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Spotlight on Awards Ceremonies – From the organisers

close up of the trophy in front of chalkboard

There’s a plethora of awards out there for us as digital marketers to enter as Sam has handily rounded up here, but I thought I’d delve a bit deeper to talk to some of the organisers and judges to see how they work and what makes a winning entry for them.

This post is the first in a two-part series firstly talking to some of the organisers about the reasons they started the awards, how they select judges and their favourite categories.

Why did you start the awards?

Nicky Wake, Managing Director at Don’t Panic Events

Don’t Panic work on around 25 awards annually, many of them for clients such as PRmoment, JustGiving and the NHS but we also manage a number of own brand events such as the UK Social Media Communications Awards and the UK, European & US Search Awards.

The social media and search awards came about because there was nothing at the time that celebrated the amazing work and talent in those areas. When we launched Don’t Panic a decade ago we were involved in lots of the early online PR and digital conferences so we feel like we’ve grown up alongside both industries.

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum

At The Drum we host over 20 award shows, all aimed at different markets such as digital, design, social, mobile, etc.   Each awards program is motivated by what we believe will deliver the best value to the industry, and we make an effort in talking to a range of individuals beforehand to fully understand how we can help and the role we can play.  We also believe in involving those people in a range of aspects such as what categories we will run.  Given we are fully representative of the whole marketing communications ecosystem, we make a lot of effort to cover and promote the key markets.

Clare Hill, Managing Director at The CMA (The Content Marketing Association Limited)

6 years ago – to represent the most exciting category in the marketing mix.

How do you select your judges?

Nicky Wake, Managing Director at Don’t Panic Events

Passion for the industry is essential and we look for someone who’s well respected and has the expertise and objectivity that’s needed to judge other people’s work.

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum

Recruiting judges is one of the most crucial elements of the awards process so that naturally means much time and care is taken in selecting the right experts.  We identify the jury using a whole range of methods – our own knowledge of the market, speaking with our editorial team and recommendations from contacts in the industry. Sometimes we come across individuals online too.  To make an awards jury work we require a varying range of skills so all of that is taken into account when bringing together what we hope will be a stellar panel.

Here’s an article I wrote that explains our judging process.

Clare Hill, Managing Director at The CMA

We have 3 rounds of judging for the International Content Marketing Awards.

  1. The first round is judged by 60 individuals peer-to-peer from a selection of agencies whom have submitted entries into the awards. This selection process takes the 500 or so submitted entries down to a list of nominations. We have 20 categories in total each with a shortlist of 10 nominations each. The Grand Prix, is chosen from the winner of all the winners from across the categories.
  2. The second stage of the judging process is by Senior Marketing Directors and Heads of Business whom are not affiliated to the cma or any of the entries, this enables our awards to be one of the most objective in the world because judging is by generalist marketing experience as opposed to a particular industry or sector. For example last year we had David Stratton, Head of Marketing TV & Sport, BT, Julia Herd, Global VP Communications, HTC. Julia Monro, Head of Social Media & PR, Pret a Manger. Tiffanie Darke, Creative Content Director, News UK. Ben Ayers, Head of Consumer Communications, TalkTalk and Sophie Wybrew- Bond, Global Head of Publishing, Marks & Spencer to name just a few.
  3. The Grand Prix is judged by 6 industry leads which last year included Arif Durani the Editor for Campaign magazine and Lisa Tookey, Global Commercial Director, Jamie Oliver Ltd.


Which category or awards ceremony do you find the most interesting?

Nicky Wake, Managing Director at Don’t Panic Events

Any category that throws up something innovative and unexpected that makes everybody’s jaw drop and raises the bar.

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum

The Grand Prix has to be the most exciting category in any awards show as it’s recognising the best of the best.  This is where the real debates begin as jurors passionately fight the corner of their favourite entry.  Often it can be heated and intense but the democratic nature of the judging ensures the best man wins, so to speak.  In terms of award shows, I have got so many favourites for so many reasons.  Each year we produce new events so they take some of the limelight and become the ‘new babies’ but if I was forced to choose I’d say the Dadi Awards (Drum Awards for Digital Industries), which is celebrating its 10th year this year.   We are also producing an awards show for the first time ever in the USA called The Drum Digital Trading Awards, so that is pretty exciting!

Clare Hill, Managing Director at The CMA

Content Marketing is both channel and platform agnostic so it covers every part of the marketing mix which makes it one of the most interesting awards in Industry. For example the majority of submissions are for content strategies across Mobile, Online, Social, Print and Video. The fastest growing award category is for Best Video which last year was won by Almighty and American Agency who produced winning client work for New Balance.

What do you think are the ingredients for a successful entry?

Nicky Wake, Managing Director at Don’t Panic Events

Great work, a well written entry, strong evidence based results and showing our judges something new.

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum

You’ve got two types of entries – a creative one and a report based one which looks at strategy.  The creative ones are trickier as it really is down to the eye of the beholder (i.e. the judges) and as we know, creatives are extremely head-strong on what makes an amazing piece of creative.  However, report based entries are very different because it’s down to the content and quality of the submission and as long as you can prove you achieved your objectives with solid results and innovation then you’re in with a good shout.  My biggest piece of advice is to get the executive summary right because this is where you grasp the attention of the judges straight away.  Here’s an article I’ve written on writing an awards report.

Clare Hill, Managing Director at The CMA

The ICMA’s are the only awards based on effectiveness. The majority of marketing awards are based on ‘creativity’ whereas our awards are awarded on a points system and 60% of the points are based on effectiveness results.

SOD- award winning campaigns

What benefits do you see for companies being shortlisted or winning the awards?

Nicky Wake, Managing Director at Don’t Panic Events

I think winning an award says great things about your work and your team, winning awards raises your profile and helps you win new business and clients. Rubbing shoulders on a great shortlist is also quite an achievement.

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum

Winning awards or just being shortlisted for that matter speaks volumes for any business.  The benefits are endless but here’s a few important ones:

  • Retaining clients.  Everyone likes to be a winner and be associated with winners/serious contenders.
  • It gives a sense of pride and achievement for everyone, including your staff – who at the end of the day are your biggest asset
  • Attracts top staff – being aligned with an award winning business is a major draw for those looking at their next move
  • Offers inspiration.  It inspires us to do better and to keep producing top quality work
  • That’s what makes most of us tick and it can land you a new job, promotion or pay-rise if you make a name for yourself
  • Just being shortlisted alone still gives you that rubber stamp of approval from the awards show so that should be shouted about too
  • Awards make you famous and fame can attract fortune

Clare Hill, Managing Director at The CMA

The international reach of the ICMA’s demonstrates how global these awards truly are with over 500 entries from across 20 countries. This is world class content marketing and winning one of these awards demonstrates Global Best Practice and all the gravitas a business can earn from such an increase in industry reputation. It’s money can’t buy industry recognition and approval which ultimately translates into more new business.



Laura Crimmons is Communications Director at digital marketing agency Branded3 overseeing their Digital PR, Outreach and Social Media offering.