How to maximise your awards chances

An essential factor in winning awards is understanding what the jury is looking for. With the Mumbrella Awards call for entry now live, Mumbrella’s head of marketing Danika Porter - who has both written award-winning entries and been a juror - offers her advice on where to begin.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence.

Firstly, as the one labouring for days writing an entry, eagerly awaiting the shortlist announcement and jubilantly celebrating when being announced as the winner on stage.

Secondly, in my role as head of marketing at Mumbrella, I’ve been both responsible for marketing our awards to the industry and privileged to sit on the juries.

Revolver / Will O’Rourke made a winning presentation to the 2017 production house of the year jury

It’s allowed me to note the same juror observations time and time again, and witness the common elements that winning entries possess.

Having recently launched our 2018 Mumbrella Awards, it’s a good time to pull together some of that feedback, along with a few tips and tricks. Some of it will sound obvious, but the obvious is so often overlooked.

While the entry process may seem tedious, time intensive and annoying, it is probably shorter than you think. There are standard guidelines to follow to ensure award entries are given the best opportunity.

1. Answer the bloody questions

Read the criteria. Answer the criteria. Don’t try to tailor a question to suit the answer you want to give. Seriously.

The job of a juror is to compare like for like in a fair manner. Judges want to score you well, but you won’t get bonus points for going off track.

Entries are generally broken down into questions that have a percentage weighting for scoring. Pay particular attention to the big ones and make sure you are kicking goals in these. If you are not strong in an area, be honest and explain why and what you are doing about it. That will score you points.

Focus on key achievements and what sets you apart from the competition. It’s a small market and you’ll generally know where you sit in the industry. When asked to submit case studies, pick ones that are diverse and show your strengths and scope.

Tell a story. The strongest applications that stand out have an underlying journey, with a focus on the escalating success and growth, written in a personal and honest tone.

2. Don’t throw the kitchen sink at it

Don’t be tempted to sneak more information in, go off course, include extra case studies or go over the word count. It will only penalise you.

Make it easy for the judges to read and absorb your answers. Write in short, punchy statements, rather than lengthy paragraphs. Judges get bogged down with elongated information after a day or more of reading entries.

Providing information that allows them to compare like-for-like and easily measures up to the criteria will help you get the best score.

3. Delegate, and do it early

Putting together an award application should rarely be one person’s job. It can feel overwhelming, and one person generally doesn’t have all the information needed.

Appoint someone responsible for the project and timelines, who then delegates to the best source for each question. Start the process early, as there is nothing worse and more stressful than a last minute scramble.

Getting strong, high-level testimonials from across the industry gives instant credibility and will make your entry stand out.

Go crazy on providing (accurate) facts and stats. Putting time into gathering results and analysing data to give you punchy, significant statistics is gold for impressing judges. Simple to digest facts about your company achievements makes it easy for judges to compare and reward in your entry.

Remember, it’s really important that if you make a claim, that you support it with evidential proof. On that note, don’t nudge the truth. It will only serve to invalidate your whole entry. The chances are you’ll be found out.

4. Video tells 1,000 words

If you are allowed to submit video, do it. Video is a great way to jam all your company achievements in and bring to life all the claims you’ve made in your application, without going off brief.

If possible, avoid a link to another link. Give a direct YouTube link or similar so judges can play it instantly and not be tempted to skip over it.

Linking to your company home page and generic showreel shows an instant lack of effort. Don’t repurpose – put the time into a unique edit for the award you are entering. Not only can the jury see through a ‘company showreel’, but you are missing a chance to bolster the application.

But remember, in many cases where such links are allowable only as supporting information, with large numbers of entries to consider for shortlisting, jurors won’t necessarily look at it in the first round, so make sure the key information is in the written entry.

5. Don’t cookie cut

Like the video, an application which has been touted across the awards circuit can be sniffed out a mile away. The bones and research involved can definitely be repurposed, but make sure you are writing the application with a fresh mind and perspective against the awards criteria.

Don’t review your past entries first; instead try writing new entries completely fresh and then revisit old ones later for inspiration. It helps avoid missing new information that wasn’t available when old applications were being written. Be sure the information you provide matches up with the eligible period the awards cover.

If you are a repeat entrant, year-on-year for the same award, mention this in the application and reference your achievements since the prior entry. The jury will want to know how you’ve moved things on since last time.

If there is a live presentation involved, like the final stage of the Mumbrella Awards, ensure you’ve properly rehearsed and timed your pitch beforehand. Bring your heavy hitters, as well as the people who lived and breathed the campaigns you’re presenting.

The single most common mistake juries see at the live round of the Mumbrella Awards is failing to present according to the criteria the presentation will be scored against.

Your live presentation should still be a reflection and extension of your written application, as the judges have the same criteria to score. If unsure, ask ahead of time exactly what the presentation should follow and cover.

Leave enough time for Q&A. Don’t try to bulldoze through to the end with as much information as possible. The judges might need areas of clarification or will gently guide you to talk more about an area of the entry, which is aimed to increase your score.

And remember, that the jurors are briefed to only award a winner when they are convinced beyond doubt that everything they’ve heard on the day is true. Before submitting your written entry, ask yourself: if I’m asked a tough question on the day, will I be able to justify this claim? If in doubt, leave it out.

And remember…

Big is not always better.

Don’t be put off by the big players. Don’t assume you don’t stand a chance if you’re a small company or player. Big doesn’t always win. The juries look for the level of achievements within the resources available. They also look for speed of travel within the year in question.

For instance, in the Mumbrella Awards last year, Media Brand of the Year was won by Starts at 60, up against the likes of ESPN, Taste.com.au and Cricket.com.au.

Judging is based on individual success, growth and achievement, regardless of size. If you are kicking goals in your company, you just might be surprised at how you measure up.

Do note though, larger companies play on the awards circuit regularly and have the head count to really focus on pulling in awards. All the more reason to make a concerted effort in your entry and start early.

Also, remember that winning isn’t the only reason for entering.

Smiles all round at the Mumbrella Awards judging HQ

The jury is made up of senior industry players. It’s a brilliant opportunity to get your best work and company achievements in front of an esteemed jury, who may just prove to be a new business opportunity in the future.

As with the Mumbrella Awards’ live judging, it is a great opportunity to get valuable face time in a room with these heavy hitters.

Pulling together an award entry focuses the mind on what your team is achieving, centres the company, and sets future goals for areas to improve upon.

So whilst I know it is one of those jobs no one likes doing, it’s one of the most valuable activities your company can take part in.

  • Danika Porter is Mumbrella’s head of marketing. Previously an executive with Beyond Television, she will once again be a juror in the production house of the year category of the Mumbrella Awards.

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