What Judges Look for When Choosing Silver Anvil Strategic Campaign Award Winners

PRSA is now accepting entries for the 2022 Anvil Awards Program. To streamline the process, you can now submit your Silver and Bronze Anvil Entries together on the same form. The early deadline is Feb. 11. Learn how to receive wider recognition for your impactful work here.


Judging one’s peers for annual best-of awards is an age-old tradition. It happens in every industry, from film to food.

In the PR and communications profession, the gold standard for excellence is PRSA’s Anvil Awards. For the past 75 years, the Anvils have been considered the icon of the profession and the benchmark of high performance in public relations. As the PRSA website notes: Silver Anvil Awards celebrate the best strategic PR campaigns of the year, as well as outstanding organizational excellence. Bronze Anvil Awards recognize outstanding PR tactics that contribute to the success of overall programs or campaigns.

Given the significance of the awards, Anvil judges take their responsibility seriously. In 2021, my judging group evaluated 21 Silver Anvil Strategic Campaign submissions. Each entry includes a two-page summary, along with supporting materials that cover the campaign’s insights and analysis, planning, execution and evaluation. In some cases, judges read 50 or more pages of material for a single entry.

As a judge for the 2021 Anvils, I joined a panel of other veteran PR practitioners from across the country. The two primary categories that we would judge were content marketing for nonprofits and multicultural public relations. Not surprisingly, the pandemic was an underlying theme in many of the submissions. And the multicultural section featured many campaigns informed by the political and social unrest that we witnessed in 2020.

While I can’t disclose the specific brands, agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions that we judged, I can say that passion and energy went into campaigns supporting timely causes. For example, we saw ambitious efforts to improve voter turnout and provide information to diverse communities about COVID-19 and the 2020 census.

After taking the time to thoroughly explore the top contenders’ Silver Anvil Strategic Campaign entries, our final decisions were so close that seemingly small elements within the entries ended up making a big difference. In an effort to assist those preparing Silver Anvil Strategic Campaign entries, here are several factors that judges scrutinize:

Take time to write the two-page summary.

A two-page summary of the campaign, with supporting materials, is required for each submission. The summary, which must be typed and use no smaller than a 10-point typeface and one-inch margins, is the best way to concisely make the case for a campaign’s excellence. But in some Silver Anvil entries, the campaign summary is hastily prepared or treated as an afterthought.

The campaign summary is important because even the most detail-oriented, exacting judge might get lost in the voluminous data found in the supporting materials, which can run as long as 225 pages. In fact, PRSA says the two-page summary is the most consequential element upon which judges make their decisions.

Make your entry visually appealing.

When reviewing the sixth or seventh entry in a row, judges can find themselves overwhelmed by page after page of text. An entry with colorful charts and beautiful imagery stands out. Of course, pretty pictures and graphs have to help tell a compelling story of success. Each Silver Anvil Strategic Campaign entry can include up to three graphic images representative of the campaign.

Be grammatically correct.

In my view, grammatical errors in an Anvil entry shouldn’t prevent a strong entry from being a winner. But if a comma is missing or misplaced, some judges will be more forgiving than others. An extra set of proofreading eyes is always a good idea.

If you work in public relations, then consider serving as a judge for the Anvil Awards. The experience will broaden your perspective on the industry. You’ll learn about the innovative strategies and tactics that win awards and elate clients. As an Anvil judge for PRSA, you’ll also connect with people and broaden your contacts in the profession.


David Olson is senior vice president at Brandpoint, a content-first digital marketing agency that has partnered with the PR industry for the past 25 years.

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