The 2000 Communication Awards provide the vital link between students and the communication, multi-media and design industries. The Awards act as an attraction point for increased private sector investment and network links. They help to develop a range of related activities that create a focal point for showcasing student innovation and excellence. By developing strategic links with these industries it is expected that students will increase their employment opportunities.
The 2000 Communication Awards Ball was held at the National Press Club on 25 August 2000. The Ball had over 150 guests attending and included dignitaries such as the Chief Minister, Kate Carnell, National Education Chair of the Public Relations Institute of Australia Marjorie Anderson, Director of the Asian Institute - Singapore, Dr Lim; Vice-Chancellor and Mrs Aitken; Pro-Vice Chancellor Prof and Mrs Putnis together with a range of academic staff, sponsors, entrants and guests. The event raised funds totaling over $4,000, greatly improving the status and exposure of student talents both on and off campus, while providing invaluable work experience for those involved.
The 2000 Communication Awards are an initiative of the Public Relations Association of Students (PRAS) at the University of Canberra (UC). The Awards are developed by students for students studying at the University. A number of small scale events have been held in the past by a range of on campus clubs, this proved to be very time consuming and produced limited results.
Research conducted after the 1999 PRAS Communication Awards, revealed that students supported the idea of the 2000 Communication Awards and Ball. The organising committee sought to built on the success of the 1999 PRAS Communication Awards, by recognising and celebrating student excellence, innovation and leadership across the communication, multi -media and design industries.
The vision for the organising committee was to increase the scale of the awards program that had been implemented in the past. Eight categories were developed to highlight the various skills students gain in their degrees. These categories were then used as the basis for developing strategically alliances with sponsors and judges to maximise the opportunities and benefits available to participating students. In all cases an appropriate sponsor worked with respected academics to assess the quality of the entires.
To encourage students participation in the awards, appropriate cash incentives were sought through sponsorship to achieve this objective.
In addition to showcasing student talents through the awards scheme, the opportunity to be involved in the production and organisation of the event was made available to interested students.
Planning for the awards was based on information obtained from the following research:
- 1999 PRAS Communication Awards - feedback from the 1999 awards showed that a change of the awards image and format was required. This included a re-branding of the awards program to have a multi-disciplinary focus. The budget, time lines and sponsor attitudes were also identified as areas for improvement.
- Focus groups - discussions with students, academics and UC Union staff showed that there was a desire to hold the event off campus and to increase the awareness and profile of the awards.
- Quantitative survey - a survey was held during the first 3 weeks of semester one. Students were asked whether they wanted to be involved in the organisation of the awards and ball program and to identify areas of expertise they were interested in developing;
- A large percentage of respondents stated that they intended to participate in the program.
- Students - all University of Canberra Students
- Professional Stakeholders - Academic staff, communication, multi -media and design industries and the ACT government.
- Media - radio, print and television providers in the ACT region.
The overall communication message was to promote a highly professional awards event that promoted student’s professional skills through the quality of the awards entries, as well as the successful coordination of the 2000 Communication Awards Program and Ball.
The communication strategy was developed to reach the identified target audiences as stated above; students, professional stakeholders and the media. To effectively target these three categories, a further division was made between on-campus and off-campus activities.
A range of communication tools were used to implement these strategies.
Planning began for the Award’s implementation committee in January 2000. Volunteers were able to chose what role they wished to have and map out the stages of the program which would be required to meet deadlines for the event. Attachment 2.1 is a copy of the timeline and the stages used to produce this event.
On campus approach
Students were encourage to enter the Awards to gain the opportunity of having their work seen and judged by industry representatives in the communication, multi-media and design industries.
To encourage this participation, a mass marketing campaign was implemented. The mass marketing techniques were an essential part of the on campus strategy. Large amounts of promotional material were placed in highly visible areas, attracting the attention of the majority of the student population on a daily basis. The tools included; a range of A4 & A3 posters, banners, flyers, lecture presentations with overheads targeting specific award categories and billboards.
Direct marketing techniques included;
- Emails to over 300 students.
- Voice mail messages – regular messages to over 1,000 students living in campus residences.
- A direct mail campaign focused on students in their final year and or at a post graduate level in public relations. Each student received the criteria and entry forms for the excellence in public relations strategy.
Fresh creative ideas and talents were promoted to sponsors seeking access to graduating students in addition to providing sponsors with the opportunity to create brand awareness through the large student body.
2. Professional stakeholders
The ability to develop strong relationships with professional stakeholders was a major focus and selling point for both on and off campus strategies.
For the University the Awards help students to network and share expertise, creating a culture of innovation. They promote the adoption of best practice as they bring together leading businesses and representatives from the communication, multi-media and design industries. The diverse range of industry representatives, create opportunities for new strategic alliances and networks, a stimulus for further innovative and business growth for the university. The awards acted as a catalyst for other initiative to advance the opportunities available for students within their chosen degrees. Sponsors were given the opportunity to develop strong links with graduating students and to gain intellectual property through the award entries. In 7 of the 8 categories sponsors were able to provide specific details to be used in the development of the criteria for the awards. Case studies were developed for the categories of excellence in advertising and marketing communication and the excellence in public relation strategy to provide sponsors with creative ideas they could use for their existing clients.
To draw attention from the ACT Government the Chief Minister Kate Carnell was invited to be the guest speaker for the evening. Extensive sponsorship proposals and packages were developed to entice professional stakeholders to become involved in the awards.
Editorial was written for the two university publications, the Monitor and Curio. Promotional flyers were placed on the announcements board of CueFM, the on campus student radio station.
Press releases and media alerts were sent to the Canberra media. Editorial was also written for the Valley View, Canberra Times and the City news. Radio coverage was gained for the launch of the 2000 Communication Awards via FM104.7, who were the judges for the excellence in radio campaign.
The 2000 Communication Awards and Ball provided the following results:
- Success in fundraising over $4,000;
- Provided work experience for around 25 students who were involved in all facets of the project, many of whom have gained employment as a result of their experience with the awards;
- a 166% increase in attendance from 90 guests (1999) to over 150 (2000)
- a 100% increase in entries
The evaluation of the event was judged by the following:
- Budget - a budget surplus over $4,000 was well above the expected figure of $2,000
- Attendance figures - the 166% increase in attendance showed the increase in popularity and awareness of the Awards ball
- Sponsor satisfaction - sponsors such as Parker & Partners and Asia Online were so pleased with the winners of the categories that they sought to employ that entrant. Attachment 5.5 and 5.6 shows letters of appreciation from a selection of sponsors. Other sponsors such as Drake, the University of Canberra and Oxygen Advertising also commended the organisers for the provision of high quality entries and their invitations to the Awards Ball. Sponsors also demonstrated a high level of satisfaction with the promotion of their involvement with the Awards.
- Media Awareness - winners and attendees were pleased to see their name and face mentioned in The Canberra Times and the City News following the event (see Attachment 5.7 and 5.8)
Attached are samples of materials which were produced for the event. These include a sponsors guide information booklet, poster samples, selection criteria, media clippings, name tag pass, programs and photographs from the launch and successful event.
The campaign was run in complete compliance with the PRIA's Code of Ethics. The Awards program were conducted in a fair and honest manner with external judges used to avoid any bias. Judges were required to complete feedback forms for entrants, to ensure accountability and assist students to identify strengths and weaknesses. PRAS did not knowingly participate in any behaviour likely to discredit themselves or the University, nor disseminated any false or misleading information. There was no conflict of interest by other parties or ourselves involved and no fees were charged by the organising committee. At no stage did PRAS misrepresent itself or any of its services or purposes.