How do I win a business award? 13 tips from The Drum's former awards judges

Judges James Whatley, Hannah Kimuyu and Andrew Canter tell hopefuls how to make their entry stand out against the rest.

If you’re thinking of entering one of The Drum’s coveted awards, then you might be wondering what will make your entry stand out against the rest.

The third Drum Awards breakfast workshop took place at Havas Media on Thursday 13 July with a panel of previous and current judges and past winners discussing what makes an entry stand out to them.

Stephen Lepitak, The Drum’s editor chaired the panel which included: Andrew Canter, chief executive officer, BCMA, who will be judging this year’s Content Awards; James Whatley, planning partner, innovation, Ogilvy and Mather Advertising, who is judging the Social Buzz Awards and Hannah Kimuyu, director of paid media, Greenlight Digital, who was on this year's Search Awards panel.

If you missed the workshop, don’t worry. We have put together the essential points that you should consider when putting together your award-winning entry.

Never duplicate

Whatley: "If you are just copying out your entries from one to the other, that's going to get disqualified. I chaired the Social Buzz Awards a few years ago and we disqualified two entries because they just being templated out and actually got entered into the wrong thing. We take it very seriously. So, if you don't, it gets noticed."

It's not always about the budget

Kimuyu: "It’s not always about how much money you spend. The creativity of taking a tiny amount of money and doing something amazing with it can be fantastic.”

Don’t try and fool the judges

Kimuyu: "Taking one entry and attempting to make it work for every category. Don't do that. It's annoying. You can see it doesn't work everywhere and that's just lazy.

Whatley: "We can spot the entries that were written the night before. Why waste your money? These things aren't free. So, don't submit stuff if you don't have a little bit of confidence that it might win something. If it's rubbish because you've been told to submit 10 this year, don't bother because it's a waste of money and time - your time, as well as the judges."

Canter: "Just because it says write 500 words, don't write 500 words. You can say something in 100 words. It's very easy to spot something that's not original, a cut and paste from a document. Don't try and fool the judges because we've been doing this a long time."

Get it all out in the first paragraph

Kimuyu: "That first paragraph has to say everything. It's like your strap line. What is it the judge needs to know? Why was this campaign amazing? Don't use jargon. We don't all speak the same language. There's no point in saying the kind of things that you may say in pitch documents or on your website, get your craft and speak plain English. Get to the point and don't use all the words."

Be different

Canter: "I always find it's better to see stuff and if you show someone something rather than tell, it's always going to be easier. Whether that's a case study video or just the work. The ones that don't have any visuals, it's really hard to judge because you don't get the feeling of a complete package. You can see people who leave it to the last minute. It's really obvious. If you haven't already started, get going. it takes a long time to get it done.”

Kimuyu: "Where I have seen some entries do very well is putting in their personality. A lot of entries can be similar and it can be difficult to differentiate between entry one through to entry 100. But if you got a bit of the personality of the agency across, it actually puts a smile to the judge’s face.”

Story telling is vital!

Canter: "Story telling is more and more important. You need to know where you're beginning and where you’re going and tell in the middle how you got there. If you have that narrative it is more powerful than just bits of information.”

Less is more

Canter: "There is a tendency to put more entries in because people will think if they put 10 in they will win three. It's not like that. I think we're getting to the point where we can see the people who have put the effort in where the quality is. You've got to focus on this and make it a priority."

Do your research

Canter: "Look at who won the awards last year. They put a lot of investment into it. Talk to the judges. Talk to the awards team. Because they have great insight. Everything should be founded on insight."

Whatley: "Chances are someone in your agency is on a judging panel, probably your CEO. Ask them. Someone can show you what an award entry looks like and some will have an opinion on what a good entry looks like. Just ask a senior member in your agency if they have seen any good ones, that's a good way to do it.”

The judges take extra care in making their shortlist

Whatley: "Don't think that when you submit your entry that's it, it's the luck of the draw. People really care. The ones that make it through to the finals are properly picked apart, debated and then get rewarded as and when it should be."

Previous standout entries:

Canter: The Drum Content Awards 2016 - Grey London for WildAid

Whatley: The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2014 - Paddy Power & We Are Social for Adidas

Kimuyu: The Drum Search Awards 2017 - iProspect UK for John Lewis

If you missed out on the chance to attend our awards workshop, join us for a Twitter chat on the hashtag #DrumAwards on Tuesday 18th July at 15:00 GMT to get all of your burning entry questions answered!

If you have any questions or queries about the awards or need advice on your entry form, please contact:

We have also launched a brand new B2B awards, The Drum B2B Brave Awards. They will reward the best business marketing campaigns/strategies and are open globally, to find the best of creativity, effectiveness, ROI and commercial results.

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Danielle Gibson

All by Danielle