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Awards season: make the most of your entry

Pink Key Consulting’s Richard Pink on how to really grab the judges’ attention.

When I’m not manning my stand at Brand Licensing Europe and hassling my licensees for progress on Kellogg’s, Pringles and Slush Puppie, I occasionally wear another hat.

Depending on the time of year this could be either chairman of the Marketing Awards for either Progressive Preschool or the Licensing Awards, or simply head of awards at the Institute of Promotional Marketing.

In other words – I know about awards – I’m pretty certain I could write the book on the best way for a celeb to host an awards ceremony, as I seem to go to so many each year! I’ve seen some brilliant ones (Sandi Toksvig and Lucy Porter) and some right stinkers (no names there…)

However, the other thing I know a bit about is how to write an entry that gives you the best chance of walking off with a gong. So many times I’ve seen great campaigns fail at the final hurdle because of the way they are written, allowing arguably less effective work to take the silverware. Frustrating!

So I thought for this month’s outing I’d list the key things people get wrong when writing these entries, or to put it more positively the top tips to ensure decent work gets recognised as such.

  • Spelling and grammar – strangely it doesn’t bother me that much (probably because mine’s so appalling! This is the man who spelt grammar, ‘grammer’ last year in an article about spelling and grammar – yes, I know…) But there are some people judging out there who are properly hacked off when they see this in an award entry. It is such a simple thing to get someone (who can properly proof read) to look through your entry in the same way you would check and double check a pitch presentation. I know from experience it can make a difference if the judging is tight.


  • Don’t make assumptions – as my old sales manager used to say ‘Assume makes an ‘Ass’ out of ‘U’ and ‘Me’. He had a point, in that I’ve seen too many entries that don’t give the judges enough information. The entrant wrongly assumes that the judges have the same level of knowledge about the campaign and its circumstances as the author of the entry does. This has big implications for the way the entry is written; firstly it means jargon starts creeping in that the judges may or may not be familiar with, but more problematic is the lack of context that will be given to the results. The results may be phenomenal, but when you write an award entry you have to tell the judges why they are so good. My best advice on this is always the same – imagine trying to explain it to your mum and you won’t go far wrong.


  • Woolly objectives and results – I’ve yet to see an entry where the results didn’t beat the objectives. It almost as if the objectives were worked out after the results were in – but that would never happen, would it? That piece of unnecessary cynicism aside, my experience is that judges like to see clear results, and that requires clear objectives. They like percentages, numbers and stats, they don’t like ‘there was a substantial increase’ or ‘we drove awareness’ – you can hear them screaming ‘how much?’, ‘what was the increase?’ and ‘what was the target?’. It’s true sometimes you can’t get actual numbers because they aren’t measured, or even because they are confidential, but even in these circumstances you can give the judges a good indication of the success. Try this – ‘Normal expectations would be a 5-10% increase for this type of activity, although we can’t give actual figures the rate achieved by this activity was more than double this’. You’ve given numbers and context and probably made the judges very happy indeed.


I could go on, and indeed I will in next month’s article– but for now – here endeth the lesson.

Richard Pink is md of Pink Key Consulting – an agency specialising in licensing and promotions. He can be contacted on

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