Going for Gold – how to create, plan and deliver award-winning work

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By Emma Leech, Director of Marketing and Advancement, Loughborough University

Its that time of year again. Yes, awards entry season. Love it or hate it, if you choose to get involved it’s worth knowing where to start.

I was recently asked to deliver a workshop session before the CIPR Education and Skills Group AGM on what makes an award-winning project and how you can organise your thinking, resources, team work and evaluation to help you achieve award-winning status.

The blog coverts some of the content we looked at and I hope you find it useful.

By way of introduction, I’ve been lucky enough to lead several teams to multiple awards success over the course of my career and I’ve been fortunate enough to win a number of personal awards too.

In 2017, my team at Loughborough University brought home over 30 major awards including a CASE Circle of Excellence Award (featured in this handy best practice guide from the CIPR), CIPR Pride Awards, PRCA and PRCA Dare Awards an IoIC National Award, an UnAward and multiple Heist Awards to name but a few.

You can find a link to my presentation here but the start point is to really think about why you’re entering. There are a range of reasons for submitting awards (and I cover some of them on my slides) but the key reasons we enter is to help benchmark and improve our work to help us continuously improve.  The sheer rigour of the process – and the reflection involved if you’re not a reflective person (I’m not!) – is a great source of learning. It makes you think about SMART objectives, metrics, ROI (return on investment)/ VFM (value for money), what went well, what you could improve … but it also helps you to maximise time and the skills across your team optionally.

If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at https://awards-list.co.uk/ for an idea of what kinds of awards may be relevant to your organisation.

It’s incredibly important to be strategic and to link projects and campaigns very clearly to both organisational strategy and objectives and to your KPIs. It goes without saying that you need decent projects and creative ideas. Again, the CIPR have a great back catalogue of award-winning case studies to get you thinking.

It’s critical to ensure your plan is robust, well articulated and has great SMART objectives. Many PR and marketing awards have very similar sections so nailing the way you plan, monitor and evaluate your projects early will allow you to respond with the facts, figures and evidence that judges rightly expect.

My presentation included a few examples of award-winning projects from Loughborough University but ultimately, one of the reasons we’ve been successful has been our ability to clearly demonstrate ROI and VFM. If you’re unsure, have a quick look at this video the Heist Awards team produced a few years ago. Being transparent in terms of costs, budgets and impacts is critical.

I have been fortunate to judge a wide range of awards over the years, and that’s great learning in itself, so get involved if you have the opportunity.

A brilliant blog from Stephen Waddington entitled “Confessions of a public relations industry award judge“ is an absolute must-read and echoes much of my own experience. From proofing and following instructions to pragmatic category choices, Stephen covers key points to have in mind when you’re pulling together an entry.

Our approach at Loughborough pulls all of these strands together alongside a campaign tracker approach that allows us to keep all relevant information – from SMART objectives and outcomes to supporting evidence and visuals – in one place. It’s a useful way to spot gaps but also to build a team wide, systematic approach that allows us to build and blueprint success.

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