When I first started out in the agency world as the low man on the totem pole, it was often my job to organize our team’s applications to various marketing, public relations, and creative award competitions. While I do not think you should be designing your marketing programs to win awards (please design for results!), programs like the PRSA Silver Anvil Awards or the American Marketing Association (AMA) Awards are still more than just busy work for 23 year olds.
Here are three reasons why industry competitions are worth your time:
They show us what good looks like
Most award applications have three key components – objectives, execution, and results. If nothing else, just thinking through the application process is an excellent exercise in how to approach most projects in the business world. But reading through past winners is also a fantastic way to quickly learn what great looks like in any given industry. Just started a new job? Find the most relevant industry competition that you can and read the winning submissions from the past three years. Now you know where to begin. Been in your job for a while? Do the same thing, and use those ideas as a springboard to supercharge your next brainstorming session.
They document your success
In the best competitions, anyone can apply and win… even smaller teams, new companies, etc. Theoretically, an independent third party judges all submissions and the best project wins. We all agree that the winning submissions are the best of the best and the winners walk away with an award they can point to as proof of their success.
To be clear, I say “theoretically” because I’m anticipating commenters who point out that certain large agencies with friends on the judging panel (or very large budgets) sometimes seem to win all of the awards. That may or may not be true in some competitions or some industries, but I hold out hope that a really amazing submission will still get the recognition it deserves. Call me optimistic.
They inspire new greatness
Those of us who have applied to PR or marketing awards in the past know that the biggest agencies have the bandwidth to really get serious about their applications – putting more time and effort into pulling them together than some smaller agencies can afford. But in a way, that’s ok. Let’s be competitive! As long as success is always tied to results, coming up with a sexy campaign that blows its objectives out of the water is always a good thing. And if the big firms inspire a few smaller or new firms to jump in and play with the big boys, then bring them on! That exactly how it is supposed to work. Good results should, again theoretically, always shine beyond the binder they are presented in.
So if you are a 23-year-old newbie who is sweating through your first award application, try to enjoy the process. Even if it feels like you are being punished, you are doing an important thing. Read up on past applications and put your best foot forward. You’ll learn from the process and in a few years, someone else can help 😉
And if you are in charge with coming up with a list of competitions to apply to, HubSpot and AwardsList UK have done your work for you:
Check out HubSpot’s list here (marketing focused)
Check out all of the AwardsList links here (wider range of awards)