Third Sector Excellence Awards – judging view

Posted by Emma Nicol | 2 September 2013

Categories: Charity Third Sector

I was fortunate to have been invited to be one of the judges for this year’s Third Sector Excellence Awards. The awards are a very popular event in the Charity calendar. More than 400 entries were received across 18 categories for this year’s awards. The category I was asked to judge was the Communications Campaign. It was an extremely well represented category with over 50 submissions.

At the end of July, alongside three esteemed judging colleagues we sat and debated the longlisted entries. Prior to this stage we had all been asked to read through the submissions and critique, view, appraise and evaluate each entry in turn. This phase took me a good couple of days due to the sheer quantity of entries and supporting materials to give each the same time, appreciation and due diligence.

The method of judging set out by Third Sector stipulated using primarily the statement and supporting material to assess the entry. We were then asked to look for examples of excellence that contributed to the overall success of a communications activity.

I thought it may be useful to give my view of what I was personally looking for as a judge in a Third Sector Communications Campaign. The shortlist is out so I’m not spoiling anything or giving anything away. Due to the volume of entries and overall quality – the bar was always going to be set high.

The shortlist for the Communications Campaign Category is:
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust for the Lonely Dodo
Miscarriage Association for the Blue Envelope Campaign
Prostate Cancer UK for the Sledgehammer Fund
Refuge for Don’t Cover It Up

Variety, vlogging and volume!
The variety of entries was extremely exciting – the campaigns using a plethora of mediums and vehicles to execute the message and engage with the relevant audiences. We had thunderclaps, vlogging, scratch & sniff to name but a few. Budgets very large and very small. Communications is such a broad category but essentially it boils down to the nuts and bolts, the basic equation of:


Innovation and creativity is always a big part for me and always has a very large tick box. It of course means nothing without everything else in place but in awards where we are looking for excellence this has to be a strong factor. In this category the campaign needed to stand out, be different, evoke a real head nodding affirmation of ‘now THAT is what I’m talking about’.

Whittling down from the longlist was a big task but the shortlisted campaigns really stood out. Interestingly two were very large budget campaigns and two were very frugal in their make up. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Lonely Dodo was a beautifully executed idea, very targeted and realistic that delivered on all counts. Prostate Cancer UK and it’s big budget really did bang the nail on the head with it’s sledgehammer campaign in a very engaging, innovative and oh so very thorough way. In contrast the Miscarriage Association delivered a very small, budget conscious Blue Envelope campaign that promoted, extremely simply, a very difficult message in a unconventional way achieving very inspiring results. Then last but not least was Don’t Cover It Up by Refuge and it’s partnership with the esteemed Vlogger Lauren Luke. A video with viral potential that executed the message perfectly with a whole bucketful of creativity.

Budget no barrier
The shortlist for this category really is a testament in itself about how a budget really shouldn’t be a barrier or constraint to creating a campaign that delivers an innovative punch. If the audience and message is defined, the execution should hold no bars or follow any particular trend in order to stand out. Relevancy and a focus on results with a sprinkle of creative magic should be all you need. There was certainly evidence of this in the Communications Campaign entries this year.

Strengthening support material
One of the things I did observe with interest was the difference and quality of the supporting material and statement submitted. As the vehicle to ’support’ the entry – the more well structured and ‘well-communicated’ the better. Emphasis on how this is presented is very important for an award entry. The harder you make the judge work to find out the basic crucial criteria the less time they have to spend on the bigger picture. The submission should also, in my opinion be a communications piece in itself, baring in mind the message and target audience (the judges). It is my recommendation to submit a well structured pdf rather than 15-20 separate attachments made up of a variety of jpgs, pngs, and numerous word documents. Remember there may be a large amount of entries and working through lots of files (x50) can be an onerous task. It should be well designed and reviewed as a crucial element to the submission.

I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the other judges again on the 26th September for the Awards night. Good luck to all the shortlisted charities. I’ll be raising a glass of bubbly with you all to toast to the winners.

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