Marketing consultants, corporate marketing departments, public relations agencies and their advertising cousins, all like winning awards. It feels good, provides their work with a “third party” endorsement, builds a bond between the agency/consultant and the client, does wonders for job security, and sometimes gives people an excuse to travel for a party.
So how do you win one of these puppies?
I’ve been on both sides of the fence – as part of a winning team and as a judge. I recognize how hard it can be to put together a proposal and I know what judges go through when determining winners. With that in mind, here are some ways you can win an award.
Assumption Alert: All of these tips assume that you actually think your campaign, brochure, press release, advertisement, website, video etc. has merit. Don’t bother wasting your time filling out a proposal if you don’t think much about what you’re submitting.
1. Pick your category carefully. Most marketing, advertising and PR awards offer numerous categories. The beauty of this is that often what you want to submit can fit several categories. If you want a better chance of winning, pick the least sexy category. You’d be surprised how many contests I’ve judged where some categories only have two or three submissions. That ups your chances of getting at least an honorable mention. Warning: Don't try to fit a round peg into a square hole. If you are in the wrong category, rarely does your proposal get sent to the right one.
2. Results matter. Judges are chosen because they are experts in their field. They acknowledge and are often impressed by spectacular art and clever concepts. But they also recognize the value of results. The difference between first and second is often decided based on the results, since it’s harder to argue with empirical stats than with subjective artistic opinions.
3. Optimize your results. I am not suggesting that you lie about your results. What I recommend is that you highlight the best aspects of your results and, when in doubt, give your entry all the credit you can. For example, if you entered an email campaign for a new product introduction, and your email open and click-through rates were average, look at the sales and provide that information. The judges will know that other things go into a new product introduction, but they also recognize that the email campaign contributed to its success. And finally, here is a dirty little secret: Judges rarely have time to verify your stats. If they sound realistic, they’ll accept them.
4. Presentation counts. I can’t tell you how many presentations are sloppy, incomplete, and poorly communicated. Basically, when a judge sees one like that, it’s a gift. When incomplete, it means the judge does not have to read it or consider it. When sloppy or poorly written, it just pisses off the judge. Remember, judges usually spend one or two intense days pouring over submissions and they love it when one is easily and quickly rejected.
5. Judges are not stupid. They know how things work. That’s why they were picked. Don’t try to persuade them with false aggrandizement or inflated claims. Be clear and to the point. They appreciate that. They are also human. If you take something for granted and it’s not on the page, they won’t go looking for it.
New Development – Online Voting. I recently got an email from an agency I’ve worked with asking me to vote for them in an award contest. I like them, so I cast my vote their way. They won and the reason they won is that they have been actively growing their social network – not because they were the best. So that’s one big vote for social marketing.
Photo Credit: By Dave_B_Davidlohr Bueso