I’ve got a proposal: Let’s make the Legal Marketing Association’s “Your Honor” Award applications public – and publish every word of every award application that gets submitted.
Crazy? Perhaps. But I believe that it makes sense. These award applications could be powerful educational tools that help the LMA elevate the legal marketing community and further the organization's mission.
What makes a winner?
I’m a seasoned legal marketer – yet, what makes for a winning Your Honor Award submission is very unclear to me. In fact, a website we built for our client Kegler Brown was honored this year. (Yeah!) We’re flattered. And we’re very proud of our work. However, we’re also curious to know exactly why the judges chose to honor the Kegler Brown site above many of the 60+ other entrants.
A mission to educate
If one accepts the premise that the LMA’s main mission is to educate, then this could be furthered by making detailed information about the winning projects (and their strategic rationale) available to the public. LMA members need this background information to fully understand why a particular brochure, advertisement, new identity, event, website or campaign is judged to be great.
Beyond pretty designs
In the absence of vital background information about a marketing piece, people inevitably focus on what we can see (i.e., how pretty it is). The industry’s most prestigious awards should encourage people to look beyond the design and into the strategy, because all great marketing pieces embody a great marketing strategy. Unless you know a little about the strategy – you really can’t judge what’s been crafted.
For example, this year’s Your Honor “Best in Show” was awarded to Winston & Strawn. The award was well-earned, and the designers of this firm’s website are clearly very talented. That said, upon first glance, I find the look of the site to be a bit dark. However, I realize that I’m really in no position to judge, because I don’t understand much about their firm or their strategy. A slick, dark, sophisticated look might have been exactly what their marketing strategy calls for. Or perhaps there are other reasons why the site won – reasons that outweighed other considerations about the site's look and feel. The awards page on the LMA website offers some information about what they did. However, I want to understand why they did it.
Learning from the losers
Also, I think that it would be helpful to know who else submitted an award application. As the results are structured now, we learn the identities only of the winners in each category. What about the dozens of other entrants? While a particular project may not merit an award, it may contain groundbreaking elements worthy of review. Publishing those non-winning applications could educate and elevate our community.
What about a firm’s right to privacy? It’s a fair question, and privacy may be a concern for some firms, but I suspect that most don’t care too much. In my experience of helping clients write award applications, the issue of privacy has certainly been discussed, but I don’t think that any of them really expected their award applications to be treated as top secret. In fact, several clients approached the applications as if they would in fact be released, notwithstanding sincere assurances to the contrary.
What’s good for the goose…
Our client, Kegler Brown – winners of an Honorable Mention in the website category – agreed to release their winning Your Honor Award application. Prior to releasing the text, the marketing department consulted with the firm’s management. In the end, they changed about 20 words of the application’s text before agreeing to make it public. Click here to read a PDF.
What do you think?
If you have a moment, tell us what you think about our proposal. Are these ideas realistic? Am I downplaying the privacy concern? Submit a comment to tell us what you think.
The goal of this blog post is to spark a positive dialog that helps the LMA – already a fantastic organization – to become even better. My understanding is that some improvements to the Your Honor Awards are already in serious discussion, so I’m hopeful that a thoughtful dialog here will help push those changes forward – and in a good direction.
Thanks in advance for your comments!
A quick note
Under the current Your Honor rules, all applicants are asked to submit a summary of their application (up to 500 words, about half the length of a completed application), which is made public upon winning. So, firms already have a venue to share some detailed information about their firm and project if they choose to. Kegler Brown originally submitted a 175-word summary, which is available for view on the Your Honor Award web page.
Special thanks to Jeff Dennis, Marketing Director at Kegler Brown, for allowing us to release the award application. Jeff and his team (Michelle Doherty, Jenn Cartmille and Ashton Lahman) are fantastic partners. They undoubtedly brought our work product to the next level. Thanks, guys!
And special thanks to all the hard-working volunteers who judge and administer the Your Honor Awards. It’s a tough, time-intensive job. Your hard work is appreciated. Thank you!!