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How to win awards (and sometimes lose): The Drum Awards Breakfast Workshop


By Dani Gibson | Senior Writer

January 22, 2019 | 6 min read

Knowing how to write an award winning submission will set you apart from the competition. Following The Drum Awards UK Breakfast Workshop where delegates heard from industry experts from Goodstuff, Impact, TSB and Too Many Dreams, here are some of their top tips.

How to deal with not winning

With every winner, there is a runner up, but how you deal with that loss may help you in the future.

Get used to losing, said Roy Shepherd, head of out-of-home at Goodstuff and chair of The Drum Out of Home Awards 2018. “Losing is a good thing,” he assured. “If you're not losing a lot, you're not entering enough awards. You can't enter and expect to win every single time, so don't worry about losing.”

Continuing on that thought, Julia Smith, director of marketing tech firm, Impact [a judge for The Drum Digital Advertising Awards] said that she has lost more than she’s won. “If at first you fail, try again. It's better to have failed and lost because you learn and understand each time that happens and that will make you incredibly proud when you do win.”

Coming at it from a different angle was Bola Gibson, head of community engagement, TSB and member of The Drum Social Purpose Awards judging panel. Twice TSB entered awards knowing they wouldn’t win. Why do that? For the recognition she explained.

“How far down the process can you go?” she asked, “and how can you help more people know what you're doing? That's an odd reason to do it but entering awards and getting far enough in the process is a great way for more people to know what it is you do.”

It’s also practice, she added. The more you are familiar with particular awards, the structure, the writing, the way that it is judged, the easier it becomes in some ways.

Even if you don’t win, being shortlisted and having the opportunity to take your clients to an awards show is a great opportunity for your sales team, suggested Stephen Jenkins, founder and managing director at Too Many Dreams and chair of The Drum Mobile Awards 2018. He said: “Allow your sales teams to start building relationships in a very enjoyable atmosphere, you have a nice meal, entertainment, a lot of laughs, quite a few drinks and it's a good evening out. For me that is a result in itself.”

What are the judges really looking for?

When the judges are mulling over hundreds of entries, often they are doing so well into the early hours of the morning, so entries with a very clear synopsis that can sell the work to them with just that, makes them want to read on.

The ones that Smith tends to find are the best, are the ones that have sold it to her within the first paragraph. “It's about being concise,” she explained. “Less is more in terms of the word, the hyperbole, graphics and images are good.

“I tend not to sit through loads of video because I don't have the time to do that, often I think they are a little bit of a waste of time if you're putting an emphasis on that. Go with the summaries to start, as your main focus to sell that to the judges.”

However, Jenkins suggested that although the synopsis is important, he wants to see the beginning, the middle and the end.

“The beginning for me is the objectives, what are you doing this for? The middle is the strategy and the tactics, and the end is the conclusion and results. You need those three pillars to bring a story to life.”

For Gibson, there are two principles she’d like entrants to stick by. The first being to read the question. “Take yourself back to those awful days of high school where you had an exam and when you finished, you looked over your answer but hadn’t really answered the question.

“You can immediately tell that someone's not really read the question,” she emphasised.

The second principle is all about the structure. “Go back to basics,” she insisted. “You can figure out what you're going to write but summarise it at the beginning, summarise it at the end and don't repeat yourself in the middle too much.”

Don’t hold back on the hard results

When submitting entries, don’t worry about the results you are handing over, these papers are confidential, with all the judges that do these awards signing their lives away on NDAs.

Jenkins explained that the challenge is the daisy chain of communication between vendors, agencies and clients and the assurance that private information won’t be leaked. When putting a submission together, of course you should provide that context but when doing it, perhaps, like Jenkins, put in big red letters at the top and bottom of the results section not for outside broadcast, only for the judges. “So, when the client sees it, they're happy that the information is kept confidential. It instils confidence.”

However, you should plan in advance your awards submission if you want to get these in on time as some clients can take a while to sign of this particular section. Smith is insistent that the biggest piece of advice for award entries is lead time.

“The turnaround is essential,” she explained. “You've got to get all of these things signed off, every iteration of every draft and every case study and every bit of results. I’ve missed a couple of award entry deadlines because of not getting that in. Then the client themselves is frustrated.”

“It's worth getting a schedule in place, making sure you have clear dates of when the submissions are due and working back from that.” she concluded.

Smith, Gibson, Jenkins and Shepherd are all judges for The Drum Awards, a singular global award scheme that recognises all the disciplines that make up The Drum’s ecosystem. We have a series of competitions you may find relevant including marketing, advertising and digital.

To see the full range of our competitions and their upcoming deadlines, click here.

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