A winning approach to PR awards

I’ve worked on hundreds of PR award entries over the last decade – not just formatting and submitting them but also editing them to better meet entry criteria and gently reminding (OK, politely nagging!) teams for content to ensure deadlines are met!

All award programmes supply entry kits with advice on what judges are looking for and what your entry submission needs to include, but here are a few extra tips from me on how to ensure a smooth process.

1) Dry run = home run!

Don’t just read through the entry kit for details of what to include in your submission.  Entries submitted via an online portal can often throw up additional requirements.  

For example, it’s only when you start uploading your CIPR Award entries that you’re told campaign titles can only be up to eight words.  Or that supporting materials for the SABRE EMEA Awards can only be submitted via a non-expiring link from a file hosting service such as Dropbox.    

So make time to run through the online portal in advance to ensure you have all the required elements. You don’t want to be scrabbling around for info – or creating Dropbox accounts! – when deadlines are looming. 

2) Word up!

Sounds obvious but make sure you’ve noted any word limits and stick to it!  I’ve been handed several entries to finalise where the author didn’t – cue a frantic editing session on deadline day!

Some awards will let you go 10% over the stated word limit – but do contact them to check this – but this isn’t possible for all.  Awards that require you to type copy into text boxes on an online portal physically won’t let you go over the word limit.  

3) The magic number!

The PR awards season usually kicks off with the PRmoment Awards in January. I find that many clients then use this entry as the basis for further awards in the year – obviously adapting the copy to the specific criteria of each awards programme.

Even though the word limit for the PRmoment Awards is 1,250, try to get as close to 1,000 as possible. This is the magic number that many other awards have as their word limit, so if you aim for this from the start, it should mean less editing headaches further down the line.  

4) If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

If it’s all going belly-up and you’ve more chance of winning the lottery than meeting the deadline then contact the award organisers.  They’re an understanding bunch and I’ve seen extra 24 and 48 hr extensions offered.

But get in contact with them before 5pm on deadline day. Whilst many award organiser do camp at their desks all evening to answer queries, best to iron out any deadline issues during office hours when they are guaranteed to be contactable.

5) Picture perfect!

You inevitably have to upload at least one hi-res image with your entry – and these must be photos rather than press cuttings.

However, some campaigns just don’t have any official imagery – think campaigns based around consumer research where the main output is a press release.  In these cases, award organisers usually accept a relevant stock image instead – eg a generic internet image for a campaign on Brits’ internet usage.

There are several sites offering copyright and royalty free images – see this blog post for examples – but do double check if there are any usage restrictions which mean they aren’t suitable to use with your award submission.  The image could be used in a variety of ways including on the award’s website, on its social feeds, in on-the-night presentations and in any awards brochures. 

If you’d like support on your next award entry – from researching options and formatting entries, to managing the whole process – then get in touch!

Are you looking for an at-a-glance summary of UK PR awards?

Whilst it’s possible to source details of PR awards from some business awards intel suppliers, I’ve produced a more curated list perfect for PRs.  

My PR Awards Companion features the main UK PR awards (national and regional), marketing awards with PR categories, social/digital/content awards, plus several niche sector awards.

The at-a-glance guide summarises useful up-front info including deadline and entry fee ranges, if submissions require production of an entry doc or simply text inputted into an online entry portal, plus links to award websites.  

Available to buy for just £15 – a fraction of the cost your time is worth to do the research yourself!  

Email hello@kategannon.co.uk for more info/to purchase a copy.   

NB: The document is based on 2022 info but will be regularly updated with 2023 details as award programmes release info. 

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