By Robert E. Sheldon, APR
PRSA San Antonio Chapter President-Elect
“To have a little recognition, that is very nice, you dig. It is good for the ego, for the psyche.”
– Dexter Gordon
Dexter Gordon, an iconic American jazz tenor saxophonist and Jazz Hall of Fame inductee, got it right when he spoke those words – probably to an audience of his peers after collecting one of numerous awards throughout his career. I was thinking about the emotional, soothing, ego-stroking and positive quality of recognition as my wife, BJ and I were attending the sixth Annual Del Oro Award banquet on May 1.
How many of us wonder, in the push and rush of our public relations careers, whether what we’re doing is any good? Did we break new ground? Craft the perfect press kit? Create abundant awareness and goodwill for our company or client? It’s something that all of need to know at least once in a while.
Our PRSA chapter meted out 37 separate awards that night. That represents nearly a third of all our members in San Antonio, and that should be a comforting equation. It means that most of us are probably doing very good work if we are able to gather together to hand out actual, physical awards to about a third of our number. The truth is that much good work goes unrecognized by organizations and employers of all walks. That’s a shame. More bosses and organizations need to learn how recognition motivates people.
The number of different awards is also a measure of how diversified and segmented our profession has become. We are not all PR generalists or the public face of large corporations or organizations in the news media. The task of communications has become so large and important that it takes specialists of all kinds – people who talk, people who draw, people who write and people who create big ideas. None of us does it all – or we would have just one big Del Oro Award -- and a very short banquet.
We saw young up-and-comers get a nod from their peers that they were doing well right out of the chute. We saw veterans getting recognition for a lifetime of splendid, ethical counseling. And, we saw many mid-career professionals getting kudos for the results of their talents. This is as it should be, because we need recognition at all stages of our careers – when we’re first starting out and need to know that we’ve chosen a good career path; when we’re half-way through our working life and need a reason to keep going; and when we’re in the twilight of our careers and need to know that it was all worth while.
With all the celebration that evening, it was easy to forget the many individuals whose entries were not chosen for recognition. I have been in that category before – as have many of you – and it’s not a fun place to be. But on the positive side, with 37 awards to give out every year, each member ought to get some award about every three years. At least, mathematically. Ah, if only it worked that way!
No, the entries not chosen usually had some fatal flaw – underfunding, no research, seat-of-the-pants-planning, or no way of measuring results. Sometimes that’s all the company or the client gives you to work with. Maybe there ought to be a category for the best “no-budget, no time for planning, do-it-because-the-client-told-you-to” PR program. Hmm. Don’t hold your breath.
In the meantime, let’s try to imagine what it must feel like to bask in the glow of the spotlight and hear the accolades of your peers. Because, it’s one of the drivers of excellence, the explosive spark of accomplishment and part of the reason that we’re all here.
Yes, recognition is a very nice thing. You dig?