/ 28 July 2023

PRISM Awards celebrate storytelling magic

Prism Awards
This year’s PRISM Awards theme, Tell a Story, ignited a creative flame, leading to an outpouring of captivating, passion-infused entries.

PRISA and the Mail & Guardian shine a spotlight on PR excellence

In a world where narratives wield ever-greater influence, the art of strategic storytelling continues to command immense power and influence for brands that wish to resonate with modern audiences. This weekend all eyes will be on the PRISM Awards, where the exemplary story-weavers and myth-makers behind the best public relations (PR) and communication campaigns of the past year will be honoured.   

Organised by the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA), the 26th PRISM Awards, in partnership with the Mail & Guardian, will take place on 29 July at the Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg. 

According to PRISA General Manager Landiwe Manana, who chairs the awards, 2023 saw a record number of entries.  The 380 qualifying submissions across diverse categories are a reflection of the sector’s enduring vibrancy in the face of global uncertainty. 

“We’re overjoyed to see that this year’s theme, ‘Tell a Story’, has ignited a creative flame, leading to an outpouring of captivating, passion-infused entries that masterfully blend strategy and creativity,” she says. “The overwhelming response reaffirms the vibrant growth in our industry and the society-wide acknowledgement of the crucial role played by strategic communications professionals.”

Driving conversations for change

There is an increasing realisation that good PR extends far beyond just the writing of a good press release. “Our industry experts understand the real power of creating magic through conversation. These stories underscore the transformative power of the industry and its ability to weave narratives that captivate, influence, impact and inspire. This is what the awards focus on, and we’re thrilled to give them the spotlight they deserve.”

Paul Reynell of Paddington Station PR, who is one of the organisers, agrees. “Ours is a complex discipline that combines strategic thinking with creativity for bringing about long-term success. Fortunately, South Africa’s PR industry is booming, with diversity being our key strength,” he says. “We craft campaigns that speak to everyone.” 

The awards present a unique opportunity to recognise and celebrate this diversity and dynamism, highlighting those practitioners and agencies that are pushing  boundaries and setting new standards of industry excellence. 

According to Alkemi Collective’s CEO Bradly Howland, who also serves on the organising committee, it’s exciting to see how the entries showcase the evolution of the sector and the creative dexterity of its professionals: “Many of the campaigns demonstrate adeptness at weaving narratives that are strategically aligned with the ever-changing communications landscape. Each year, we’ve been flabbergasted by the wealth of talent and innovation within our industry.” 

For this reason, esteemed industry experts face tough decisions during the meticulous judging process. Reynell says the judging process is an extensive one, adding that success is measured not through monetary metrics, but by tangible results: “The entries must have that ‘wow’ factor and the stories shared must not just captivate, but also drive measurable goals. The criteria also take into consideration the outcomes achieved and the real-world impact of these campaigns.” 

Celebrating excellence

According to Caroline Smith, head of PR at Flow Communications, the PRISM Awards are proof of the profound impact of PR as a force for good. In 2022, Flow Communications walked away with an impressive 22 awards. And while the team is driven by a desire to make a difference, Smith says awards like these are an incredible way to honour the minds behind some of South Africa’s most beloved campaigns. 

Another agency mastering the art of leveraging cultural trends to captivate audiences while delivering strategic messages is Retroviral. Winner of the Best Campaign award for two years running, it’s also the agency behind Checkers Sixty60’s viral parody of the Netflix hit The Tinder Swindler.

Retroviral CEO Mike Sharman attributes this success to their obsession with great stories and great narratives: “Campaigns need to feel like something that you would see on a streaming channel. It boils down to leveraging culture and content, and then moving at the speed of relevance. If you succeed you will be able to tap into the hearts and minds of consumers.”

The changing face of PR

While the PRISM Awards have always recognised important work, organisers have continued to grow the event to align with an industry undergoing rapid change. By combining tradition with adaptation, the PRISM Awards encapsulate the ethos of modern public relations itself, blending classic storytelling arts with new digital dexterity. 

New categories were introduced this year to celebrate modern communication mediums and the evolving responsibilities of PR professionals. The awards for influencer campaigns, social impact initiatives and PR training programmes reflect the widening remit of the industry. 

This year the streamlining of the entry process also made it easier for small agencies and individuals to participate alongside established industry players. This creates an ecosystem in which diverse new voices can thrive, armed with fresh perspectives and bold ideas to redefine the industry.