I participated in the PRSSA Day-of Competition at two National Assemblies. The first year, I came into the competition not knowing what to expect, and my team didn’t fare too well in front of the judges. The next year, I entered the competition armed with the lessons I learned from the first try. This time, my team won.
Not all members have two chances at Day-of. As members gear up for the annual PRSSA Day-of Competition in Charleston, S.C., I’d like to share some tips I wish I had known during my first competition. These tips can help lead your team to a win, whether in Day-of or a similar public relations competition.
1. Research in advance. Research is the first step for any public relations plan. If you know the competition client in advance, look up information before arriving at the venue. What do they do? Who is their main audience? How do they communicate? Just a few minutes of research can give you a competitive edge. The more research you conduct before competing, the more time you’ll have to create a successful campaign.
2. Get down to business. Day-of Competition contestants have just one hour to create a public relations campaign plan. Many day-of competitions have similar time constraints. Don’t waste all your time brainstorming. Audrey Xiong said getting straight to work helped her team win the Dunkin’ Donuts Challenge at the PRAdvanced Regional Conference. “We immediately came up with a great idea, and everyone contributed to complete the plan,” she said. Find your team members’ strengths, then divide and conquer.
3. Know the campaign essentials. Senior team members should have no problem understanding the elements of a successful campaign. However, if you are a freshman or sophomore, you may want to read up on campaign essentials prior to competing. These essentials include objectives, goals, strategies, tactics, media and measurement. Even seniors may forget these essentials under a time constraint, so be sure to make a checklist before you start planning.
4. Connect with your team. Day-of puts you in teams with people you have probably never met. While one hour doesn’t leave much time for team bonding exercises, there are other ways to connect. Previous Day-of team winner Jamie Lawlor recommends that members “go enthusiastically into the competition with an open mind and a positive attitude.” “Having a positive group dynamic will result in more effective collaboration and overall success,” Lawlor said.
5. Present with confidence. As you prepare the campaign proposal, don’t forget to think about how you’ll present the information. Judges will be looking for strong presentation skills in addition to solid content, so teams should finish their planning early enough to allow for a brief rehearsal. Determine the team members who are most comfortable speaking under pressure, and let them take the lead.
Ready to put your public relations skills to the test? Register for this year’s PRSSA Day-of Competition at National Assembly or host a similar competition for your Chapter’s members.
This is a guest post written by PRSSA 2013-2014 Vice President of Member Services Heather Harder. Follow her on Twitter @HeathHarder.