Ask Judge Mental: How can I win more industry awards?

Ask Judge Mental: How can I win more industry awards?

Awards shows and the awards circuit are an important part of our industry. Entire teams are dedicated to tracking, compiling, creating and submitting award entries with the gongs themselves seen as one indicator of agency and brand success.

I have been lucky enough to judge various digital and social industry awards during my career, a role I enjoy and take seriously.

Very seriously it seems. The first time I participated as a judge – for the student body of an industry association – I was taken to one side and asked not to return the following year. Because apparently I was too judgmental.

Well, news flash. You don’t win awards just for just showing up. You don’t win awards by submitting a rushed blurb an hour before the final deadline. A truly great idea that becomes even greater work and wins multiple awards never starts with the words: “this will make a great awards show case study.”

So before you consider your next attempt, here are a few things I have learned during my Judge Mental career that may be useful:

Take the time to write up a compelling story. Judges have to go through a few rounds of reviewing entries. The first round is usually carried out solo via a digital platform; a judge may review up to 50 different entries at this stage. Guess which of those 50 stand out the most? You got it. The entries that have a strong narrative, are well written and make a judge want to read all the way to the end.  

Less is more. Ensure your story is punchy and concise. A great case study has structure. Don’t waffle or include the same point several times, just written differently. Maintain a critical eye on what is important information to include and what can be chopped.

Check your spelling and grammar. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many entries feature basic spelling and grammar mistakes. Proof read your entry. Ask someone else to proof read your entry. Proof it again. Then submit.

Compile a reel or case study video. A case study video really does help a judge. It ensures an entry stands out from the crowd. I assure you, when you are 30 entries in to an initial 50, a short video is very appealing. The second phase of the awards judging process is usually when the judges regroup in person; then those videos become even more important. They will be played and replayed as the group discusses work, and makes their final decision.

Include real results. What was the impact of the work on the world? What is the data to prove that? What was your benchmark? Focus on results that support your case study rather than puffery and vanity metrics: Facebook Likes are not a true measure of success: they can be bought. What did your work make people do, say, how did it make them act? Align what you measure to your intent. Set up KPIs before all of your work to ensure this is in place naturally and does not need to be forced after the fact.

Link to live work where possible. We judges do like to see work in the wild. If work is no longer live, see the above point about a video case study.

Consider the category. If you are submitting your case study for the best social media marketing award, you had better focus on social media in your entry. It is obvious when one case study is submitted in multiple categories or shows without being specifically tailored. Seeing the same case study four times for different themes does not make it likely to win more awards. Take the time to rewrite where needed.

Enter a variety of awards. There are many different awards programs across the industry, aligned to publications, platforms and industry bodies. They are all important. Don’t discount the smaller programs and only focus on the large; it is always worth spending the time and entering a program. Awards are a great validation and a chance to show creative out there in the world. As a judge, it is always a privilege to get to see a wide variety of creative work and is another reminder of why I love my job.

I hope to pass my Judge Mental eye over your entries soon!

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- with Dan Bennett, Chief Digital Officer

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