Communicate chats with Sabrina De Palma, Executive Director of MEPRA to learn how MEPRA set up their annual awards show in the era of COVID-19.
How did the pandemic impact this years' awards ceremony in terms of organization and the work that was presented?
The MEPRA Awards is our annual signature event and arguably the biggest night for the PR industry. It’s something we all look forward to no matter what professional level you are or whether you’re from an agency or an in-house team. It’s a unique chance to get together with your peers, recognize our brightest, and celebrate what’s great about the industry. Much like all things in 2020, we had to rethink our approach to the awards gala and transform it into a virtual event while still trying to keep the excitement alive.
The ceremony was live-streamed with a mix of live presenting, live crosses, and pre-recorded videos. We kept everyone engaged via social and also by tweeting the results in real-time. The silver lining of the event going virtual was that no one needed to miss out this year and we had over 700 virtual attendees tuning in. COVID-19 played a huge role in showcasing how creative, agile, and innovative our industry can be, which was evident in the incredible entries we saw. This year there was a notable increase in community outreach work and social impact campaigns, which I’m sure is a direct result of the pandemic.
What kind of challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
With all events there are challenges, but as the MEPRA Awards is such a treasured and milestone event for the industry, our biggest challenge was making sure that even though the ceremony was virtual, our finalists and winners were still receiving the level of recognition they deserved. That’s why we created an online showcase for our finalists and winners so everyone can see the amazing work that has been produced throughout the year. We also managed to cross live to some of our biggest winners during the virtual ceremony, including winners for Best Campaign Middle East, Small and Large Agency of the Year, and In-House Team of the Year, which gave them a chance to share the celebration and get their well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
With budgets tight, we were also concerned about the number of entries we would receive, and even though as a not-for-profit we rely on events like the awards to fund MEPRA, we cut our entry fees by 50% to make it more accessible. As a result, we received over 460 entries, which was the most we have ever received in the history of the awards and we had more new organizations enter than ever before.
Were there any new categories that were introduced this year in light of the current crisis?
This year, the 12th edition, marked the largest awards with 53 categories, including a special focus on the most notable work produced in response to COVID-19, including Best Internal Communications Response During COVID-19, Best Social Impact Campaign in Response to COVID-19, Best COVID-19 Crisis Management and Best Creative Approach During COVID-19. The Best Creative Approach during COVID-19 received the most entries this year than any other category, with more than 30 entries submitted, providing a clear indication of where the industry’s work was focused in 2020.