Agony Aunt: Where are we going wrong with our awards entries?

The chairman of Cathcart Consulting gives her verdict on this and other professional conundrums.

Always the bridesmaid…

You have judged the PRWeek Awards as well as PRWeek’s Best Places To Work. We enter both with the best possible work and evidence but never win. I’d quite like to be in the Power Book, too. What are we doing wrong?

I’ve covered this before, but there is always more to say. First, it is possible that you are not doing anything wrong, but others are doing things really, really well. Up against Taylor Herring and the Samsung work? Tough.

Do you ask for feedback? I was surprised during a recent judging session how few agencies ticked the box asking for feedback on their entry. That’s a good way to learn why you failed and possibly pick up tips about why the winners did well. It always amazes me how many entries have obvious and careless mistakes, too. Essentially, the entry is your CV, and you know how we feel about mistakes in a CV.

If you are shortlisted and have a face-to-face final session, make sure the team is rehearsed and fully knowledgeable about every aspect of the entry form. One senior player on a recent occasion, having said they had personally filled in the form, didn’t know the details behind one answer. In another instance, a middle manager in the team was clearly passionate and fully committed to the subject; the boss let them have the field. It was an impressive performance.

And I say this every time I’m asked for advice on awards: don’t be a stranger. Manage your relationships and reputation every day. Don’t expect the entry form to do all the work – especially if the picture you paint there is not in sync with the reputation or media coverage of your company. 

And on the Power Book, I expect you’ll find that the more Awards you win, the more likely you are to be invited to join the Power Book elite.

Drowning in emails? Here’s a life belt

My Inbox has 1,722 ‘unread items’ and a total of 21,285 unfiled or undeleted emails in it. I’m beginning to feel desperate – and it’s been noted by the company’s IT people. Any advice?

Relax. Here is some of what I learned from Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist (who has noted that his email "curse" is poorly targeted press releases).

Don’t spend any time setting up and using a complicated email filing system – what used to be filed is now Googled. And research has shown you can spend more time on the filing than it takes to find what you want using Google.

Create your own Archive folder and, as you read current emails, instantly either act on them, delete, or move them to that Archive folder if you think you might want to refer to them again.

If you can’t action something immediately, move it to a separate ‘To Do’ folder, or a pen-and-paper action list. If you leave all your actionable stuff in the Inbox, everything that lands in it appears to be a ‘To Do’ – which it’s not.

Use Filters and hit Unsubscribe to limit what comes in as much as you can. Switch off the Notification alert on your mobile and don’t look at email more than every hour or so or, when you have time actually to action it (see above), rather than just scrolling through.

To help with time management generally: write the next day’s ‘To Do’ list before you go to bed and put the things that you really need to deliver in the first slots. Don’t try to get to sleep fretting about the list you must write in the morning. And never write a List of Lists.

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