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Ten myths about award schemes from The PRmoment Awards founder Ben Smith

As an owner of an awards scheme the awards nights themselves can be bittersweet.

It is always a lot of fun to meet up with a bunch of friends and yes, every now and again you take a step back, as nearly 1,000 people party pretty hard, and think,“This is kind of cool!”

But there is also the reality that many people say something along the lines of: “Ben why didn’t we win?”

So here is my best attempt to offer some insight into how to enter, what to enter and what the judging process looks like. I’ve done this by trying to explain away some of the myths that people believe about award schemes.

1. Awards wins and shortlists don’t impact the business

Truth is I’ve only ever heard people say this who don’t win very often. I’ve never heard it from people that win.

One of the things I love about the PRmoment Awards is that the winners come from large and small firms. Some of the winners of the PRmoment Awards come from the world's biggest PR firms. The likes of Weber, Golin, Cohn & Wolfe and Ketchum have all won in recent years. But they don't always win we are an absolute meritocracy. Smaller firms like Tin Man, Umph, Petal and Hope&Glory have also had huge success over the years.

I’m not suggesting there is a direct correlation between award wins and revenue growth, clearly loads of other things come into play (namely: talent, quality work, agency management) but two of our biggest winners last year were Weber and Hope&Glory.

In 2016 Weber Shandwick’s UK revenue grew by 11%* and Hope&Glory’s grew by 39%*.

I absolutely believe that award wins from a well-known and independent third party help to position your business as innovative, creative and one to keep an eye on.

Many comms directors will use award winner lists (and shortlists) to help them put together their long list for a pitch. Obviously once you get on the long list, the rest is down to you…

“A healthy proportion of Hope&Glory’s reputation has been built on our award wins. While you may need to be delivering outstanding work to win a PRmoment Award in the first place – the standards rise every year – they’re a great way of bringing attention to your work and of having campaigns recognised by peers, competitors and potential recruits.”
James Gordon-MacIntosh, managing partner, Hope&Glory

2. People sometimes tell me that their best campaign didn't win, but a less good piece of work they entered in another category did

Yes, this can occur in all awards. It’s simply a reality that you (the “enterer”) cannot be aware of the standard of entries in the various categories in which you have entered. So your best bit of work might have been excellent, but in a particular category it was beaten by an even better piece of work.

The flip side is that a piece of work you enter that you do not consider to be as good can win in another category, because either the judges saw something that you have missed, or that the standard of entries in that category is lower.

3. We’ve entered before but never win

Brutally this will be down to two variables: either your work was not as good a someone else's, or the way you presented that work was not as good as a competitor's entry.

Be assured, for the PRmoment Awards, and I’m pretty sure for most other PR/comms awards, there is nothing personal involved, it comes down to the work.

4. There are too many PR/comms awards

I think that’s right. And frankly you have to choose which ones to enter. Enter the ones that are endorsed by a recognisable editorial brand; there is not much point winning an award that neither your clients, potential clients, nor employees have heard of.

Worth noting that PRmoment has over 16,000 email subscribers, nearly 22K followers on Twitter and we run upwards of 25 events a year (20 of which are exclusively for PR buyers). Our UK events are attended by over 1,800 UK PR/comms people.

Here are some testimonials from previous winners of the impact that the award wins have had on their business:

“Winning a PRmoment Award is hugely valuable to us as an agency. Tin Man has been lucky enough to win quite a few over the years for our campaigns, and this year we were awarded the Best Boutique Agency Award which we were very proud of! These wins are extremely motivating and exciting for the team as they see their hard work and talent recognised by the industry but they are also a great new business driver. We often get calls from brands who have attended the awards, seen our name and been impressed with our work.”
Mandy Sharp, founder, Tin Man Communications

“Winning a PRmoment Award 2017 for best tech agency was such an honour and you really can’t underestimate the motivating effect a big win like that has on the team, attracting outstanding new staff and getting on pitch lists for big new clients. Ben and the team have truly disrupted the UK PR awards scene with an unmissable night that just gets bigger and bolder every single year.”
Peter Bowles, co-CEO and co-founder, Dynamo PR

“The opportunity to get third-party endorsement of our work is really important to Red. The standard of work at the PRmoment Awards is very high and the jury is a who’s who of UK public relations, so we were delighted to walk away with a couple of very heavy, very gold awards this year.“
Mike Morgan, chief executive, The Red Consultancy

5. The awards owners fix the winners depending on who they like, who they owe a favour or who pays them the most

Clearly I’m going to say this doesn't happen for the PRmoment Awards. You’d expect that, but genuinely there is no way I can influence the PRmoment judge's decision, nor would I try. Why? Because no one from PRmoment is a judge.

This is a really important point and one that differentiates PRmoment from many of our competitors (important to say this is not true of PRWeek as last time I checked its editorial department was not on the judging panel either).

Don't get me wrong, I get really frustrated not being a judge. I think I’d make an excellent judge. And some of the decisions the judges make I don't agree with. But as the awards owner, as soon as I get involved with the awards-judging process there is a conflict of interest. Which has the potential to undermine my entire business. So I don't and can't get involved.

Also, not meaning to over-emphasise the point, but we get high-quality, senior people to judge The PRmoment Awards. Can you imagine what they would say if the campaign or company they judged to have won, didn't actually win? They’d go berserk at me, probably in a very public forum. And rightly so.

6. We don't understand what the judges are looking for

OK, fair enough. Here are the criteria of what our judges are looking for in a campaign, team and individual awards:

Criteria – Campaign Awards

Criteria 1 – Objective(s) 1 to 10 Points
Entries should clearly identify the objectives of the campaign or project  
Criteria 2 – Strategy & Target Audience 1 to 10 Points
Please rate the quality of the strategy that was implemented considering the budget, objective and target audience stated  
Criteria 3 - Creativity & Implementation 1 to 10 Points
Please rate the level of creativity employed and quality of implementation when delivering the campaign or project. We are looking for fresh, innovative thinking, best practice examples, partnership working where appropriate, and resourcefulness  
Criteria 4 – Results & Evaluation 1 to 10 Points
Please rate the results and evaluation of the campaign or project while considering the budget, objective, target audience, strategy, implementation and creativity. We are looking for tangible results and evaluation that can be quantified, qualified and substantiated.  
Criteria 5 – Why the entry should win 1 to 10 Points
Look for information on what makes this entry stand out from the others  

Criteria – Individual Awards

Criteria 1 – Recent Work Example(s) 1 to 10 Points
Entries should provide details of a recent work examples to include objectives, implementation, results and evaluation, please judge the quality of the execution of the campaigns  
Criteria 2 – Recent achievements 1 to 10 Points
Entries should include details of any recent achievements, please rate the success and achievements of the individual  
Criteria 3 – Why you think the nominee should win 1 to 10 Points
We are looking for a young individual who demonstrates exceptional commitment to delivering the very best in communications, demonstrates best practice and shows an innovative and creative approach to the work they deliver. They should detail the contribution they make to their organisation and the wider communications industry.  

Criteria – Agency / Team Awards

Criteria 1 – Nominee Objective(s) 1 to 10  Points
Entries should clearly identify the objectives of the team  
Criteria 2 – Recent Campaign / Work Example(s) 1 to 10 Points
Entries should provide details of a recent campaign to include objectives, implementation, results and evaluation, please judge the quality of the execution of this campaign  
Criteria 3 – Recent achievements 1 to 10 Points
Entries should include details of any recent achievements, please rate the success and achievements of the team  
Criteria 4 - Challenges 1 to 10 Points
Entries should contain details of any challenges the team faced and how they overcame these. Please rate the team's ability to respond to challenging situations and the resourcefulness they show  
Criteria 5 – Why you think the entry should win 1 to 10 Points
We are looking for a team who demonstrates exceptional commitment to delivering the very best in communications, demonstrates best practice and shows an innovative and creative approach to the work they deliver  

Guidance on Scoring

Score Description
9-10 Outstanding – Fully meets, and even exceeds, the criteria
7-8 Impressive – Meets the criteria and is worthy of recognition
5-6 Good - Meets the criteria but perhaps not so exceptional
3-4 OK - Nothing special or impressive
1-2 Weak  - Unimpressive

We have also published a blog detailing what a selection our PRmoment judges are looking for in an entry.

7. We don't know how to write a good awards entry

There is a knack to writing a good awards entry, here are a couple of examples where we have adapted previous winning entries. They should give you an idea of the format that works.

Team Entry

Campaign Entry

8. This one is not a myth; it’s true: Awards are a numbers game

Clearly you need to enter your best work but in the end, like most things in life, it comes down to the maths. If you enter one entry you have less chance of winning than if you enter 20. And the PRmoment Awards entry fee is deliberately low at only £150 + VAT so my argument would be you can afford to enter more categories.

9. One of our competitors is a judge/one of the judges has it in for us

We are careful to ensure that judges don’t judge the work of close competitors. This is always a balance because you want judges to assess the areas of work that they are experts in.

Worth noting that each entry is judged by at least six judges, so any low scoring from a specific judge would stand out and we’d take action.

To confirm, a judge would never judge their own work.

10. It's too expensive

We’ve deliberately kept the cost to enter a PRmoment Award as low as we can. If you take advantage of the early booking deadline the cost to enter is only £150 + VAT. This is much less than the cost of entry into other equivalent profile award schemes.

* According to the latest PRWeek Top 150 League tables

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