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 explain what I see as the false myths of awards schemes by offering some insight into how to enter, what to enter and what the judging process looks like.

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, MHP Engine 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, Tyto and 89up have also had a lot of 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 Manifest and Hope&Glory.

In 2018 Manifest revenue grew by 40% and Hope&Glory’s grew by 17%*.

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 your best piece of work could 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 as 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 23K 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 2,000 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 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 Award 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.

Each of our panels is chaired by a very senior, very experienced and neutral chair who doesn’t have a vote but does ensure that it’s not a case of the loudest opinion wins on the jury.

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:

The Judging Criteria for the PRmoment Awards Campaign Categories

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. Most of the time the successful entries are written by someone senior in the business it seems to me.

And I’d suggest writing them with a bit of personality and needless to say make sure you bear in mind the criteria above.

In campaign entries judges tend to be pretty hot on matching the objectives with the measurement criteria. Needless to say the work is the most important element to make sure you explain your ideas and the activation properly.

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 £160 + VAT so my argument would be that 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 £160 +VAT. This is much less than the cost of entry into other equivalent profile award schemes.

* According to the latest Holmes tables