting while driving, though 98 percent acknowledge that sending a text or email while driving is not safe.

The It Can Wait program began in 2010, and for the first two years AT&T focused on awareness of the issue. In 2012, It Can Wait turned into an action program, as AT&T reached out to schools and communities encouraging people to take a pledge to never text and drive. It wasn’t until 2013 that the program shifted its strategic direction to advocacy. More than 1,500 organizations and nearly 100 celebrities signed on to make a bigger impact by urging their constituents and fans to put down their phones while driving and, subsequently, the program turned into a social movement.

While Fleishman-Hillard had the overall winner, in 2014 public relations agencies of varied sizes once again had a strong showing. Ketchum was named a finalist in more than twenty categories, while Carmichael Lynch Spong, Exponent PR, and PadillaCRT each had finalists in five or more categories.

Bestowed annually since 1944, the Silver Anvil Award is the oldest and, some say, most prestigious awards competition for outstanding achievement in public relations, based on its rigorous judging criteria and emphasis on measurement and evaluation.

Meant to symbolize the forging of public opinion, the Silver Anvil Award recognizes outstanding professional achievement in 16 categories and over 60 sub-categories. Entries are judged on their research, planning, execution and evaluation, while also taking factors such as creativity, ethics and budget into consideration.

In line with PRSA’s support of the Barcelona Principles and the accompanying measurement guidelines issued by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), Silver Anvil-winning programs should have Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) objectives, demonstrate a tangible contribution to the organization, impact the target audience in a desired way and link public relations activities to specific business outcomes that support organizational goals.