How to Write an Award-Winning Entry

I should first come clean – I have never actually been an awards judge; however, I have been lucky enough to help organise the judging process for the 2016 and 2017 World Media Awards. It is rather a privileged position to be in – you are exposed to loads of brilliant work, you get to meet amazing judges and listen to them deliberate, but without any of the responsibility! And it is a responsibility, as anyone who has entered an award will have put time, effort and love into their campaign, and that should be respected.

All the campaigns entered into The World Media Awards have strong merit and delivered incredible results for their clients. However, a number of campaigns don’t necessarily do as well as they deserve to, not for the lack of quality of the original work but because their entry submission has omissions that could be easily fixed.  So here are my top tips for improving your chances of getting your award-winning work recognised:

  1. Stick to the point

Don’t forget, judges are humans; they are also very busy people with limited time, so keep your entry short and to the point. A number of entries failed simply because the judges couldn’t pull out the unique element – and I quote: ‘I think there’s a good story in there but I can’t find it’.  When you’ve implemented an amazing campaign, there’s a temptation to include every minute detail. Don’t do it. Keep it simple – stick to the key facts.

  1. Match results with objectives

Every campaign entered achieved incredible results but not necessarily against the client’s stated objectives.  All the entries had very clearly stated goals at the outset but several otherwise brilliant campaigns failed to achieve awards because the results listed did not match the objectives. For example, the campaign objectives might have been to shift ‘X factor’ by 10%. However, the results showed that the campaign had achieved ‘Y’ million likes and ‘Z’ million shares, but had no indication of if or how ‘X factor’ had changed, rendering the Z million shares meaningless.

Two amazing examples of campaigns that truly delivered on their stated objectives were Tata Motors’ ‘From Zica to Tiago’ and The Faroe Islands’ ‘Sheep View’. Tata was faced with the difficult problem of rebranding the ‘Zica’ car in just two weeks before it was due to launch.  They took an incredibly brave approach crowd-sourcing a name for the new car, and achieved 120,000 test drives in four months – three times higher than any Tata car launch in a decade.

‘Sheep View’ – was great fun and instantly achieved unbelievable levels of PR. By mounting 360° cameras and mobile phones on the backs of sheep, the campaign shared views of The Faroe Islands with the rest of the world and became a global phenomenon; but it also delivered against their own relatively quirky objectives of a) getting Google to add them to Street View and b) filling out every hotel room on the Faroe islands!

  1. Get the basics right

Finally make sure you read the instructions or rules carefully. I know this may seem blindingly obvious but you would be surprised how many people don’t do this. For example, read the category descriptions carefully – about 10 per cent of the entries this year were posted in the wrong category! Ensure you include all the relevant supporting materials. And finally, make sure that you have all relevant approvals – it is very depressing when great work has to be withdrawn because the client hasn’t signed it off.

A round up of all the best work from the 2017 World Media Awards can be found on


The lowdown on creating award-winning content campaigns

The lowdown on creating award-winning content campaigns

Content. It’s a small word for a massively important element of marketing that has been embraced by advertisers and publishers alike.

55% of marketers plan to increase content marketing budgets over the next 12 months, according to Adobe.

Why are consumers embracing branded content?

Content comes in a number of guises, from native advertising (the evolution of advertorial into tailored, brand-led editorial online) through to a brand’s own content on their website and much in between.

The reason content, in whatever form, is growing is because consumers are, well, consuming it.

Consumers are happy to engage with brands through content as long as it is useful or entertaining, says Alex Altman, the managing director at MEC Global Solutions, London. “If it achieves this,” he explains, “they then go on to share the content because it makes a statement about them – I am connected, I am clever, I am funny.”

What does great native content look like?

The partnership between brand, publisher and agency is something that comes up again and again and is nowhere more important than when looking at native content, where powerful branded content is leveraged with the trust of a publisher’s audience.

Aaron Robinson, director, custom content, The Wall Street Journal, says, “There must be a genuine connection between the two brands and the campaign must be executed in a way that is not seen to deceive the user. The best campaigns are those that deliver, in a timely manner, real substance that the audience can use. Above all, “native” must feel it’s delivered in the voice of the platform it appears on.

Damien Marchi, global head of content at Havas Media Group, agrees, “Native content is best when, from a consumer standpoint, it is as good as regular publisher content and would look the same without the involvement of the brand and, from a brand standpoint, it achieves the given objectives.”

What are the biggest challenges when planning a ‘multi-national’ vs ‘international’ campaign?

This adds another layer of complexity as there are so many other factors that come into play when planning content campaigns, from language and culture to humour and demographic differences.

Jane Grenier, executive director, client services for Quartz, says, “Balancing multi-national relevancy with international efficiency is a tough juggling act. Publications with a global audience for their editorial lend themselves most easily to international branded-content campaigns.”

Niki Webb, CEO EMEA at FleishmanHillard ContentWorks, believes that for global campaigns the brand story has to be the absolute core. “There is a tendency to use more local tactical approaches so it’s best to work through these in the planning phases and use brand journalists to create the outline narrative first,” says Webb. “Localisation is a fine art but it is easier if there is a shared narrative.”

Pitfalls to avoid in content-driven marketing

Don’t start devising your content strategy from the brand perspective, points out Sonia Le Louarn, chief strategy officer at Mindshare Lat Am. “Find out first what your target audience likes and why,” she says, “and then fit the brand around these insights. However, you have to do this without losing your attributes, values and key message on the way.”

Altman says, “Be authentic – do not try to be something you are not. A bandwagon approach will almost certainly lead to disaster. As is said of comedians – tell me a joke, don’t tell me you’re funny.”

Key points

  • Content must be useful, entertaining and relevant to be picked up by consumers
  • Delivered within trusted environments, content can deliver higher reach and engagement
  • than traditional ads
  • Content works best when created as part of a strong partnership between brand, publisher
  • and agency
  • Content must speak in the same voice as the platform it appears on
  • International content campaigns can be localised, but require a shared narrative
  • Be part of a conversation, be authentic – and don’t sell

Belinda Barker is owner of BSB Media and director of the World Media Group, which is currently running the (or World Media Awards) for international content-driven ad campaigns

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Top 9 tips for reaching your full potential in business


I recently attended the Inspiring Women Conference hosted by Management Today and the Chartered Management Institute – which was, by the way, brilliant and I can thoroughly recommend attending!

During the day 26 extraordinary and successful women shared their top tips on how to reach your full potential in business.  The following blog represents the key themes which recurred throughout the day #iw_london.  I only hope I have done the fantastic speakers justice, if I haven’t I apologise sincerely.

In terms of importance I would put Confidence in the first 5 places, Brand ME and Networking would take the next 3 places and all the rest would come in at 9th place!


A few great quotes from the day:

‘Being a good girl isn’t enough’ Baroness Kingshill

‘To get to be really good, you need to do less!’  Harriet Green,  CEO Thomas Cook

‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’ Madeleine Albright

Confidence Confidence, Confidence, Confidence

The number one thing holding most women back is their own lack of self-confidence.  Women underestimate their own abilities by at least 20%, for example women will not apply for a job even if they meet 95% of the criteria because they focus on the missing 5%.  If a man met 80% of the criteria they would consider themselves well qualified.  So what do we need to do (and that includes me):

  • Celebrate all your successes, no matter how big or small they are
  • Focus on your strengths not your weaknesses (a cup half full)
  • Be brave, she who dares wins
  • Face your fears, both inside and outside work.  A fear faced in your home will help you in work and vice versa.
  • Forget modesty!  If you get a complement – just say thank you, don’t discount it!
  • Don’t undermine yourself, there are plenty of other people out there willing to do it for you
  • Resist ‘Imposter syndrome’ (when you start questioning your own ability and expecting to get caught out) – it is incredibly negative – recognise when you are doing it and actively stop yourself (often in the middle of the night).
  • Ask for feedback, but not on a constant basis – seeking validation can be seen as weakness
  • Don’t say yes to everything, there is power in saying no

Further reading: Nicholas Bate is terrific coach, this is his blog he has also written a number of great books on the subject.

Brand ME Brand ME

You need to ask yourself ‘How do I want other people to think of me?’ Being good at what you do won’t be enough by itself to get you promoted.  To start with you need to assess how you project yourself in the real word and then equally importantly in the digital world (future employers will research you on line long before they meet you).

  • Eat well and exercise – getting to the top is a long haul battle, only the fit will make it.  This may seem a bit off theme but if you don’t feel well, challenging the status quo is a big stretch.
  • Think about the image you want to project, don’t go overboard and remain true to yourself.  If you try to project an image which isn’t authentic to you a) it will be very tiring to sustain and b) you will appear insincere.
  • How you dress is important – accept the fact that we live in a shallow world!  While power dressing is no longer needed, ie don’t try to dress like a man unless you are one, looking shabby, messy, dirty, tarty doesn’t help either.  Invest in comfortable quality clothing because you want to look as good at the end of the day as you did in the morning.  Finally, do not be afraid of color or patterns, you want to be remembered but not as part of the scenery!
  • Try to think of yourself as a role model and spend at least 5% of your time working on your public image!
  • Defining and articulating your strengths is invaluable but it is much harder than it sounds.  I continue to struggle with this – simply including a shopping list of your skills isn’t enough, make it real and be sure to differentiate yourself.  Think about all your skills (transferable), not just work.
  • Do a serious review of your career regularly (at least every couple of years).  Where do I want to be in 5 or 10yrs, what do I need to do to get there?
  • You must have a social media profile, make sure it is consistent – blog, twitter, linkedIn, website should all reflect you.  Ask a friend or colleague to evaluate your social media profile dispassionately.
  • When you are moving towards the top it is important to have a point of view.  If you have been interviewed, commented, blogged or videod make sure it is visible digitally.  If you haven’t seek out opportunities to do so, particularly public speaking!
  • Google yourself once a month!
  • Finally, make sure you make space for some me time.  Working Mum’s are particularly bad at this!  Worth reading Power Mum’s

Brand ME, is harder than it sounds, there are a number of good coaches available, it is worth investing, even if it is your own money! Miriam at is good.

 Networking Building a great networking

Networking is something women are particularly bad at and you simply must make the time!  90% of senior roles come through networking!

  • It is important to network both internally and externally.  Find the decision makers within your company and connect with them, not just on the level immediately above you but all the way up.
  • If you cant go to the pub after work find your own way to network.

Ambition Effectively expressing your ambition

Ambition is a good thing but if your company doesn’t know you are ambitious, the chances are you will be overlooked.

  • Make sure that you express your ambition to management
  • Understand the context of your organization and think about when/how is the best way to approach your boss
  • Rehearse the conversation first, practise makes perfect
  • Make sure you know what skills you need to acquire to get to the next level
  • Express how you could add value to the company in that role
  • Demonstrate your competence
  • Make sure you know what the correct pay is for your role and that you are being paid it

Passion Be passionate

Be passionate about what you do, if you aren’t passionate about what you do/your company then you need to find something else to do.  To get to the top in a company you are indifferent about will be a long hard struggle, no matter how good you are.

 Mentor Find a Mentor

Find a mentor or a sponsor – this doesn’t have to be a formal relationship and you may need more than one relating to different aspects of your work!

Resilience Resilience, keeping strong in the face of adversity

Everybody gets knocked back at some point and if you don’t it means you haven’t been trying hard enough!  How you bounce back is the true test of character.

  • Firstly give yourself time to recover
  • Restart by setting yourself small achievable goals
  • Reconnect with your positive colleagues / friends.  Initially most people want to hide, but once the initial shock is over reconnecting will help you recover more quickly.

The board Getting on to the board

Actually being on the board shouldn’t be the be all and end all. If it is your ambition be sure you want to do it for the right reasons, there aren’t that many board positions and it may not turn out to be what you wanted. If you decided you do want to aim for the board try reading Heather McGregor on how to get to the board  I am not sure I agree with her opinion on ‘women quotas for boards’ but I love the work she is doing at the 30% Club.

  • The first step is simply to apply, most women don’t and if you don’t apply there is a 100% certainty you won’t get it!
  • Approach Chairman directly, open a dialogue
  • Be clear what skills sets the board needs and what you have to offer
  • Start by trying to get experience with a Charity to get governance experience

Confrontation Managing confrontation

Women tend to avoid confrontation but sometimes it is unavoidable and necessary.

  • Humour can help diffuse a confrontational situation
  • Do not bear a grudge and never sulk, always be direct
  • Do not cry, if you are on the verge of crying, try sipping water it will stop you welling over
  • Do not assume that if you don’t get a promotion that it is due to sexism, assess the situation fully first.
  • If you truly believe that you have experienced sexism, you should challenge it quickly and publicly.
  • If your company is inherently sexist… leave.  Life is too short.

When is a media brand, not a media brand?

McGraw Hill Man in ChairI love this ad, I expect most of you have seen it before and in many different formats but this is one occasion when the original is best.  It was created by McGraw Hill, a venerable media brand, back in the 1950’s and was intended to encourage B2B companies to advertise themselves.

The words read “I don’t know: who you are, your company, your company’s product, what your company stands for, your company’s customers, your company’s reputation…. Now what was it you wanted to sell me?”

The media industry has matured dramatically over recent years, it is a long time since media planning was an afterthought to the creative process given 5mins at the end of a long meeting.  Media agencies are multi-million pound businesses in their own right and there are so many new media brands it is impossible to keep up.

So why are media agencies not spending as much time focusing on their own brands? If you asked most advertisers ‘What does XX media agency stand for? or what is unique in their chemistry?’ most advertisers would struggle to find an answer.

In the process of selecting the companies to be included on this year’s International Media Image Survey2014 (I-MIS) brand list, a number of the companies we spoke to claimed not to be a media brand!. The definition of media has changed dramatically, for example, is a company who offers an audience management system a tech brand or a media brand?  I would argue that a media brand is any business which is affectively competing for part of an advertisers or agency’s budget in terms of audience delivery.

Whether you call these new entrants tech or media brands, almost all of them need to improve how they articulate their service or offering..  The jargon many use in their promotions/websites is impenetrable, if you ask the average advertiser what is the difference between a DSP (Demand Side Platform), SSP (Supply Side Platform) or a DMP (Digital Media Partner) they wouldn’t know what you were talking about never mind being able to name a company which offers one.  They need to get back to using English and talking about real business benefits as opposed to functionality!!


Brain drain – as an industry we are competing for talent with companies like McKinsey, PWC and Accenture.   We do well at attracting bright young things straight out of university (media sounds sexy) but we are failing miserably at motivating enough of them to stay for the long haul.  And if I-MIS is correct it is getting worse!!  We asked the agency respondents of I-MIS which agency they would like to work for next, in 2013 24% said ‘none’ in 2014 34% said ‘none’, up 10%.  This is a significant decline – agencies need to really focus on training, motivating and rewarding staff, the days of media buying sweatshops should now be long gone but old habits die hard!!

The State of the Indusry : I-MIS 2014


This year’s International Media Image Survey 2014 (I-MIS) is out.  The survey itself is broken into 3 sections; The State of the Industry, The Agency Report and The Media Report.  The Agency and the Media Reports tend to get the most interest – which agency is top of the dream pitch list this year and how does Google stack up against The Financial Times in terms of reputation and service.  However, these are not the sections which interest me most personally.  The State of the Industry section included some new questions in 2014, they were relatively small simple questions about the recession, transparency, communication methods – but they produced some really interesting and positive insights.

A positive vibe

The two really strong positives were in the area of recession and human interaction!  Firstly, there was an overwhelming sense that the worst of the media recession is now over, with the UK and North America being most positive.  Secondly, was the importance of ‘people’, this may sound stupid but if you believe the trade media and what you hear at conferences, the media industry is already well on the way to being fully automated and RTB is the new ‘holy grail’.  While no one can deny the increased importance of automation in media transactions, I-MIS and in particular the advertisers who responded still highly value human interaction and face to face meetings.  Media is still reassuringly a people business, where smart thinking is valued as highly as the latest app or gizmo.

Transparency (Clear as mud)

This surprised me, we asked respondents whether they felt transparency had improved, the overall response was significantly more positive than I expected: 43% improved, 40% stayed the same, 16% declined.  There was a split, however, between agencies and advertisers – advertisers were considerably more cynical than their agency counterparts: Improved = 31% advertisers, 48% agencies.  One interpretation of this could be that while agencies believe they are having more transparent dealings with media owner, advertisers do not feel the same about their dealings with agencies!

Mobilization or not

In both the 2013 and 2014 surveys, we ask broadly how budgets are being cut up between the different communication platforms and what if any change is expected in the next 18months.  Funnily enough, there was very little change, this is only funny when you look back on the predicted changes in 2013.  If you believed the 2013 predictions everyone would be shifting massive amounts of budget out of print and TV and almost all expenditure in 2014 would be digital and particularly mobile (83% predicted growth).  Actually shifts year on year have been tiny +1% here and -1% there.  There is no doubt change is happening but let’s not hysterical about it!

To download the key findings please go to

BACKGROUND TO I-MIS:  The second annual International Media Image Survey was conducted by InSites Consulting in May and June 2014 on behalf of BSB Media and The Vision Network in conjunction with the International Advertising Association, Warc, M&M Global, AudienceScience and Loudmouth PR.  In total, there were 795 responders, with 486 working in agencies, 189 for a media/tech company, 82 were advertisers and 38 were consultants, academics or otherwise associated with the media industry.  See Editors Notes below for full list of the 13 agencies studied in the report, along with additional key findings.

International Media Image Survey 2014

i-misIn the media sector, reputation plays a hugely important role in selecting the right media partners.  The revolution in digital players has meant that the International Media sector, more than any other, is unrecognisable from only a few years ago.  To measure these changes the first I-MIS (International Media Image Survey) was launched in 2013 and the fieldwork for the 2014 survey has just opened.

For those of you who missed last year’s findings, one of the interesting factors was that CMOs prioritised ‘strategic planning’ over ‘buying strength’, which may explain a surprising lack of concern regarding the proposed merger of Omnicom and Publicis.  Also interesting was the fact that agency ‘creativity’ was rated more highly than ‘transparency’; I can’t help wondering whether this will still be the case in 2014, as more advertisers become concerned with visibility and hidden commissions.

Both sides of I-MIS intrigue me but for very different reasons:

The network media agencies through consolidation have become mega buying operations.  Having spent the last couple of years overlaying their business offering with planning and consultancy, the agencies have a wealth of experience positioning their client’s brand messages but only recently started to think and behave as brands themselves.  I-MIS 2014 will show which agency has been the most successful so far, at building their own brand reputations!

The media brands are in an extraordinary flux.  Some of the biggest brands today barely existed a few years ago.  Many of the brands measured in I-MIS 2013 have been bought, re-branded or closed and my guess is that, by the time this year’s survey is completed, more will have gone.

Some of the strongest media brands such as the Financial Times, BBC News and The Economist have maintained a power position but Google and Facebook are already right up there and the likes of Unruly are snapping at their heels.  There is everything to play for!

For me, I will be particularly interested in seeing how budget priorities have changed as digital channels continue to proliferate.  Plus, of course, who isn’t interested in seeing which agency and which media brand win the top award for reputation.  However, I-MIS isn’t really about me, it’s about you!  If you want to take part this year, the I-MIS questionnaire is now open here.