Every year, the Canadian Business Press sends out its forms calling for submissions for the Kenneth R Wilson, or KRW, journalism awards.There are more than 20 categories to submit in, covering all the bases in editorial, art and Internet-based publishing.
This was the first year I participated in the peer-panel judging, which essentially helps the real judges eliminate the non-starters from the real contenders. It’s a one-day affair where you go in and sit in small groups of other editors and read through stacks of entries in certain categories. It could be mind-numbing, depending on the content, but for the most part it was highly enlightening and entertaining.
It also pinpointed the challenge publications such as those from the IT Business Group face in trying to compete with features from publications that are perhaps still industry-specific but tend to be of wider interest to a general readership. The truth is unless you have a really good reason to read Technology in Government or CDN, you probably won’t.
So what does this mean to you as an IT marketing or PR professional? First of all, winning awards is not the motivation behind what we do here. But it wouldn’t hurt, and not just because it’s a big fat ego-booster, which of course it is. Winning a journalism award lends greater authority to the publication, which in turn increases the prestige for clients whose companies and organizations appear in those pages. That means brownie points for you, or as we in the journalism business like to refer to it as, money. Clients are more inclined to renew contracts and spend more money on PR firms who get them in publications that have been recognized for their quality.
But clearly, to even compete in events such as the KRWS, we need at least a handful of stories that not only serve the interests of our readers, but that also pique the interests of a broader, more general audience. For example, one of the categories in which we could better compete is that of profiles. It doesn’t really matter what a person does, whether he or she builds houses out of straw bales or designs the world’s most advanced networks, if there’s an interesting story to be told. I’m betting most readers of this column know someone whose professional achievements are matched by a personality worth exploration.
The other “takeaway” I got from the KRW peer panel session was that the best features are not focused on an issue or a technology or any other abstract concept – they’re focused on the people behind them. In the IT writing field, that’s a different perspective because we focus so much on the technology or the problem to be solved. We tend to think that our readers don’t particularly value that more human perspective. Maybe it’s time to give them the option.
And hey – when we’re up there making our awards acceptance speeches, you never know who might get some credit.
Kathleen Sibley is the editor of Technology in Government.