And the winner is … what you really need to know about awards


Jemma Lowman

It seems like every week a red carpet is being rolled out somewhere in the world, ready to be walked down by ranks of hopeful nominees. Every industry has its awards, and the awards industry itself is big business. The question is, how to win the one you’re entering? We’re going to come back to that.

New to the game?

Award ceremonies themselves are great occasions. You can meet new people, broadening your professional contacts, finding more opportunities and giving your sales team talking points and real clout with prospective customers. Winning awards shows that the wider industry has taken note of your achievements and this can be a great tool for marketing and sales teams to utilise. 

Not entered an award before? Best case scenario is that your company/team/product is called up to collect that winners trophy in front of your peers on the night (meaning you can claim bragging rights for a year) and the worst case… well, you might lose a little bit of cash on the entry fee and table (if you attend) but you’ll know the lay of the land and what makes a good entry for the next time. The value of entering usually far outweighs the potential cons.  Usually.

Whether you’re new to the game or an old hand, our advice will let you spot the awards worth winning, and optimise your chances of picking up a trophy. And we’ve asked three experts – all current judges – for their top tips.


How do I know if an award is worth my time?

Awards, as with all things in life, are not all made equal. Some have been around for a long time and have real influence within the industry. Others are, in all honesty, little more than money spinners for publishing houses and events organisers. So how to tell the good from the bad and the ugly? 

Firstly, ask your PR team. A good PR team keeps their finger on the pulse of the awards scene. They will know which awards have been around for a while and which are suspiciously fresh out of the box. They should also be able to find out who’ll be judging the awards. Are there names on the judging panel you recognise? Are they tsars of industry, or fresh-faced nobodies? This will tell you a lot about the calibre of the awards you’re entering. 

Secondly, consider the costs and benefits of entering the award. An award worth winning usually asks for strong evidence like customer testimonials, and a really detailed entry. That’s going to take effort. If that award is hosted by a publisher, bear in mind that competitive publishers are not going to consider it newsworthy – so what else can you do with those bragging rights. Awards run by well-established industry bodies, analysts and sometimes trade shows usually carry weight, but of course the competition is tougher.

Hayley Roberts, CEO of Distology has this:  “In my opinion a good award entry should be full of positive examples of success with metrics where possible and then a clear idea of not just what this has meant for them and their businesses but how it will benefit them and the business in the future. It is all very well to say what you have enjoyed and make general ambiguous comments but it is more important to suggest what is next and how the future will be shaped from continuing this positive activity.Those awards that are inspirational are less about self-congratulation and more about a tenacious desire to constantly make a difference in everything they do. With key metrics to back it up.Awards should not be about people just doing a good job and enjoying it. That’s what we are paid to do.”


What are the judges looking for?

Customer testimonials and good statistics are key to an excellent entry.

It’s all good and well bragging about how great your product/team/company is, but that’s just from your perspective. Judges need to know other people think the same – that you can actively deliver on the promises made in your entry. 

Judges care about your entry but they also have to trawl through dozens, if not hundreds, of them meaning you need to stand out – and stand out for the right reasons. If you have the budget then we’re talking videos, PDFs, slide decks. Do a tik tok video if you want. Remember judges are people too and they love creativity. If you don’t have the resources, that’s also fine – well written text on a well designed PDF works wonders too. The entries, above all, need to be honest, informative and hit the criteria of the category – engaging is a great bonus. 

“Make sure that you supply testimonials to back up your awards entry. Not just from colleagues but from customers too and do ensure that they are relevant to the award you are entering. Keep things clear and concise but do supply as much detail as possible. Judges want to know that an effort has been made. Always get it proofed by other members of your team before submission.” Gina Hough, The Marketing Communications Company


And here’s the clincher – how to win? It takes a village…

Writing a winning entry needs to be a team effort; a partnership between your sales and marketing teams, your technical experts and your PR team. Harness everyone’s talent, belief and expertise. Devote some time and energy into finding out exactly what the judges are looking for, and stick to the formula. Specific awards or judging panels may have set expectations. Universally, every judge expects a tightly written entry that tells a powerful and coherent story. Just like with exams at school, make it easy for the judge to award you marks.

Some awards are mediated by a public vote. If that’s the case, be prepared to mobilise your clients and social communities in support of your cause. Which has the knock-on effect of teeing up all of the promotion you’ll want to do after you’ve won!

Mark Waite, Cohesive: “Think of your award entry as a story. Humans are hardwired for stories and believe it or not judges are humans, well most of them anyway! But don’t forget the evidence. It’s essential to back up your claims so build your story around proof points. Remember, a great story is much more memorable than a bunch of bullet-pointed stats and facts alone. Always write it with passion and belief. If you can’t get excited about it then how do you expect the judges to? Bring it to life. Show the people behind the entry, why it matters to the people you serve and why anyone should care.”

Wrapping things up

Everyone loves winning a gong. Done right awards can be a useful tool in the PR playbook. Use your nouse, pick our brains, and the very best of luck!

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