There is nothing worse than giving up hours of your time, putting in loads of effort and then being told afterwards that all your hard work was utterly pointless.
That is what it feels like sometimes when judging the CRN Sales and Marketing Awards (SMAs), and a throwaway comment about the process being ‘rigged' is made.
Hours of reading and discussion go into the process, and every winner has been thoroughly vetted and picked by the judges on merit. Luckily these comments are being made less often (but they are still being made) yet it doesn't stop the judges coming back each year and attacking the process with equal amounts of passion and enthusiasm to ensure the rightful winners are picked.
In the final part of this series, we ask the judges what they would like entries to avoid, and also their comeback to those who cry "fix".
Geoff Undrell, director at Asgard Marketing, said he was least looking forward to the amount of reading involved.
"Judging across numerous categories and with multiple entries in each, there's a huge amount of time given over to looking through the entries thoroughly to then score them properly," he said. "I'm really hoping not to see people overcompensating for the small submission word count with heaps of supporting materials."
Undrell added there was no room for favouritism in the judging process.
"It's easy to throw stones at the winners of these awards," he said. "Judges adhere to a strict set of evaluation criteria and as panel members in each category we need to make our case for why we believe a certain submission is better than the others. The judging day is very adversarial and ensures we arrive at the right decisions - there's simply no room for favouritism. If you think you're seeing serial winners, then the bottom line is those organisations value the awards and take the process seriously."
Darren Spence, founder of Sales Gym, said he was hoping not to be reading pages of text-only entries that lack hard facts which can be "boring" and "uninspiring".
He also strongly defended the process itself.
"The awards are not a fix. As judges we make the decision together in a room. We have no idea who the sponsors are or which organisations have paid what to be involved. We have a scoring framework which everyone adheres to," Spence said.
Richard Eglon, marketing director at Agilitas, said he was dreading looking at entries that haven't adhered to the criteria.
"The criteria has been set for a reason, so please take the time and read through them carefully before you put pen to paper," he said, adding that he hoped all entries would help the judges by incorporating all web/video/social links within a single document, rather than using multiple attachments.
Eglon was also quick to respond to claims the awards are rigged towards sponsors.
"There are often these comments from those that didn't quite make it. The SMA judging process is very rigorous and is a collective decision among a number of judges who all come together on the judging day to put their case forward of why or why not a submission is a worthy winner."
He even laid down a challenge to those that hadn't yet won.
"To those who say it is rigged, I challenge you to sharpen your pencil and win the category on merit the following year. Talking from personal experience, winning an award following a year or two of disappointment is even more satisfying."
One judge, Topline Comms director Luke Budka, advised to not use marketing "for the sake of marketing" and to think carefully about the content of the entry.
"I am dreading poorly written and badly structured entries. How do you expect to win when the presentation is so poor?" he asked.
Budka had a few words to say to those that claimed a fix. "I can assure you that hours of personal time plus four hours on the judging day is not symptomatic of a fixed process," he said.
Brand new judge Gina Hough, communications director and owner of WLM Digital, added the judges' reputation was at stake too, and no judge wants to be associated with a fixed awards process.
"We are all giving up our time to ensure this is not the case," she said. "I am sure everyone has been chosen carefully to reassure people that it is well worth their time to enter."
Finally, Sara Driscoll, former CRN Editor and freelance journalist, said she is least looking forward to giving low scores to companies that fail to put in the effort.
"I know awards entries take time and resource to do, but if you don't put in the effort you simply cannot expect the results," she said. "The standard of entry has risen steadily from where these awards first began, so the benchmark is set pretty high." Driscoll pleaded with entrants to avoid buzz words or pages of plain text in their submissions.
She was also keen to defend the process itself.
"If you think you didn't win an award because the process is rigged, then I suggest you look more closely at your entry and think of ways to improve it next year, because it clearly was not as good as the winner," Driscoll said. "This may be harsh, but so is believing that the time, research, effort and thought process that goes into judging each and every entry isn't real. It is rigorous and democratic - we sit in a room and argue about it. No single opinion dominates and every single judge feels exceptionally strongly that the process is fair and thorough."
To submit and entry and read the criteria, please visit the dedicated SMA page here. The awards are taking place on 5 July at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. The very best of luck to you all!
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