How did you get into this, Mark?
I was working in PR when I launched my company Awards Intelligence in 2007, having identified a need for an organisation that helps companies to find, enter and win business awards. A couple of years later it became apparent that there was no help on offer for individuals who want to nominate their friends, family, business and community contacts for Queen’s Honours such as an MBE, OBE, CBE or knighthood, so we launched a service to help them, too.
How many awards ceremonies are there in the world?
We have over 2,000 awards across the world listed on our database.
Why do people like to win?
Winning awards will raise their profile, enhance their reputation and instil trust, that vital ingredient for success in all walks of life. Many business award winners report an increase in sales and profits as a result. Receiving a Queen’s Honour can help the nominee to raise awareness of their excellent work, build on their successes and keep giving back to their industry, to society and to the community.
What do people often do that scuppers their chances of winning an award?
They don’t answer the question. They cut and paste from existing material when they actually need to write a bespoke piece of copy that is specifically tailored to the culture of the awards and answers the question that it’s supposed to. All too often people write an entry made up of short bullet-points and fail to capture the imagination of the judges; yes, you need that factual information, but your application also needs to have a captivating and interesting story.
Any other tips?
The real art is being smart about the awards you enter. We spend a lot of time with our business clients building awards plans for them over the next 12 months. Being smart about the awards you have the best chance of winning based on your strengths will increase your chances by about 20 per cent before you even put pen to paper. Another tip: never let the company accountant or finance director write an award entry – they’re nearly always hopeless!
How boastful should one be when filling in an application?
I would go in all guns blazing. It’s a competition at the end of the day: If you enter a 100m race you don’t say ‘I won’t run my fastest because I don’t want to upset the guy in the next lane.’ You’re in it to win it, and while you should never be misleading, if you are the best at something, then say it.
Awards often have a veneer of benevolence, but some must be big money-spinners. What’s the deal?
Business awards tend to make their money in one or more of the following ways: by charging an entry fee; by selling tables at the awards dinner; by selling sponsorship and advertising; by selling marketing materials to winners such as trophies and certificates. Organisers don’t tend to publicise how much money each individual event makes but I think it’s fair to say that the more established national and international awards are very profitable.
What do you feel is the most prestigious award in the world?
For individuals it would be a UK Queen’s Honour, specifically a knighthood for men and a damehood for women. Another very prestigious award open to individuals or companies is a Nobel Prize.
What are some of the big ones in Dubai?
There’s the MRM Business Awards; the MEA Awards; the Gulf Business Awards – there are lots of them. And of course the Queen’s Honours are open to people from all over the world. A lot of people assume that you have to be a UK citizen and based in the UK to apply but neither of those are true. It’s open to any worthy person, although I should point out that you don’t tend to get an honour simply for doing your job, otherwise every policeman and firefighter in the world would be eligible for one. You have to go above and beyond the call of duty.
How do you help people boost their chances?
We save our clients valuable time, effort and aggravation as well as significantly increasing their chances of success. You are six times more likely to succeed with our help. We spend about 100 to 150 hours researching and drafting a Queen’s Honours nomination, for example. People just don’t have that amount of time to devote to a nomination.
Why so long?
Much of this time is spent talking to supporters and helping them to draft their letters of support as well as the nomination itself. We’ve drafted over 700 honours nominations and well over 2,000 business awards entries so we have got to learn what works and what doesn’t.
What kind of fees are we talking about for your service?
Our Queen’s Honours nomination drafting fees range from Dh18,000-117,000, depending on the length of nomination required and the amount of liaison with supporters. Business award drafting fees range from Dh9,000-28,000.
How do you respond to people who might say that using your services gives people an unfair advantage?
Is it fair that some people can afford for their children to have expert private tuition to increase the chances of them passing their examinations? Is it fair that some companies can afford expert business advice to increase their chances of success? Expert help costs money and people with money have an advantage over those who don’t in most walks of life.
If there was an award for “Best Awards Experts”, how would you go about winning it?
By being very clear about our success rate and our level of customer service: I would play on our key strengths.
What do you do when someone comes to you wanting help to win an award that they have no chance of bagging?
Well, we politely dissuade as many people as we actually work with. But it’s rare that people will contact us and they’re a complete and utter no-hoper; we might have to tell people they’re not quite ready yet and talk to them about what else they could be doing to build on what they’ve achieved. For us, it’s about working with the top one per cent of leaders in their field whether they be companies or individuals.
Finally, what’s your advice to anyone tempted to send in their application with a little ‘gift’?
Don’t! You should never try to bribe the judges or influence them. And never try to call a judge; most of then are easily found via the awards website but the worst thing you can do is call them and let them know you’ve entered. That’s highly embarrassing and is likely to result in your entry being removed completely.