Winning content awards is a valuable tool for businesses to demonstrate the value of content, both internally and externally. For agencies, awards act as an endorsement for the quality of work and proof that it has had the desired impact.
But work rarely just ‘wins’ an award. Before the trophy comes a strategic decision on the best-suited award programme for your business and, within that, the category where your content will shine brightest. Then comes writing the entry, which often comes with strict structural guidelines. To win big in UK content awards, you need a strategy.
As the most awarded agency of our kind in the UK, we understand the value an award win brings, and the effort the whole entry process takes. We’ve won 160 content marketing and creative awards in the past decade and we have our finger on the pulse of the content marketing industry – here are our golden rules for success.
Read the entry guide
There’s a reason awards programmes make a point of this every year. Businesses and agencies continue to submit entries that miss the mark. Entry guides provide clear-cut instructions on what should be included (different categories often have different requirements) and how the entry process works (in some programmes you’ll need to design a PDF, in others you’ll upload imagery and copy into a set template). As important is their summary of various entry deadlines (there are usually multiple dates, with the earlier ones offering some form of discount) and entry fees, which will be integral in building your award calendar and budget.
Identify your best use cases of content
You’ll know award-worthy content when you see it, whether it’s innovative corporate video or strategically written articles. Shoe-horning an average piece of content into an award programme isn’t going to be worth your time. (Look at previous winners of The Drum content awards – there’s nothing average here.) Find the content that showcases excellence and innovation, and has met its objectives. Everyone else you’re competing against will have done this, so below-par content simply won’t make the cut.
Tell a story
You’ll know your work inside out, but the judges won’t. Don’t ever presume they’ll know who the client or business is or what they do. You’ll need to include information about the business, the challenges faced and the target audience. The award-winning work we’ve done for waste-to-product company Renewi is a good example – in our entries it’s been especially important to communicate the role of Renewi in contributing towards a circular economy. Judges will also want to understand the campaign’s process and various stages of creation, to see how you got from the idea to the end product. But avoid sounding like Wikipedia. Instead, think of the entry like a new piece of work. The brief: bring your story to life, positioning the mission and purpose of your content at the fore.
Show proof of success
Even if you know a particular campaign is some of your best work, if you don't have the data to prove it, it's unlikely to win a content marketing award. When we won an award for our inclusive capitalism content campaign with Legal & General, the judges described it as “a great entry with strong results”, because we included data that aligned with objectives and client testimonials. If you're entering a social media campaign, you'll likely need data on impressions, click-throughs and engagement rate. If it's a web-based content campaign, it will probably be page views, visitors and dwell time. For print content it's harder, but reader surveys will strengthen an entry.
For marketing awards, proof of success becomes redundant without objectives. So towards the start of your entry, clearly outline what the aims and objectives were. Then, when it comes to proof of success, ensure the data you choose aligns with the objectives. If one of your objectives was to increase the engagement rate on LinkedIn, and you tell the judges about an increase in followers, you’re using up the word count delivering irrelevant information. For example, when building the flow app for Deutsche Bank, our objective was to achieve 3,000 downloads in the first five months – which we achieved in just three. This is the sort of data that does extremely well in award entries and, as such, this app is multi-award-winning.
Showcase stunning visuals
In most cases your entry will need accompanying visuals. The time taken to identify these visuals is as important as the time taken to write the entry itself. Accompanying imagery, videos or animation validate what you’ve written. It’s by choosing the appropriate imagery that we’ve received judges’ feedback like “a beautiful piece of content” for our award-winning work on the RSA Journal.
To call yourself an award winner, whether as an agency or in-house team, you need both a content success story and a thorough and strategic award entry process. But together, these are the ingredients for demonstrating value. Value in the content itself, value in the business or agency, and value in knowing you’ve produced something that’s been recognised as excellence in its field.
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