Everything you need to know about writing winning award entries (and what to do when you’ve won!)
Phil Bray 0:00
Good morning, everybody. And welcome to today’s webinar. It’s 10 o’clock, so we’ll make a start. Hopefully everybody can hear me. So if just do a soundcheck, everyone could just put a little note in the chat to say that you can hear us that will be great. As I say, welcome to February’s webinar. And today, we’re gonna be talking about awards, and more specifically, everything you need to know about writing winning entries. And then equally importantly, what to do after you’ve won, what to do after you’ve been successful. But in time-honoured tradition, we’re going to start with a bit of housekeeping. I’m going to introduce Dan. For those of you who don’t know, who’s not been on one of our webinars before, keeps us on the straight and narrow. Dan, do you just want to talk and introduce yourself? Let everyone know what we can expect today.
Dan Campbell 0:53
Yeah, sure thing. Hello, I’m Dan. Thank you everybody for confirming the soundcheck. I think that’s probably the most answers we’ve ever got. I think everybody on the call answered that. So thank you for that. So I’m Dan, I’m Head of Branding and Design here at The Yardstick Agency. And today, I’ll be Phil’s extremely glamorous assistant, which means I’ll be doing two things. The first is making sure that everything’s running smoothly and keeping us on track and on time, I suppose that’s the most important thing. So if our sound cuts out or Phil catches fire or something, just let us know in the chat and we’ll do what we can. The second thing is I’ll be reading out your questions so that Phil and Lee can answer them. So, if you’re a webinar regular and, looking at the list, quite a few of you are, as Phil mentioned, you know that these sessions work better with plenty of input. So don’t be afraid to get stuck in, we’re not afraid to be challenged. And frankly, we like a good chat with you guys. So there are two ways you can do that. Either ask them in the chat function that everybody’s familiar with, because everybody’s sound checked us, or the little Q&A box at the bottom there. I’ll be monitoring both. And every now and then where convenient, I’ll be asking a few of those questions. And I’ll be, you know, saving a couple till the end as well to sweep any final ones up. So it’s a safe space. There are no silly questions, I promise. Well, there are, but you know. I guarantee if you’re thinking it, somebody else is, so don’t be shy. And the question we usually get asked, so I’ll answer it first and foremost, we’ll absolutely be sending the recording of this out after the session. So if you miss anything or want to revisit it, you absolutely can. So in the follow up email that Phil sends across, there’ll be a link to a YouTube video. So you can watch that at your leisure. So without further ado, let me introduce our special guest today, Lee Robertson of the financial services community, Octo. I’m going to be cheeky and I’ll start with the first question today. It’ll be, maybe, the easiest you’ll be asked, Lee, could you tell us a little bit more about your career in financial services and what Octo does for those that don’t know?
Lee Robertson 3:01
Yeah, sure. Hi, Dan. Morning, everyone. My career in financial services, crikey. I left the Royal Navy about 1990. I was going to be joining a department of the civil service and they were mucking around the start dates. So, back then, barrier to entry was much much lower. And I ended up joining a direct sales company selling financial services products. And that’s what it was. Selling, commission-based, good training, lasted about a year there. Then went mortgage broking and then went bank insurance. So then, by then, I sort of worked out, I think, in my head that if I did everything, probably, the opposite of the way those companies were doing it, I might have a decent, decent chance of being a good independent financial adviser. So started to practice back then, sold it five years later to my business partner, and started a fee-based financial planning practice, investment forum, sold that out to the rest of the team about three, three and a half years ago and founded Octo at the same time, which, also for those who don’t know, is a community which has a pretty singular aim, although, there are 8, hence Octo. It’s to showcase good people, good thinking, good practice, hopefully, leading to us all doing things a little bit better, very much, very much like this webinar. We curate and aggregate other people’s content plus we create our own and we’re forever interviewing with people and getting panel debates together and showing people a bit of the thinking that’s going on across financial services. It’s maybe a little bit different in that it’s not just comprised of financial planners, there are wealth managers and power planners and investment professionals in there as well. Marketing people and all the … of Octo and what we do so that’s us in a nutshell, membership is free. All of our CPD content is free. We’re huge believers because of, I guess, my background, we’re huge believers, as I know Yardstick is, of the value of great financial advice and financial planning. So we have a free membership, free CPD model, I think to date, something like 600, over 600 videos featuring practitioners trotting them out, about what they do, why they do it, etc. So I’ll shut up there and let you get into it!
Phil Bray 5:12
Thank you, Lee. And in the follow up email, we’ll put a link to the signup page for Octo for those people who want to know more about it. It’s a fabulous forum and I can highly recommend it. So, awards, what are we going to be talking about today? Well, we are going to be, we’re gonna be talking about the eight things you can do to create a winning entry. We’re going to reveal, with Lee’s help, the five things that really annoy judges and reduce your chance of winning. Then, we’re gonna start talking about the awards that are worth entering and those which aren’t so it should be interesting to get Lee’s views on that. And then, most importantly, the things you should do after you’ve been shortlisted, and after you’ve won. Getting shortlisted/winning is not the end of your awards journey. There’s a lot of work to do afterwards. And as Dan says, please do question us. If there’s things that you want to know, please do put it in the chat/in the Q&A. Lee and I can hang around afterwards. We don’t want anyone to leave today without having their question answered. Please provide comment, as well, and feedback. And, as Dan says, we don’t have all the answers. So we only get better by us getting challenged and developing and iterating our views as well. So if you think we’ve got something completely wrong, please do tell us. Lee and I are big enough boys to be able to take it. So, without further ado, first things first really, do we really need to be here? Lee, can’t we just go and buy a table for an award, get drunk, go up and get our award because we bought the table? Isn’t that how it works?
Lee Robertson 6:50
No, it’s not. I see this a lot on the forums, I see a lot on Twitter. But I’m not saying that there aren’t ways to get awards. And I’m a huge… I’m very against these award farms where you get these emails that turn up saying, “oh, you’ve been specially selected, you are the leading financial planner in the UK from our desk-based research, send us three and a half thousand pounds, so you can have a logo and a bit of plastic for your cupboard.” I’m so against those, it’s untrue, and people get duped. And some of them got great names, they look pretty good, and they’re very slick. There’s even one, I think, for parliamentary review and you think that, somehow, parliament has suggested you’re good at what you do. But in terms of mainstream financial services awards, the quality ones, you just can’t do that. In fact, I’ve sat in judging chambers, where judges are trying not to give awards out because they think the standard in that region has not been good or all the calculations are wrong. I know we’re going to get into this later. So, the short answer is no, you can’t. The longer answer is there are awards around from awards farms that look pretty slick. And if you’re that way inclined, you probably could, but I don’t see the value at all, because everyone knows… Maybe your clients, in the end, what’s the point of getting a, you know, a kind of a bauble just because you bought it.
Phil Bray 8:15
And, for you, Lee, what are the key benefits to the firm of entering and winning awards? What’s the, what’s the purpose?
Lee Robertson 8:26
Okay, for me, you know, probably my … here, we were multi, multi award winning because I had a very consistent approach to entering awards. Why did I set down that path? Because it’s incredibly time consuming. The main benefits are, I think, it’s a validator for clients. Definitely, they like those. We used to get, when I was running my practice, I’m sure they still do. We got a lot of introductions from professional connections – solicitors and accountants. And it gave the solicitor or accountant something else to talk about. Because very often, solicitors particularly, would usually recommend three firms that they liked. And it looked like a differentiator and they would say, “we can recommend you to firm A, we like those, we can recommended firm B, we like those, we can recommend you to firm C, they’ve just won an award.” And somehow it helped. It’s a brand amplifier, I would say, and I know today’s not about brand but I would say it’s a brand amplifier. It looks good on your website, it gives you lots of content ideas because you – we’ll get to this later – you promote it to your clients, etc. But for me, the benefits are it allows you to battle test and sorry, I’m ex-military, this always creeps in. But it allows you to battle test who you are, what you do, how you do it, how you promote it, because you think about all that through the awards process as you collect your evidence. And it helps you tidy up bits and pieces. If they’re asking for bits of evidence, you think “oh God, that’s two years old, that needs a refresh.” You have a, kind of, refreshing process going on all the time, particularly if you’re entering multiple awards and you’re doing it annually.
Phil Bray 10:02
That’s some great stuff there. And it’s clear that entering the award and the actual process is as useful as the win itself. So if we’ve established that we can’t just shortcut this by buying a table. And that it’s worth doing, we probably, we probably should look at some of the ways to create a winning entry, if it’s worth doing. Otherwise, we’ve got a really short webinar! So let’s, let’s continue. So, for me, the first thing that an adviser or planner or firm can do is select the right awards in the right categories. Now I often see, see firms just see an award, it’s a shiny new thing, and therefore they should, they should enter it. And there isn’t much due diligence on the actual award itself. So, for me, we need to select the awards and categories that you have a chance of winning and are worth winning as well. I think this, Lee, goes back to your point of the award farm. It’s the ones that are worth winning. And, for me, when we’re helping firms to evaluate awards and evaluate categories to decide which ones they should enter. And we’ll get, we’ll have a look at the criteria, we’ll have a look at the questions. And we also go back and look at previous winners. And previous winners helps us to advise the client on whether an award is worth winning. And just also, just their chances of success as well. And we wouldn’t immediately dismiss an award or a category because we don’t think a firm can win it. Because at least there’s benefit in the process itself. But we will look at those two things – the criteria, the questions, and the previous winners – before advising a firm on whether they should enter. So I’m keen to know, Lee, when you were investment … What were the, how did you go about choosing the right awards to enter?
Lee Robertson 12:06
So, it depends what part of the business I was thinking about, and, I guess, it’s probably worth dropping in right now, but there is no shame in not entering awards. For firms that don’t want to enter awards because they’re too busy and they’ve got a steady stream of referrals from existing clients, etc, that’s absolutely fine. I just happen to have a very competitive steak brought out when I was in the armed forces. But, moving on to your actual question, how do you go about selecting the awards? Think about your own business, your own practice. Where are you strong? Are you strong in financial planning? Do you have a really good marketing function? Do you have an investment function within it? Different businesses have different processes. Do you have a passion within your business? You know, are you a B Corp? Do you believe in corporate social responsibility? Whatever those issues are because the rewards align with those. Then, the other thing I would say, do you want to go head to head with other people, you some awards are awarded just for quality entrants. So I can think of, for instance, Incisive Media, they have something called the Gold Standard Awards. That’s not a win or lose. If you meet the criteria. And it’s quite a… it’s a very demanding award, lots and lots of evidence required. But if you meet the standard, you would get an award so more than one firm win the Gold Standard Award for Financial Planning. So, have a think about that. And then, if you do like this go-up-against-other-people-thing… again, think about the categories within your own business, the disciplines within your business, that you’d like to showcase. And then, beyond that, don’t just think financial services. Financial services is very good at giving out awards. There’s reasons for that. Publishers make quite a lot of money out of tables, selling small shares, and they gather loads and loads of information that becomes a commodity. But, you know, if you have, for instance, a fantastic client education programme, or an educational programme for the children of your clients, think about going outside financial services. For a consumer educational, there are other ways. Think about, you know, customer care, customer experience and… think about… if you really do like ESG, aren’t there lots of awards right… out there right at the moment on that as the subject matter. So, have a real think about what you’re trying to achieve. If you want an award for financial planning, obviously enter financial planning.
Phil Bray 14:24
And Lee, when you entered awards… I don’t know whether you’ve done any Octo or not?
Lee Robertson 14:30
I have, yeah.
Phil Bray 14:31
How did… how did your success in a year if you won inform your decision whether you entered again the following year? Or if you didn’t win in a year, how would that affect your decision about whether to enter or not?
Lee Robertson 14:45
Okay, so it, well… the competitive nature I mentioned comes out! If you don’t win, there’s no shame because there are so many good financial planning firms, there’s bounds to be lots on this call. There is no shame in not winning. But what it does do is it gives you a reflection. You think, “okay, I’ve seen who’s won that and I wanted to win that, what is it they’re doing that I can find out in public records that would help me frame it for next year?” It’s not saying you corrupt your own process, you can’t just change it, you constantly learn… the great thing for awards is learning. The other thing is, don’t be afraid. And this is one of my biggest regrets. When I first started entering awards back in the dark ages and started to, you know, get shortlisted and win, you used to get feedback, if you’d been shortlisted, you used to get written feedback from the judges, and that was incredibly useful. It’s all gone now, unfortunately. But I still regularly take calls from people who know I’ve been on the judging panel, because most of the awards will say who the judges are, and I’m really happy to take calls and say, you know, you know, there were all sorts of reasons. Now, you don’t give away anyone else’s secret sauce, but you can certainly guide them and say, you know, “in section two, the financials, you just seemed a bit weaker, or you could have done with more detail on it”. That kind of stuff. And that’s really useful. So, the question about “if I didn’t win, would I reenter?” Yes, I would, and if I won, would I re-enter? Yes, I would. And lovely thing, sounds so immodest. We became regular, consistent, consecutive-year winners of several of the awards, because we took a huge pride in having won it, we wanted to continue to do it. There’s a danger in that, of course, you win it two or three times and… That’s been left on me a couple of times!
Phil Bray 16:37
Yeah, yeah. Something we’re battling with now! We were fortunate enough to design the websites, which won the Professional Adviser Award Best Website category last two years. And do we get anyone to enter this year? So that was an interesting dilemma. But that’s enough of the shameless plugs for our websites.
Lee Robertson 16:55
Another thing that struck me, Phil is have a think about, you know, the awards, you will know the ones that are massively, massively entered. Some of the awards have less entrants. So you may, and this is not to say… it’s not, it’s not a shortcut, it’s not a cheat. Because even the ones with smaller numbers of entries tend to have very high-quality entries. But there is less of a bunfight at the beginning to get into the longlist and then the shortlist.
Phil Bray 17:20
Yeah, that’s a great tip. And I think your tip about the judges was a fantastic tip as well. If you can track the judges down and approach them in the right way. And you’re right. I think a lot of them will talk and will explain where maybe your entry could be, could be improved. So, second tip, and this might sound really obvious. I might sound like a school teacher telling a child how to do their GCSEs or their A-Levels or whatever. Answer the question. So often, when I’ve judged awards, the answer bears no relevance to the criteria or the question. And the people writing the entry are simply just trying to get across their key points, which is understandable. But they haven’t carefully studied the criteria and the questions. So, for me, I would be answering them specifically. In your entry, repeat the question back in your answer. So you make it really clear to the judges that “we’ve read this criteria, we read the questions, and we’re answering it directly”. If you can, use subheadings that are identical to the criteria and the questions. That’s really important. You might take those out and change them to subheadings that show benefits, which we’ll talk about in a bit. But using those subheadings to link them back to the criteria and the questions, I think is another useful way of just showing the judges that you have looked at the criteria, and the questions. And then, if you can, work in your other key messages, and evidence, which we’ll come to in a second. And another little thing that I passionately believe in is that you’ve got to start each entry with a blank sheet of paper. Don’t cut and paste from previous entries you’ve done. Don’t cut and paste your Professional Adviser entry into your Money Marketing entry, to give two examples, because the criteria is not going to be the same. And then the other thing I’ve seen is firms entering multiple categories in the same award round, but copying and pasting the answers from one category to another. And it just shows “I don’t really care that much”. And as a judge, if they don’t really care that much, should I be spending that much time reading the entry? So, for me, never cut and paste. Start each entry with a blank sheet of paper, and make sure you answer the criteria and the questions. It’s so important you do that. Lee, one of the things I wanted to ask you here is how do you balace the criteria and the questions with getting your key messages in?
Lee Robertson 20:09
Okay, it’s, it’s… answer the question basically. The key messages are… and I know that sometimes, well, very often, the awards are limited in word counts and that kind of stuff. Never ever go over the word count. It annoys the judges hugely. Do an appendix or something or appendices. That’s the way around that. And judges don’t mind appendices. Follow the question, follow the format. Answer the question that’s being asked. It’s a bit like, you know, being at school during exams. Answer the actual question. I think it’s a great tip from you, Phil, about starting the answer with the question that’s being asked. And that probably wouldn’t… The judge probably wouldn’t care if that took you a few words over your word count as it helps us. If you think… often you sit there on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea with lots and lots of these, with paper strewn everywhere. I’m still not very good at reading on a screen, I find it much easier to sit down at the kitchen table, being able to follow the answers in the way that they were set out by the awards process. Definitely the way to do it.
Phil Bray 21:14
Just wondering if that cup of tea turns into something a bit stronger as you work through the entry?
Lee Robertson 21:19
Well, Sunday afternoon, it probably does!
Phil Bray 21:22
Dan, talking of questions. I think there’s one that’s come in.
Dan Campbell 21:26
Yeah. So we’ve got a great question in from Kathy. And this goes back to one of the previous slides when we talked about which awards do you enter? And you mentioned, perhaps some have got fewer entries. And Kathy asks, “what are those awards that have fewer entries?”
Lee Robertson 21:41
Okay. Thanks, Kathy. A great question. And thanks, thanks for posing it. Think about those that are available. You know, is there a marketing… For instance, is there a marketing or communications award for financial planning firms? They tend to get less, in my experience, they get less entries, because financial planning firms, they, sort of, focus on the financial planning bit. Is there an Education Award? In terms of specific awards, I mean, we were very successful with the Platform Awards, which are sponsored by Schroders. They tend to get… we won it five years in a row, our category. And I’m now a judge and have been for many years. They tend to get lower numbers of entrants although they’re incredibly, incredibly high-quality. So just because there are lower numbers of entries, that doesn’t mean to say it’s easier to win. But it might be easier to get to the longlist or shortlist. I would think about education, about marketing, about PR activity, awards that you might be doing something in the community – those tend to get less entries, maybe slightly easier to get into.
Phil Bray 22:49
Thanks Lee, that’s great. All right, so moving on. Number three, and for me, this is probably the most important of the eight. We’ll ask Lee whether he agrees in a second, but, for me, it’s probably the most important of the eight. For me, entries should follow a pattern. You answer the question and make a claim. You provide evidence and you repeat. And it’s the evidence that, for me, is so important. I judged an award category for Money Marketing last year. And I remember the entry that stood out was claim, evidence, claim, evidence. And it just literally made the entry stand out so much. And also it meant that the claims that were being made, were supported and were backed up. They weren’t spurious claims – “we’re the best, we’ve got market leading, etc”. They weren’t nebulous, spurious claims but they were specific claims that were then backed up with evidence. And the evidence for them included testimonials, it included client survey results. And it was really, really powerful. And you could see someone had really thought about how the entry was constructed. So for me, make a claim, provide evidence, and then repeat it. And some examples from the financial planning world. You claim your clients are delighted. Then demonstrate that through social proof. That might be Google reviews, might be VouchedFor reviews, might be your client survey results. There’s all sorts of things that you could put in there. If you’re growing and that’s relevant, that’s relevant to the award entry – the rate of growth, etc, then, quote the numbers, be really specific, I’d be going to a couple of decimal points, just to show that the answer is really, really specific. And, as it says on the slide, just for me, without a doubt, when I’ve been judging, the entries that have stood out, have been those that have included evidence to support the claims. And I would go as far as to say if you don’t have any evidence, you’ve got to think really carefully about whether you make the claim in the entry. Lee, what would you add to that?
Lee Robertson 25:03
I can only really concur. One thing that always strikes me is how many entries claim things like unique, unparalleled, etc, with no back up. With the best will in the world, financial planning businesses are all unique in their own way. But actually, the process is less unique. So you’ve really got to think about the evidence when you make these kind of claims. But that shouldn’t stop you being passionate about your business. And the one winning bit of sauce I would give right now is getting the passion into the entry, get the passion into the entry, but just back it up with evidence.
Phil Bray 25:41
Thank you, Lee. As we move on to number four, it isn’t just about what you say in the entry. For me, it’s about how you present it. As Lee alluded to earlier, being a judge isn’t an easy thing. It’s unpaid, you might get a seat at the ceremony, but it’s generally unpaid. Yeah. The entries can be 1000 to 2000 words long, Lee, potentially? And a long list might have 10- 12 entries in that. And then the judge may be judging more than one category. That’s a lot of entries to read. And, with the best will in the world, there is going to be an element of skim reading some of this stuff. So, for me, we’ve got to make the entries stand out. And we can learn a lot from good, good practice when it comes to writing blogs and articles and that sort of stuff. So, for me, it’s essential that you make your killer points stand out. Those points that you really want to hammer home to the judge have got to stand out. And a great way of doing that – subheadings. Our content team are passionate about writing really good quality subheadings. And your subheadings should get your key points across. To test your entry, if the only thing that’s read are the subheadings rather than the body content, does it get your killer points across? Don’t ask yourself questions in the subheadings if you can avoid it and change the subheadings so that you can show that you are answering the questions and the criteria, but also getting your killer points across. So, if somebody… if the judge just skim read it to start with, or if that’s, indeed, all they do, make sure those subheadings have got the killer points. If you can get bullet points in, do that. It’s not always the case that you can get bullet points in. Some of the online entry systems are a bit clunky and don’t allow you to get bullet points in. Sometimes you can cut and paste them across from Word but give it a go. The bullet points, I think, are useful. And then, another way of getting your killer points, is use single line sentences. Single line sentences that stand out in the paragraph above and the paragraph below are really really useful. You want a tip to make life easier? Use short sentences and paragraphs. I was always told no more than 25 words in a sentence, no more than three sentences in a paragraph. You can probably… if it’s an online entry as all these are, you can probably reduce that even further. Make sentences really short. And write simply. You don’t have to use flowery language to get your point across. So write simply and edit ruthlessly. You’ve only got so many words. And you want to use those words wisely. Each of those words should be used wisely. So avoid waffle, edit ruthlessly, and write simply, as well as making your killer points standout with good subheadings, bullet points, and single line sentences. Lee, in terms of the structure of the entry. What makes your life easy as a judge when you’re reading?
Lee Robertson 28:57
Exactly as you’ve described, short sentences with bullet points. If you can’t because of the formatting… and I’m the first… because judges struggle as much with the online systems as entrants, I think, sometimes, Phil, and you’ll be well aware of that. If you can’t use bullet points, use an asterisk. There are ways of doing it, just use a character. I thing that I got into a few years back when I was entering… because often it is very, very short what you’re trying to say. And this might sound a strange way to do it… what I started doing was putting some of my bullet points into a tweet on my system because there was a character limit of whatever it is 140 or whatever it was. I wouldn’t publish the tweet, but it rather ruthlessly kept me to the word count. So… and the thing about Twitter is it allows you to overlook word count. Then you have to edit it down and edit it down and edit it down. And for those of you who are less confident, I find that a really really good way to get things down into very, very punchy points. The other thing I do is I use Grammarly. I’m the product of a Scottish High School, which is kind of like a grammar school, but we still make mistakes. And allow that to sort me out. But judges tend not to worry too much about grammar, I would say, but you know what? You’re up against people who are entering who really do care about it so. So, just have a think about that. But that’d be a top tip for me use Twitter as a way to limit your characters and to edit and polish it before you actually look through into your award.
Phil Bray 30:27
That’s a great idea. Dan, did I see a question come in?
Dan Campbell 30:31
Yeah, absolutely. So Simon asks, “Similar question, apologies. But do you have a calendar you could share for the main industry awards?”
Phil Bray 30:41
Funnily enough, we do. On the Yardstick website, top right hand corner, there is the Adviser Awards Index. And that is a really comprehensive list of the various awards that are open for entry. It’s got closing dates on there. It’s sortable in different ways. But that’s the comprehensive list, I would suggest, of awards. If anybody on this webinar thinks we’ve missed something off, then please do let us know because we want it to be as comprehensive as possible. It’s updated every day, with any entries and closing dates, and that sort of stuff. So I would use that and keep coming back to it, use it as a handy reference tool.
Dan Campbell 31:29
And for anybody interested, Abi very generously has put a link to it in the chat function as well. So if anybody wants to click it, just to have it open, and browse through,
Phil Bray 31:39
Thank you, Abi.
Lee Robertson 31:40
It’s a great resource, for those who have not seen it already. It’s very, very comprehensive. Well worth looking. So some of the questions earlier about awards you want to enter, it’s well worth having a look through, you know, checking out the websites and links and stuff on there extra bit of free stuff for you guys… it’s really, really useful.
Phil Bray 31:58
I’ll take that, thank you, Lee. So also, how do we… how do we get to the final entry? For me, every business is different, they’ve got to find a process that works for them. And every business is different, because there are businesses that are sole practitioners on this call. And I know there’s businesses with maybe 10-15, probably more, people in the business. So you’ve got to find something that works for you. However, I’d suggest to look at something along the following lines. So first thing is, we said, review the criteria and the questions. Really important. As Lee said, there’s no shame in not entering. If an award isn’t for you, because you don’t think you can win, don’t waste your time. Move on to… move on to the next. And if possible, if the business is big enough – form a team of relevant individuals to produce the response. And, for me, the important word there is relevant. You don’t want this to be a talking shop of lots of people involved just because they fancy an afternoon sat around a whiteboard, brainstorming different things. So make sure those people are all relevant. That team should then brainstorm the points they want to make. And each of those points should be analysed through that lens of the criteria and the questions. And then spend some time gathering evidence. So you’ve got three points that you want to make, “right, what evidence have we got to be able to support those claims?”. Now some of that evidence you might already have. So, for example, if you’re one of our clients, you’ve probably got Google reviews, VouchedFor reviews, client survey results, video testimonials. So that can prove client satisfaction, but gather the evidence. And if the entry period is long enough, and you are organised enough that the brainstorm happens at the start of the process, you might be able to all go up and gather some evidence. For me, then, one person should write the entry. And that can be somebody internal, or it can be someone external who’s managed the brainstorming process. The team then reviews the first draft, iterates it and changes it together. And then finally, it’s edited by somebody who didn’t write it, ideally. Very difficult to edit your own work. And then it should be proofed by a third person, ideally, who is different from the author and different from the editor. Again, I think that process works. I’ve seen it work really well. There is an alternative, of course, you can outsource it. You can outsource it to agencies like us, but even then, and we were discussing this with Lee before we started the webinar, I think it’s really important that, whilst the writing can be outsourced, I don’t think the brainstorming can. And I think the brainstorming process needs to be done internally or curated by somebody externally. I don’t think the whole process, I don’t think you can just hand over a blank entry and expect a winning entry to come back. Lee, what would you add there?
Lee Robertson 35:07
This is quite a comprehensive process. It’s not one that I particularly followed because I did all of our award entries. But this makes a lot of sense to me. The thing I would say is a bit like… I’m a huge advocate for having a brand champion, you know, someone in the business that is so passionate about the brand, and everything it does, internally and externally with clients. It’s a bit the same with the awards, because it just fits into that. So somebody has to take ownership of the award entry. Absolutely. Someone’s got to lead that project team, or do that submission. The thing I would say about – this is what we were talking about before we went on air – I absolutely see the value of having external people help. I do. And, actually, I’ve helped in awards I’m not judging on. I’ve helped teams put award submissions together. But you’ve got to get the passion in. So you cannot expect, as Phil says, to say “we want to enter,” I don’t know, the Money Marketing Awards, “go and write my entry”. You’ve got to be involved in the process, got to get your passion through. As I said earlier, the secret sauce in any award entry is when, as a judge in the middle of a judging session, it makes you smile. You think “my god, these people love their business and love their clients”. That’s the secret sauce and external writers can help you frame that, they don’t work in your business. So yes, absolutely.
Phil Bray 36:34
And just to answer your question that I’ve seen come in. Yes, we absolutely do help firms write award entries. We do need a lot of input from the firm themselves because, as Lee says, to get that passion across. We help firms craft entries. We can write, we can edit if they’ve already written it. And then obviously, we can help build the proof that is necessary to support your claim. So this next one’s pretty straightforward. But again, a lot of firms don’t do it. So, getting the basics right. You’ve obviously got to hit the word count. And it’s a bit of a risk exceeding the word count. And I noticed on Professional Adviser award entry system when they closed, maybe three weeks ago, there was a… you couldn’t go past the 500 words to 200 words or whatever it was that you are allocated. And to be honest, I think the system might have been a little bit under as well. Read 500 words in Word when we cut and paste it in, but it was a few over. So something’s gone slightly wrong there. But for me, don’t take a risk by exceeding the word count and add, edit it ruthlessly, because that makes claims… it makes space for your claims and your evidence. Every word counts. And every word’s got to be working really quite hard. And as Lee said earlier, most awards now seem to allow you to attach supporting documents, appendices and that sort of stuff, whether they’re PDFs or Word documents, so make use of those as well. Lee, I don’t know how judges feel about those, those supporting documents?
Lee Robertson 38:15
We’re pretty happy with them. In fact, I would say we like them a lot. They help frame… what are often, because of the word count limits, they can be a little bit dry at times. So they really help flesh out… if someone says in a bullet point, “we’ve produced a fantastic client newsletter”, if there’s an example of it in the appendices, we will go and look at it.
Phil Bray 38:36
And again, don’t be late. And that means planning ahead. Trying not to write entries last minute. And the process always takes longer than you think. It genuinely does.
Lee Robertson 38:52
Yeah, we spot the last minute ones quite easily. And it does take much much longer than you think, I know that from other entrants. So give yourself plenty of time and don’t… because, if you’re up against it, judges don’t like when people get extensions. And often the organisers will say “we’ve given these three firms an extension because, you know, they’ve entered before and that kind of stuff”. Somehow, it just sets you thinking, “well, everyone else had the courtesy to get it in on time”. And the only thing judges do, and this is a tip, if you’re writing a paragraph or an answer, frontend the paragraph with the best bit of it, because, if you go over the word count, and I do this, I red line everything from the word count. So, if your best bit is at the end of a paragraph and you’ve gone over, it didn’t count. I red line it and I’m not the only judge that does that.
Phil Bray 39:42
I think front loading your sentence is another great tip that could have been on one of the previous slides actually, when I was talking about subheadings, bullet points, short sentences – putting your killer point, your key point at the start of the sentence or the start of the paragraph means if somebody is skimming reading it, they’re more likely to see it so it’s a great tip there. Right, I’m moving on, again, this for me, number seven flows back to the evidence point. And when I’ve been judging awards, I’ve always put much more store in claims that people have achieved, rather than what they might do in the future. So, generally speaking, rewards are backward looking, or at least, are current. And, for me, I’m far more interested as the judge is what somebody has achieved, rather than what they might do in the future. So if your entry is full of planning to implement, we’re working towards, we intend to do, we’re going to… for me, it’s probably a signal that either, you’ve got this entry wrong, and you need to go back to the drawing board or rewrite it, or you might be a year too early. Come back next year, when you’ve done these things. Lee, what would you say to that?
Lee Robertson 40:54
Okay, I’m going to be contrary there. Because some awards will ask for your future plans, obviously, that’s easy. So, Phil, you know, that’s the other thing though, is if you’re starting to enter awards, and you’re fairly new at it, and you know you’re not ready, there is no harm in going through the discipline, because there is no shame in not winning. Go through the discipline, write it up, as you would like it to be, submit it, and if it doesn’t get anywhere, it doesn’t matter. You’ve gone through the process, and you’ve benchmarked yourself with how long it takes to do it. And I think you’d be surprised how long it does.
Phil Bray 41:27
Yeah, takes a long time to write these things. And Lee, do you think that, if you are putting out a bit of a mark with an award – let’s say you are a year early – is it the case that it is the same judges year-after-year on a category and, therefore, they might remember you from the previous year? Or am I overthinking that?
Lee Robertson 41:46
There tends to be a judges circuit, Phil, you know, we juggle each other and juggle the chambers and that kind of stuff. They do rotate in and out because some people, you know, they move on, they get fed up doing them or they get moved to another category or something. But actually, you know, I remember, you know, I do remember many firms that I’ve seen year-after-year, some win, some get shortlisted, etc. And I think there is something in that. And bear in mind judges never criticise good entries, even if they’re not ready yet. They think, “do you know what, that was a really strong effort but they’re just a bit too early”. It won’t be held against you.
Phil Bray 42:22
Of course, even if you don’t win, there’s often a highly commended, runners up, that sort of thing. So that’s… there’s mileage in that as well with some awards, isn’t there?
Lee Robertson 42:34
Yeah, so here’s the thing right? On your website, if you’re going to do it, I know we’re coming to this. But if you’ve been shortlisted, or you’ve got highly commended or commended, that’s a good graphic for your website, or a good blog post, or a good social media post, because you’ve been shortlisted. Of all the financial planning firms in the UK, alright, those who entered… your clients and your potential clients don’t know how many entered, how many people do enter year-on-year. It’s another nice thing to say that “we wish to be benchmarked amongst our peers, we’re incredibly pleased that in our first round of entering, we were shortlisted”. It’s a strong blog post.
Phil Bray 43:09
Absolutely, 100%. Right, moving on to the final of the eight. Again, for me, this is incredibly important. We’ve got a 14 strong content team here, so it would be. Editing. Editing is different to proofing. Editing will help you take out words that you don’t need which will, therefore, make space for your killer points. A well-edited entry is easier for the judges to read. As I say, it helps your killer points shine through and just creates that space to get them in there. I thought Lee’s point was really interesting about over the workout red line. Yeah, now if the entry have been edited more ruthlessly, there may have been space for those points to have been made. And, then again, proofing. Get somebody else to proof it. If you can’t, because you’re a sole practitioner firm, then, a couple of tricks. Print out your entry. It is easier to… you will find more typos and grammatical errors and opportunities to improve the language if you print it and then start red penning it yourself. If, for any reason, you can’t print it and you’re trying to proof on a screen, then change the font, change the font size, change the colour, but just change it so that your eyes think they’re looking at a new document rather than the existing document. It really does make a massive difference. When you’re judging, Lee, how do you view typos or grammar and that sort of stuff?
Lee Robertson 44:43
Okay. I think most judges aren’t too bothered about grammar. We’re moving into different age but actually so many of the entries are so well put together. Why take the risk of having poor grammar and typos and things? The other thing I would suggest… Microsoft, most of us are in the Microsoft ecosystem, perhaps you’re not, Phil, as you’re at the creative end… Microsoft Word will actually read your document to you. So have Word read your entry to you, because it’s another way of spotting things that don’t sound right. That’s another little tip that I learned two, three years back, which I always do. But grammars and typos. Listen, they’re okay. But why run the risk of doing them? They’re enough…you know, Grammarly is free, use the free one. There are others. There’s Hemingway, there’s all these tools now that will allow you to, if you’re not using the external service that you guys provide, but even if you are just double check, double check, double check.
Phil Bray 45:40
100%, yeah, 100%. So those are the eight tips and Lee’s added, at least, double that, as we’ve worked through those. Just want to focus for a minute. And we’ve covered some of this already… about things that annoy judges. So, we talked about the entries with poor grammar, and typos. And I think my view is, if I saw an entry with typos, I’d be… it would make a difference to how I viewed it. Claims without evidence. Really important that claim, evidence, rinse, and repeat. I think poor category selection. I’ve looked at entries where, clearly, and maybe you can argue that it shouldn’t have made it onto the longlist. But I’ve looked at entries where you’re thinking, “why have you entered this category, there was obviously a different category that would have made more sense”. Notwithstanding Lee’s really good point earlier, promises of future accomplishments. I’m more likely to be on an entry where they’re saying what they’ve done, rather than what they’re going to do, albeit… except that there’s value in the process. And then lastly, we’ve talked a lot about written entries. But obviously some awards, you’ve got the written entry. And then to get you on to the long list, that goes down to a shortlist. And then there’s interviews, Money Marketing, for example, a lot of their categories, there are interviews. And one of the things that annoyed me as a judge, when I was judging those, was entrants that was sat there using their 10 minutes up, but didn’t answer the questions that they were being asked. And it goes back to one of the earlier slides. If someone asks you a question, they want to know the answer. The judge wants to know the answer. And you need to give them the answer. Lee, what would you add to that list? Is there anything that we’ve missed off or not covered?
Lee Robertson 47:28
Yeah. Financial planners, particularly, if there are calculations involved, get them right. Many of us know Rory Percival, he’s often sat in judging chamber with me. He is ruthless in his calculations, quite rightly. So I would say, absolutely, have a think about that. The other one is this lack of passion, where it’s, kind of, pretty obvious it’s been handed to someone last minute, get the answers down, get it in, because we’re gonna… we’re up against the deadline. So unless you’re passionate about your business, why would you expect a judge to be passionate about your award? Those are the two big ones. I know, we’re beginning to head towards the end of the webinar. But those are the other two that I would definitely add.
Phil Bray 48:13
Thanks, Lee. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to power on to the end of the slides till 11 o’clock. And then, Lee, if you’re okay, we’ll hang around and answer all the questions, if that’s okay.
Lee Robertson 48:21
Phil Bray 48:21
Yeah. So, where do we go next? We go next to awards that are worth entering. So, for me, I would… when we’re talking to firms, I would tend to prioritise, those five that are on the screen. There are clearly others that are important. But time is, for a lot of firms, at a premium. And those are the ones that I would ultimately prioritise. Lee made some really good points earlier about some categories are maybe less competitive. So you might want to think about the categories and other awards are potentially less competitive. So they’re definitely worth adding in there. And I would avoid, what did you call them, Lee, award farms?
Lee Robertson 49:05
Yeah, it’s my phrase for them, they just pump out email after email to firms saying, you know, “we’ve specially selected you to win game maker of the year or financial planning of the year” or whatever. You can spot them, it might be worth you doing a list of the bad ones, as well as the good ones, you know, at some stage, just to give even more work for your Index!
Phil Bray 49:28
Might ring the lawyers before I do that. But, for me, I think those five are really important. And, as we said earlier, there’s a full list available on the Adviser Award Index. In the follow up that we send out, we’ll include the link there as well.
Lee Robertson 49:45
I’d add a couple in there, Phil. Definitely be Gold Standards Awards for financial planning, definitely. I would definitely also think about… for those of you that are more at the wealth management end of what you do, have to think about Spears. Very, very high quality and I saw a question earlier about the Oscars. They claim to be the Oscars of wealth management, worth a look. And the Platform Awards, sponsored by Schroders. If you see some of the winners, we were lucky enough to win, as I say, but some really high quality… you put yourself in their company, it’s a really good thing for your business. So, I’d add those in. But I see what you’re doing with this list.
Phil Bray 50:20
Thank you, Lee. So, your entry’s done. You’ve pitched up to the ceremony, bought one ticket. You’ve got your award and you’ve won, or before that you’ve been shortlisted. One of the things you should do to really capitalise on your success. And a first thing to do is, for me, is claim your winners package. Now, this is quite controversial, because some awards will give the winners package… generally maybe a trophy and a little badge, they’ll give that for free. Others will give the shortlisted for free and charge for the winne. Every award is slightly different. And every award offers different assets as well. For me, if it is a paid-for package, I would be inclined to negotiate really hard. And if you’ve won, they can’t go anywhere else, you’re the only person that can buy that. So you do hold some cards when it comes to negotiating. Lee, what would you say when it comes to claiming your package, paying for it, not paying for it, etc? What tips would you give there?
Lee Robertson 51:36
Well, I’d start with your last one – negotiate. If you’ve won or been highly commended or commended, you’re the only one in that category so negotiate. You’ve got to be aware of the commercials. You know, it costs a lot of money to put these on for the publisher… they’re typically run by publishers, not always, not exclusively, but particularly run by publishers. They put a big event on, they get sponsorship, they sell tables, they sell logos and awards – that’s their commercial model. But do negotiate absolutely each and every time. I hate… I’m Scottish, I hate paying full price for anything. So I would say absolutely start there. But… and build that into your marketing plan. If you going to enter awards and you end up being successful, you’ve got to build the cost of all of this into your marketing and brand plan. And I’m… Phil, I’m sure you help your clients with this. Because it can… there is that strange thing of, the more successful you get. the more expensive it gets. I would be really wary of some of these big longlists where they’re trying to sell you a kind of longlist-y type logo, I’m not sure of the value of those. And some of the long lists are getting longer and longer and longer, and longer, because the publishers haven’t been able to have these physical events of late so, I guess, they’re making money back. So it’s not to knock them, I still believe in what they’re doing. They’re supporting the sector and the profession. But, be careful of these huge long lists. And actually, some of the shortlists aren’t very short now either. So just be careful of that. Are you just in some sausage machine where they’re making money?
Phil Bray 53:03
Good stuff, Lee, Thank you. So what else would we be doing? Well, the obvious thing to do is update your website. Which, as we all know, your website is your shop window. It’s where prospective clients start to get to know you. It’s where existing clients partly validate decisions to work with you. And it’s where those prospective clients, as well, decide whether you are the right financial adviser or planner for them. So awards, as Lee says, act as a brand amplifier and, also, an indicator of… a trust indicator. It increases the trust prospective clients might have in your firm. So, for me, if you’re a multi-award winner, it’s things such as award sliders on key pages. On your team page or “why choose us” page, contact page is another one. Build an awards page out as well, it’s important to do both. Our research shows that only about 1% of people visit testimonial pages. It might be fairly similar on awards, so that means you’ve got to scatter them around your site. So people see them incidentally, to your browsing. And that awards page – when you’ve got the logos on there, and the badges, give some context for each awardm, if you can, and link the badge to the blog that you’ve written. We’ll come to that in a minute. But link the badge to the blog to give it even more context and explain the win. What I would say you should spend some time on the design, award logos are all different shapes and sizes. Some are square, some are oblong, some are landscape, some are portrait. Dan who works in branding, wrestles with them on a regular basis as your role of head of branding. And you’ve got to be really careful with them. So, for me, it’s important that the website is updated. And, as I said, those awards logo should be linked to a blog. And, for me, write a blog when your shortlisted because there’s value in that, and write a blog when you win. The blog should explain really five things. Explain what’s happened. Detail the process you went through. Explain why you’re delighted to have been shortlisted, you want to get that passion across that Lee talks about. And, if they’re available, include the judges comments. Some of the awards… I remember when one of our clients won the Money Marketing Award in 2019, it was face-to-face, pre-COVID. So, 2019. The judges made some lovely comments. And they used those in their marketing blog and all sorts of places. And of course, include relevant images. Sorry, Lee, you were saying.
Lee Robertson 55:41
Sorry, I thought you’d stopped there. You will find that mostly… at the end of the judging, when we’ve chosen the winners, we’re asked collectively to come up with a kind of little short, pithy sentence about that winning entry and why it won. They’re usually available if you ask for them.
Phil Bray 55:58
Yeah, absolutely. And really worth putting in there… add some context and some colour. And then, of course, you want to announce your success. And, for me, there’s a couple of occasions to do that. Do it when you’re shortlisted to create some anticipation. And do it when you, if you do, do it when you win, and, for me, that’s a one-off email. Don’t put it in your newsletter. This is too special to hide away in your newsletter against other articles. I would put it in a one-off email sent a different time of the day and a different day of the week to when you normally send your newsletter. Maybe the day after the awards ceremony. But send it out in a one-off email and, of course, that should go to as wide an audience as possible. Clients, prospects, professional connections, etc, etc. And, obviously, you need to put it on social media as well. Announce your shortlisting, when you’re shortlisted, some of them you just need to check when you can announce it because it tends to be the shortlist is maybe announced before you can start talking about it. The news is embargo. So, do check when you can announce it. Announce your shortlisting. Post on the day of the announcement, the day of the awards ceremony, so posts there building up to the ceremony, you guys getting ready black tie on, whatever it is. Post immediately after the announcement too. You walk back from picking up your trophy from some kind of B-list comedian that’s awarded you the the trophy. You sat back down and take a picture of it and put it out on social at that point. Doesn’t stop you doing the blogs and that sort of stuff in the future. But just that moment, capturing that moment when you’ve won really is, really quite special. And then, of course, follow up posts on your key social channels, linking back to the articles and blogs that you’ve done. And always, always, always include images. Include images, too, when you’re putting those social posts out.
Lee Robertson 57:59
Phil, just a quick point, there, just a tip. Get permission… if you’re using official photographs, get permission. Some of the publishers are really quite techy about using… and if you’re negotiating your winners package, get that in there, say “I’d like the images of me and some of the B-roll shots of the night as part of my winners package”.
Phil Bray 58:19
Good tip, thank you, Lee. And then update the basics. So, your social media banners, every Twitter account, LinkedIn account, whether it’s personal or corporate, Facebook account has a banner on them. And everybody who hits your social media channel, whichever one it is, will see that banner. It’s really important, online real estate. That banner should have four things in it. Your logo. It should have what you do and who you do it for. So, a sentence just explaining that. You have your contact details and it should have some social proof. So if you go and look at the Yardstick banner, it’s got our Google reviews on there. If you won an award, you get your little logo, update your social media banners keep them constant. Email footers. Update your email footers with the award. Directory profiles and newsletter templates – things that people see on a regular basis, update with your latest award success and you can produce a list of those, you’d naturally produce a list of those that you go to as and when you win an award or, indeed, you’re shortlisted. Really important we get those basics done. And then, finally, absolutely not least, is celebrate. Your success of writing the award is not only a team effort for most people who are involved in writing it, but those people who made your business a winning business. So important you get the team involved and you celebrate that success. It validates their work, it validates your work. And, for me, something that we’ve said at Yardstick before, you enter as a team, and then you celebrate as a team. Lee, when you’ve won awards, how have you celebrated?
Lee Robertson 1:00:05
Long and hard and often way long into the night, as you very well know! A great question. Yeah, no, listen, celebrate as a team. The other tip I’d give, we often used to bring our top referring professional connection along to the award ceremony. Because they were typically from law, or accountancy, or tax, and they would be used to their own awards so they’re very used to what goes on etc. But it’s a way of showcasing the good in the industry, in the profession, sorry, and what you’ve done as a team, whether you win or get, you know, if you’ve been shortlisted, that’s an achievement in itself. And they rather like coming along, quite often.
Phil Bray 1:00:40
Great idea. So, we’re going to get to your questions in about 30 seconds. So a few things or ways we can help. Yardstick, we can help with outsourced entry writing. We do want it to be a collaborative process. We can’t magic an entry out of thin air. So, we do need it to be a collaborative process. We can certainly help with writing, editing proofing, and giving you that external body to be able to bounce things off. We’ve got the Adviser Award Index. We talked about that. And then we’ve got a couple of free checklists, “How to Prepare an Effective Award Entry” and “Eight Ways To Capitalise On Your Award Success”, we’ll put both those checklists in the follow-up. If you want to stay in touch with us, there’s our details. But, more importantly, because of his contribution today, I just want to say thank you to Lee. And there are Lee’s contact details, Octo members, LinkedIn, and, Twitter. And, again, we’ll put those in the follow-up email. So, just want to say, thank you to Lee. Everybody who wants to stick around and listen to more of Lee’s insights, which had been hugely valuable. I’m going to take screenshare off. I’m gonna hand over to Dan, and we’ll do some questions.
Dan Campbell 1:01:56
Perfect. So we’ve got quite a few questions coming in, actually, and some brilliant questions. I’m going to start with two questions that are saying very similar things, well, asking very similar things. So, Avril says, “I’ve been very sceptical about awards, because they are sponsored by industry, not consumer, brands. So do clients really care about them?” And then Philip says, “Does it make any difference which award you win, since most clients don’t really know the difference between Citywire or Money Marketing, etc”. So I’m keen to hear Lee’s thoughts and then also keen to hear Phil’s thoughts on that.
Lee Robertson 1:02:35
I take the point, I don’t think clients care they’ve been sponsored by consumer brands. You know, the X awards sponsored by Aviva or something. I don’t think clients worry too much about that. In terms of the hierarchy of awards, I think, also, clients are less aware. But if they Google your award, and some will, particularly analytical clients, and they see a lot of good stuff by a Citywire Award or Money Marketing Award, less so about others, for instance, then that may help. But I think it comes down to what you want to do. It’s more about you promoting your willingness to be measured amongst your peers.
Phil Bray 1:03:10
I’d agree with that, Lee, and I’ll just extend it to say I think, yes, clients won’t know Money Facts from Money Marketing, FT Adviser from Professional Adviser. And I think that’s why it’s so important to put some context to it and be talking about the process you went through, why it’s important to your business, the judging process, as well. And, giving that context, rather than just saying “we’ve won this award, here’s our shiny new logo”. And I’ve spoken to award winners. And we’ve had a lot of clients who have won awards, and they absolutely do resonate with consumers. If it’s promoted and publicised correctly, they absolutely do resonate. Back to you, Dan.
Dan Campbell 1:03:53
Brilliant. So, next question is in from Richard, who asks, “If you do get to the interview stage, who should attend? Is it the first person who originally wrote that entry, a director – who goes?”
Phil Bray 1:04:06
Lee, you go with that first.
Lee Robertson 1:04:08
I would say the award champion. I said earlier that I believe there should be as a brand champion and part of that’s the award champion. They might have different people but typically they’re not. And I understand lots of firms are sole practising and very very small. I would say the person who signed off the entry, eventually, as fit for entry – they should go along because they know it intricately. And I’ve been… I’ve sat in enough judging chambers where someone’s been thrown a… you know, the hospital pass in rugby terms, they turn up clutching it in their sweaty palm, not really very happy at being there. Or feeling this all happened very last minute. Sometimes it happens because there were… you know, the person is ill but, quite often, it’s been thrown at them, they turn up and they just don’t get it across well enough. What was a really good entry that got them shortlisted fails at the final hurdle because someone turned up that wasn’t as au fait with it or just… they couldn’t get the passion across that the original author had done.
Phil Bray 1:05:08
Yeah, I completely agree with you. I’ve sat in a judging panel before and I remember the first… nine o’clock, first person coming into present and be interviewed. His first line was “I didn’t know I was doing a presentation” and it just kind of went downhill from there. So I completely agree with you, Lee, they’ve got to know the entry and their business inside out.
Lee Robertson 1:05:36
And, listen, judges have egos too. Judges have egos so even those who think we’re quite modest… one thing we didn’t touch on is humility after you’ve won an award. Be humble, you know, it is wafer thin often at that end when you win and sometimes the winners… but judges have egos too and, for someone to turn up and starts with “I didn’t know I was doing this” and the judges think “hang on, the business… I thought you’re taking this seriously”.
Phil Bray 1:06:04
Completely agree. Back to you, Dan.
Dan Campbell 1:06:06
Okay, I’m gonna ask a difficult question now. So, Philip says “if you have to pick just one award to win, which would it be? Which is the most prestigious?” What a question. I suppose prestige and the right award for you are two different things, aren’t they?
Lee Robertson 1:06:24
They are and I would say it goes back to what I was saying about “what part of your business are you trying to showcase?” Is it the financial planning part? Is it the customer experience part? Is it the education part? Is it the wealth management end if you’re that type of business? For me, the most prestigious one I ever won in my… I won Wealth Manager of the Year from Spears and I come from a financial planning background and I managed to march into the wealth management space and win their prestigious award. But I would say any on Phil’s list are great awards to win. I would add Gold Standard Awards, Money Marketing, I don’t know if they still hand out that gold bar, it was fantastic. I entered about eight times, got shortlisted three times, and eventually won it. And it took masses of work. And I used to run into David Crozier, Dennis Taylor, all these other people, you know, waiting to go in to be judged and I thought, “I’m so proud to be in the same kind of room as these guys”. So pick the one for your business but I would say anything from Citywire, Incisive, Last Word, whatever Last Word’s called, Spears… just think about the type of award you want.
Phil Bray 1:07:34
Dan, back to you.
Dan Campbell 1:07:35
Thank you. So, before I read the next question out, a point from Scott that came in, it goes back to negotiating when you’ve won, Scott says “beware that some award packages limit how long you can use the winners logos for we’ve always negotiated an open ended contract if paying for the winners logo”.
Lee Robertson 1:07:56
Personally, I wouldn’t stand for that. If I was going to part with hard earned cash which could go somewhere else in my business or to people in my business, I wouldn’t like time limited award logos. It was only ever once put to me and I gave them pretty short shrift. As part of your negotiation, be pleasant about it, but just don’t stand.
Dan Campbell 1:08:17
Brilliant. You’ve heard it here. Don’t stand for it. So…
Lee Robertson 1:08:20
That’s nothing to do with the judging, by the way. That’s the award organisers.
Dan Campbell 1:08:27
Brilliant. So, got a question here from Mike, and this is around word count. So, “what criteria is used to set the word count for each question? And should you always plan to use the full word count?”
Lee Robertson 1:08:43
I don’t know what the criteria is because that will… that typically doesn’t come from the judges either. It comes from the organisers. I’m not fussed if a word count doesn’t meet… if it’s 500 words that you’re allowed in that particular section and you submit 400, I personally don’t care. In fact, it makes my life slightly easier. Make sure those 400 words count. Don’t waffle, you know, as Phil rightly said, ruthlessly edit, ruthlessly edit, take out all the fluff words. I’m a… I’m guilty of writing the way I speak. So, there’s a lot of flummery that Grammarly takes it out.
Dan Campbell 1:09:19
Perfect, right. So, a question in from Paul, and this again goes back to negotiation. So, “how much typically could be discounted? Or would they consider as reasonable to ask for? As we were quoted 5k for a winner’s logo once for an award, we were lucky enough to win from a major awards within the industry. How much discount do we ask for them?” That’s the question, isn’t it?
Phil Bray 1:09:47
What have you seen, Lee? I’ve maybe seen a third off, 50% off, something in that region.
Lee Robertson 1:09:53
Yeah, I think… once, I got 50% off, but that was a lot of hard work and I laid it on thick, but I was a judge on some awards in a different area that they did. I would say, if you get 25 to 30% off, you’re doing well. It may be harder at the moment because they’ve not been able to have these live events and sell tables. And so maybe they’re a bit tougher on it.
Phil Bray 1:10:21
Back to you, Dan.
Dan Campbell 1:10:22
Perfect? So, question in from Mike. “How long should you keep publicising an award that you’ve been shortlisted for and then subsequently won?”
Phil Bray 1:10:34
I’ll take that one, Lee, to start with, if that’s okay? Yeah, I would say that you publicise the shortlist until the event, till it’s announced, the winner is announced. After the event, I would be doing something immediately, that date of the event and maybe the following morning. And then something more considered with your blog, and then the single piece of communication that’s going out. I think that then goes back to Lee’s point about being humble. For me, I would then probably not do that much, that much more. Maybe a few more, a few more social posts. But I wouldn’t necessarily do that much more then. Try and stay humble. Lee, what’s your view?
Lee Robertson 1:11:19
Well, there’s a couple of quick wins there that you’ll be aware of. You know, you could have a link in your footer in your emails to your awards page. You could have the same in a newsletter, down in the footer somewhere. There’s other ways of doing it. Have an awards page on your website. There’s sort of ways of doing that. But you’re right, you know, if you won a Gold Standard in 1997, there’s no point still banging on about it, is there?
Phil Bray 1:11:45
Yeah, there’s plenty you can do, like you say, Lee, it’s just making sure it stays in people’s consciousness without shouting it from the rooftops. The social banners, the email address, etc. And I think I would do, as I said, those social posts and a one-off communication, and then probably pause it from that.
Lee Robertson 1:12:01
We used to put award logos on our, you know, these roll up banners that we had at our client events and stuff, there’s all sorts.
Dan Campbell 1:12:10
Okay, so unless anybody tells me differently… ok, no, somebody has told me differently, one question in from Kathy, just now. To build on the question about how long to promote a win. “How long do you keep those logos on your footer/website? How long after is too long? Two years? Is that too long?”
Phil Bray 1:12:28
I think, no, I agree with Lee, he’s shaking his head, I agree. I think you, if you put them on your website, you should be building up a pattern of success. So, shortlisted in 2021, retained it in 2022, for example. I wouldn’t be replacing the 2021 logo with the 22 logo, I would be building up that pattern of success to show consistency of quality. And that’s easy enough on the website, on email signatures… your email signature can only be so long so I think I’d probably be a bit careful of that. But, on websites, I would just keep building, keep building, keep building, keep building. Lee, what would you say there?
Lee Robertson 1:13:12
Yeah, pretty much. We kept every one on but we built it up by year. And the thing that… because I said earlier, we won some awards, we were lucky enough to win some awards consecutively, it builds a nice picture for your client that you’re committed to excellence year-after-year, and it wasn’t a fluke, you know, three years ago.
Phil Bray 1:13:35
Thank you, Lee.
Dan Campbell 1:13:36
Okay, so let’s have one final question. And this is from Isabel, and we haven’t paid her to ask this question, I promise. “In terms of working with a marketing company to outsource the award entry, what is the best way to work together? How does it look?”
Phil Bray 1:13:53
I think there’s a couple of ways of doing that with us. The first is that the advice firm themselves follows that process that I outlined earlier. And then we really pin… review the entry, edit, suggest improvements. So we come in after the first draft has been written. And, as I say, act as that critical friend, maybe talk about where we can get more evidence in, edit, and proof, and really knock it into shape. That’s the first way of doing it. Second way is where we would interview the relevant individuals on the brainstorming panel. And write, then write the entry, from that, so we’re getting involved a little bit earlier with that. But it’s absolutely essential that it is a combined effort. We can’t turn a blank entry form into a winning entry with no input from the firm. So, those are the two ways of working with us to do that.
Dan Campbell 1:15:00
All right, we do have one more. Have we got time for one more?
Phil Bray 1:15:02
Yeah, go for it.
Dan Campbell 1:15:03
Yeah, ok, right, last orders. So, just posting a question from earlier, ok, so “Moneyfacts Awards, as an example, have a really long shortlist, you then have to pay to attend the awards ceremony, but the chance of winning is low because of such a long shortlist. Is this just a money making thing?”
Lee Robertson 1:15:26
Okay, I would say a shortlist should be short. Phil may have his own views. I’d be really interested, I never entered Moneyfacts Awards. It wasn’t where I wanted to position my business. I’m not saying we didn’t use Moneyfacts around the office from time to time, but it wasn’t really what we did. So I never entered them. So I don’t much… every award ceremony, every awards process, it will seek to make money from anyone. They sell tables, they sell awards, they gather data, all these questions they ask you get packaged up into… there’s all sorts of ways that, I don’t even know, that make money out of it. But I’d be very wary of those that charge you to attend a ceremony. And with big, long, shortlists. I’m just not convinced that that’s the quality I wanted my firm… or, I’d rather reflect a quality award with with short shortlists with high quality entrants where I could negotiate the pricing, I didn’t have to pay… I’m not saying I never paid to go to awards, I did. And I actually used to take tables sometimes take the whole team and professional connections, as I said, but to answer that specific question, I’d be quite wary of that.
Phil Bray 1:16:38
I agree with you, Lee. I think shortlists needs to be short. I can see why they’re longer now. I also think social media is got a part to play as to why they’re a bit longer. Because you stick 20 people on the shortlist that’s 20 people who are going to tweet, post on LinkedIn, about being on the shortlist so it creates more noise around the awards. I’m with you. I think shortlists should be short.
Lee Robertson 1:17:02
I mean, there is… there are a lot more awards around now as well. I mean, back in the day, it was a question for me much earlier on about which ones would you enter? There wasn’t that many around. So it was a fairly simple choice. You can enter all of them are just a few of them. But now there are so many. But it’s… I don’t envy the task sometimes judging which ones to go in. And they’re very niche at times as well.
Phil Bray 1:17:24
Right, Dan, are we done for the questions?
Dan Campbell 1:17:27
Yeah, let’s draw the line there. It’s… I think many of the other questions in the list are just repeats of what we’ve already covered. So yeah, I’m happy that we’ve covered everything.
Lee Robertson 1:17:37
Well, good luck, everyone, with your entries.
Phil Bray 1:17:40
Likewise. And, Lee, thank you for being here today. That’s the longest we’ve ever gone on with questions so that’s a good thing. Yeah, really pleased with that. So, Lee, thank you so much for your input today, it’s been fabulous. And I much appreciate it. Dan, thank you, as always. We’ll be back on the 9th of March with our latest recommendation workshop-webinar, we’ll put a link in to the show notes and the follow-up email. And on the 16th of March, we’ve got our usual free webinar. And we’re gonna do another controversial topic. We’re going to do LinkedIn, we’re going to do the things that advisers and planners can do to get the best out of LinkedIn. So we’ve done awards, that’s one controversial topic, we’ll do LinkedIn next time. May have an easier life in April. And, once again, thank you, Lee. It’s been a pleasure. Dan, thank you as always. See you soon everybody. Thanks.
Dan Campbell 1:18:29
Brilliant. Take care everybody. Bye.
Lee Robertson 1:18:30
Good luck, everyone.
Hear from our clients
Working with some great businesses.
Founder & Financial Planner
"The brand, logo and website has hit the brief perfectly and I couldn’t be happier! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”Read More
"They were a delight to work with – super responsive to our requests and also brought lots of good ideas to the table."Read More
Altura Mortgage Finance
"Best of all, their results driven approach is both refreshing and helping us achieve real goals. Thank you Yardstick!”Read More
Independent Financial Adviser & Managing Director
"If you’re a financial services firm looking for marketing experts, The Yardstick Agency should be your first call.”Read More
Independent Financial Adviser
"I’m a big Yardstick fan now and look forward to working with them on future projects."Read More
Chartered Financial Planner, Hunter Aitkenhead & Walker
"We have felt like collaborators, rather than customers, and feel like Phil and his team has a vested interest in our marketing success that far exceeds his fee.”Read More
Get in touch
Request a callback
Whatever your marketing challenges, we're here to help. Simply complete this form and we'll be in touch.