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Jul 9, 2024

The ultimate guide for running marketing & PR awards

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If there is someone who knows the true value of brand awareness and the positive buzz that come with winning an award, it is the marketing and PR industry. That’s why nothing less than perfect would do when it comes to organizing marketing and PR awards. To that end, we’ve prepared this guide that will help you run marketing and PR awards relatively stress-free in what is notoriously a high-stress industry. Read on! 

Keep your eyes on the goal  

Setting the right goals and working from the ground up is where you should start. Chances are that when you first started thinking about the idea of marketing and PR awards, you already had an idea of your goals but let’s take a look at some ideas that you can build your awards on. 

  • Recognizing industry achievements — by definition, PR and marketing experts often work behind the scenes and awards are an excellent way to bring them to the forefront and get the recognition they deserve. Ground-breaking marketing campaigns, exceptional storytelling, revamping a brand, reviving a public image — those are just a few examples of the tens, if not hundreds of PR and marketing achievements that you can opt to recognize. 
  • Recognizing the top industry influencers or contributors this is another way to recognize the magicians behind the scenes, focusing on the overall achievements of individuals or agencies rather than specific campaigns. 
  • Promoting best marketing & PR practices — apart from achievements, you can also choose to celebrate the practices that lead to high-impact achievements, along with those promoting a sustainable and inclusive working environment in this competitive industry. 
  • Raising awareness about a particular cause this is another type of awards program that can be done to the benefit of the PR and marketing community. You can use the awards to raise awareness about a global or a local issue.

Naturally, regardless of the main goal of your awards, your program could benefit your organization specifically, be it through growing your network and raising awareness about your own brand, as well as increasing your revenue, especially if you opt to organize a paid awards program. 

Choosing the right type of awards 

Having set your goals will help you fine-tune the type of awards you want to organize. Let’s take a look at some viable options for PR and marketing awards programs. 

  • Project-based awards — e.g., a competition-like program where an agency submits a specific marketing/PR project or campaign which is then put up for jury evaluation based on a set of criteria. You can also use this type of program to recognize best practices by adjusting the criteria accordingly. 
  • An industry index or a powerlist — this is an excellent choice if you wish to recognize industry influencers. You can opt to make it individual- or agency-based, for example, The most influential marketing professionals in Boston or The best PR agencies in the Pacific Northwest.  
  • A versatile awards program — you can opt to organize a more comprehensive program that features a combination of project-based categories, as well as overall contributions by agencies, teams, and individuals.

Whichever type you decide to go with, it would necessitate the right awards management software that can streamline your workflow. 

Free vs. paid PR & marketing awards 

The next major decision regarding your PR or marketing awards program is whether to make it free or paid. Since both options come with their own set of risks and benefits, having set your goals and program type will help you make the right decision, choosing between: 

  • Paid awards — charging entry fees makes a lot of sense if your program is more industry and project-focused. Participating agencies are more likely to see your awards as higher-value and your program has a better chance of drawing in more high-quality entries, with agencies more motivated to put in the effort since they have invested money to participate in your program. 
  • Free awards — if you have decided to opt for an index or a powerlist, it might make more sense to make the nominations free. Also, if you are focused on supporting a cause, free awards would cater better to those goals. Note, however, that with free awards you might not get as many submitted entries (since people are likely to register but never submit since they won’t lose any money) as you would with paid awards.   
  • A mix of paid and free categories — this concept gives you some leeway to include project-based paid categories and free ones that are focused on best practices or are supporting a cause. While this will complicate your process logistically a bit, opting for the right awards software can easily take care of any such hassle.  

Timing is everything  

PR and marketing professionals are notoriously busy so a lot of consideration needs to be put in picking the right time to ensure the highest entry levels. Remember to plan for the following phases

  • Registration — this is when you will have agencies and individuals sign up for your awards and if your awards are paid, the most suitable time to collect entry fees
  • Submission — during this period, those who have registered for your program prepare and submit their entries. This phase can partially overlap with the registration phase (for example, you can allow people to submit their entries as soon as they have registered for your program, rather than have them wait). 
  • Evaluation — this is the time dedicated to your awards jury (and/or public voters) who will evaluate the entries submitted during the previous phase. 
  • Winners announcement and/or awards ceremony — the moment when you announce the results and winners, be it just revealing the results online or holding an awards ceremony. 

Given the above, consider the following factors when planning those phases: 

  • Make sure that your submission phase does not fall in peak season for the marketing and PR industry since this is the most time-consuming phase for your applicants. 
  • The above applies to the evaluation phase as well since your jury members are also likely to be part of the PR and marketing industry. You can, however, sidestep this issue with a larger pool of jury members so that individual judges are not overwhelmed by evaluating too many entries.  

What to budget for  

Naturally, organizing PR and marketing awards is not free, especially if you want to make an impact on this industry which is harder to impress than most. While some elements are optional, here’s the must-haves: 

  • Awards management software — while technically it is possible to organize awards with spreadsheets, in this day and age, having to manually input information into cells, figuring out how to make the entries jury-friendly, and quadruple-checking your calculations to prevent mistakes in the results is just not worth it. Investing in an awards software solution will not only cut any menial tasks out of the equation but will also help your program project the right image to this industry where image is everything.  
  • Marketing budget — it goes without saying that you need to plan for marketing your awards, with the exact budget depending on the channels you have chosen to market your awards to your target audience.   
  • Winner announcement or an awards ceremony — this is the culmination of your program. Naturally, if you opt to organize an awards ceremony, the final bill will be larger, especially for a physical ceremony. At the very least, plan for a winner announcement and a place where you can showcase awards and winners, be it on your website or elsewhere. Note that in some cases, this might be included in the awards management software you have chosen. 

How to finance your awards program  

Given the above, you should have a firm plan in place on how to finance your awards program. In addition to relying on your marketing budget, you also have the following options: 

  • Entry fees — it goes without saying that this is only an option if you are going the paid awards route. 
  • Sponsors & partners — you can opt to find one or more sponsors or partners for your awards, who can pitch in to share the cost of organizing the awards in return for featuring their branding in all marketing materials and the awards website, including awards certificates and other digital assets for winners, newsletters, etc., as well as other perks and free services provided by your company. 

Usually, a mix of several methods is the best way to go, diversifying your program financing and maximizing your awards’ ROI potential. 

Find the right jury 

To run successful marketing and PR awards, you need a jury of top experts in the field who will boost the credibility and reputation of your awards. Ideally, they will also act as ambassadors for your awards and spread the word to their own networks. So, how do you go about finding the right jury? 

  • Reach out to renowned experts in the field, starting with heads of PR and marketing associations and other industry organizations. Consider C-level executives of big agencies (or smaller, well-respected boutique outfits). Then, ask renowned journalists, and influencers, and don’t forget to check university professors and academics in the field of marketing and public relations. 
  • You can also offer a jury panel seat to all your partners and sponsors in the awards program. Do make a note, however, to get a representative with a top-level position. 
  • Always ask more people to join your jury panel than you think you will need — this way, you won’t have to worry if some of them refuse outright or drop at a later stage but also, each judge will have fewer entries to evaluate, meaning, they won’t be overwhelmed.  
  • Given the above, if you do invite agency executives, consider if those agencies are also target applicants for your awards. If so, consider what steps to take to insulate your awards from potential conflict of interest, such as asking your jury to agree to specific terms and conditions, as well as assigning the categories in such a way so that you don’t have anyone evaluating the entries of their own agency.

Regardless of your final jury setup, make sure to provide a top-notch experience to your judges. PR and marketing experts are not easy to impress, but winning them over will certainly pay off since they will be more likely to recommend your awards and return to the jury panel for subsequent editions.  

Set clear evaluation criteria 

While it is your jury that will evaluate the entries, setting the guidelines for said evaluation falls onto your organization. Here’s how to lay the foundation for a solid evaluation basis: 

  • Selecting the right voting type. Naturally, the choice of an evaluation type would depend on your program. That said if you are going with project/campaign-based awards, the most common option would be score voting where judges award a certain amount of points for a set of criteria. Then, if you are running an index or a powerlist, having a simpler style of voting, such as picking several options as the best, would be the better option. 
  • Defining the voting criteria. If you have decided on criteria-based score voting, you need to define the criteria, be it the creativity or concept of a project, its execution, content or message delivered through the campaign, as well as results/ROI achieved. Select three or four criteria and decide on how much weight you want to put on each one. 
  • Clearly communicating eligibility rules and criteria. Make sure your criteria will be clear and available for reference to both your applicants and jury members at all stages of the awards program. That means your website, as well as the applicant and judging space, regardless of the awards management platform you decide to go with.  

Plan on benefits for the winners

Naturally, when running marketing and PR awards, you have to not only recognize winners but also provide them with all the marketing tools they need to spread the word about their success, including:  

  • Trophies — the most classic option, a physical trophy is the go-to perk for winners and an absolute must if you opt to organize an awards ceremony. Even without a dedicated ceremony, a trophy is also a good choice since winners can display it in their office, do an unboxing video, etc. Make sure that your trophy is stylish and impressive, and consider producing it from eco-friendly materials.    
  • Certificates trophies or no trophies, online certificates are an absolute must. Naturally, they should be printable so that your winners can frame and display them in their office space.  
  • Other digital assets — in addition to the certificate, you need to prepare other digital assets for your winners, including seals for their website, email signatures, social media visuals, press and blog templates, printable badges — pretty much anything you can think of to help winners market their success. 

In addition to the perks that you are giving to your winners, plan on how to spread the word about their success, including showcasing their winning online (on your website or elsewhere), promoting them across your social media channels, sending out press releases to media outlets, dedicating newsletters, etc.

Post-awards strategy 

While sometimes an overlooked element of awards, it’s important to remember that an awards program is not over as soon as the winners are announced. Especially if you wish to make your program a regular occurrence, there are some things that you can do to keep the momentum going until you are ready to launch the next edition of your awards: 

  • Post-awards analysis — this is essential regardless of whether you plan to launch a new edition. Analyzing your awards and categories’ performance and identifying strong and weak points will help you make better decisions going forward in any case and grow your next program if you do wish to proceed with your awards. 
  • Surveys for participants and jury members — asking both your entrants and your jury for feedback can benefit you in two ways, namely, by getting tips on how to improve your awards and processes, and showing all parties that you care about their opinion. Naturally, if you do get any applicable tips, you can implement them in the next edition of your program. 
  • Ask winners for videos and share them — this way, you can both give another option for winners to market their achievements and secure video content for your social media. You can also consider sharing other types of content about your awards, such as blog posts about top projects, interviews with winners and jury members, etc., to keep the momentum going.  
  • Post-awards report with the most notable entries — you can prepare a report with an overview of the most impressive projects and publish it as a way to attract more attention to both winners and your program. 

Choose the right tools to help you out 

All of the above can be an absolute nightmare to organize and run. That is why you need awards management software that will streamline the whole process, take care of all mundane tasks, and leave you plenty of time to focus on perfecting your program and, of course, marketing it. Such a solution can help you with: 

  • Registrations and payments 
  • Collecting and managing entries
  • Automating applicant and jury communication  
  • Entry evaluation  
  • Calculating results 
  • Announcing winners 
  • Analyzing the awards’ success

While most awards management platforms can technically help you with the above to some extent and save you time (compared to spreadsheets), they are hardly made equal, meaning, you need to choose the one that is the most suitable for your industry. Let’s see why you’re at the right place.     

What makes Evalato the top marketing & PR awards software choice

Evalato not only streamlines your program from beginning to end, freeing up time and resources but also has the usability and branding power needed to make your marketing and PR awards program a smashing success, boosting your reputation and image in the process. Let’s see how.  

  • Fast launch — Evalato’s pre-configured customizable templates make for the industry’s fastest launch times, while the software’s enhanced category structure easily accommodates even the most complex of requirements. Re-launch is even faster, thanks to Evalato’s one-click clone functionality.   
  • Seamless registration and payment — Evalato offers a ready-made registration webpage for your awards program where you can easily display sponsor and partners logos. And if you prefer to keep entrants on your website rather than send them on a registration quest, Evalato has you covered with an embeddable registration form that you can integrate into your website with just a couple of clicks. Regardless of which option you go with, the awards management software supports a variety of secure payment options, as well as promo codes and special offers to help you market your awards.     
  • State-of-the-art applicant experience — Evalato’s intuitive application form builder lets you ask your entrants for any element you need to see, be it a video, a gallery of images, or a media embed. Your entrants meanwhile get to submit all those through Evalato’s sleek applicant portal whose ease of use is bound to appeal to the notoriously busy PR and marketing professionals, saving them time, while the option to save an application as draft and submit only when ready will aid them on their quest for perfectionism.    
  • The most versatile evaluation process — supporting 6 voting types, as well as unlimited voting rounds and judges, Evalato caters to any evaluation scenario. The industry-favorite score voting meanwhile is customizable and further enhanced with score normalization, a unique feature that removes any unintentional bias. Your awards jury will meanwhile be impressed by Evalato’s user-friendly judging portal, accessible from any device, where you can upload the evaluation criteria for easy reference, as well as terms and conditions or a non-disclosure agreement. 
  • Options to recognize winners — you can opt to showcase results and winners on Evalato’s ready-made webpage, giving them the recognition they deserve, complete with votes and jury comments, depending on your preferences. You can additionally create tags for winners that you can make visible to the public.  

Given the above, it’s no surprise that Evalato is the awards software of choice for global as well as local competitions that focus on creativity, innovation, and brand recognition such as the Effies, PRSA awards, Eventex Awards, BAPRA awards, the Canadian Event Awards, to name a few.

Evalato was one of the main tools that contributed to the great increase in number of registrants, entries and revenue. The marketing tools it offers match perfectly our marketing strategy and helped us tons to achieve the impressive results from last edition. Everything was easy to set up, looked sleek on the registration form and what’s most important – works! The fact that Evalato made everything so quick and easy for our applicants is also a major reason for our success this year! Grigor Karaivanov, Project Manager at Eventex Awards, the world’s leading international events and experience marketing awards. 

Learn more about how Evalato helped Eventex Awards become the biggest global event awards. 

At the end of the day 

PR & marketing awards are a great idea and if done well, can deliver multiple benefits for the organizer. While running such a competition can be a bit of a challenge, Evalato can help you every step of the way. Set up a free account (no credit card required) to see how it works, or book a call with a customer success specialist to get all your questions answered.

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