The winner takes it all…
Nicky and I are lucky enough to be asked to judge lots of awards for industry programmes run by the PRCA, PRMoment, PRovoke and PRWeek. This year we’ve judged well over 100 entries between us across a broad range of categories, covering the UK and across the world (the SABRES).
Awards season is now pretty much all year round, and there are plenty of opportunities for PR and comms folk to demonstrate their value and celebrate their successes. We’ve judged everything from the inspiring and frankly, ego-damaging (how have these people achieved so much at such a young age?!?) PRWeek’s Young Professional of the Year and its 30 under 30, to EMEA’s creme de la creme of the comms landscape in the PRovoke SABRES. Last week saw our judging panel come together to review the PRCA’s National Awards. As these are focused on work delivered in the last 12 months, it’s even more encouraging to see how our industry has adapted - and helped clients adapt - to the COVID19 pandemic.
Some might see awards judging as a chore, but I absolutely love it and always look forward to it. I love meeting the other judges and hearing their perspective, but most of all I enjoy looking through each and every submission. There’s something really inspiring in seeing your peers do incredible things. I often learn about a new sector or discipline I’m not familiar with, but it spurs us on at The PR Network to push ourselves to strive for excellence in what we do in our own agency - we learn a lot in the process.
Reviewing award entries is not something that can be left to a Friday afternoon, or done in an evening - often you need to do 3 awards at a time and take a break. You can’t just whizz through each submission; you soon find your marking goes out of kilter and you just aren’t taking it all in. I’ve learnt I can do 25 submissions in a week, tackling 5 a day and then going back at the end and reviewing everyone again. I know it feels like a mammoth job creating the entry; I can assure you reviewing is also just as big a job to do justice to every entry.
So through all of this, what have I learned?
Make it easy for judges to mark your work against the given criteria. Check the judging criteria regularly. I always print out the criteria and make a point of checking through in detail to cross-reference. Use subheads that correspond, so judges don’t have to read through multiple times to find a piece of information. Often the judges are using a form, and grading out of 10. If you can make that a much easier process, you will definitely be helping your judge.
Clear and concise format, and attractive presentation (unless there’s a pro forma). There’s a particular agency whose entry I can guess immediately without reading their name. They use a nice, clear font, colourful graphics and a well designed one page PDF with corresponding image/video. I can instantly see the budget, the strategy, the KPIs and the results. It means I can grade them more easily, which goes a long way to building judges' goodwill. There are other agencies that like to use a particular tone of voice - that for me counts less, and can be grating! I prefer simple, easy to read language that tells a story and points to the facts.
Be transparent about your budget. It’s really hard to compare oranges with apples - one campaign was powered by a £150,000 fee, while another was based on only £1,000! It’s even harder to compare if you don’t have any idea of the fee (and costs), so please make sure you include your budget so your judge can benchmark. A bigger budget doesn’t always mean success - some of my favourite winners have been in the sub £10K category. I love seeing how creative people can be without the prop of a hefty budget to play with.
Metrics win out. You can no longer submit an entry without adequate measurement. We’ve moved on from coverage and reach - if you only look at success in these terms, you will always lose out. Those submissions that use the AMEC Framework are going to get extra special brownie points and I’m always interested to see a proven correlation between the company’s financial success, audience cut through and customer behaviour. I was pleased to see that this year, the PRCA allocated more marks to Results vs. the other criteria, in order to reward entries which could demonstrate and quantify success vs. objectives.
Sometimes success is about a killer idea from a leading brand, and often we'll see one campaign clean up across the board (just look at Iceland’s Rang Tan campaign of 2018/2019). However, hopefully these observations will help others to get the recognition they deserve.
If you’re applying for an award, best of luck to you and I hope we’re lucky enough to be wowed by your work and help to celebrate your success in November!
(PS... that's not Nicky Regazzoni and I hitting the karaoke, but a nod to the headline and a gratuitous link to ABBA's recent launch)