ITL #316 IPRA Golden World Awards 2019: what the judges look for

2 years, 7 months ago


GWA success brings worldwide recognition and acclaim. But what marks out a great piece of work? Which mistakes should entrants avoid? And why are esteemed communicators so happy to sit in judgment? By Rob Gray.

An important moment in the year is upon us again. The clock is ticking down and the deadline for entries to the IPRA Golden World Awards looms ever larger. Time to get a move on and submit your entries, if you haven’t already done so.

Success in these prestigious awards confers worldwide recognition and acclaim. Not to mention cachet and credibility among your peers in the communications field: from clients to competitors; bosses to business partners; future employers to potential investors.  

But how to heighten your chances of savouring the satisfying glow of victory? What factors will help your work outperform other category entries?

As a regular GWA judge, I know what I look for. However, in the interests of providing the most insightful glimpse possible into the decision-making process, I asked a cross-section of fellow members of this year’s panel for their take on what makes for a deserving winner. And why some entries fall short.

Creativity in tune with objectives

“To identify a winning entry, I usually see two points,” says Hemant Batra, Managing Director of Veritas Reputation PR in India. “One, how impactfully does that PR campaign solve an issue or meet the objective for which it was undertaken? The equally important second point is to understand if creative ideas were deployed to get a better impact. 

“I will give higher marks to a campaign if brilliant creative ideas were deployed. I feel right-brained people with understanding of PR tools are in short supply and we should encourage such a breed. However, many times there is creativity just for the sake of it – i.e. ideas may have a ‘wow factor’ but do not have adequate impact on the objectives. My attempt will be to filter out such ideas.”

IPRA UK and Ireland Chapter Chair Jacqueline Purcell likes entries that clearly identify problems or challenges. That ask questions – then answer them succinctly. “I enjoy truthful expositions of the ups and downs of a project,” she says. “Tell me what really happened, not some glossy version. Make me feel something other than how perfect everything was. Show me how your project became a superhero.”

Loula Zaklama, President and Managing Director of Rada Research & Public Relations in Egypt says the building blocks for success are clearly defined objectives together with a focus on strategy, execution and end result. “Although this sounds like ‘a given’, you will be surprised at the number of entries that do not follow those basic requirements,” she laments.

So, don’t allow your entry to fall at the first hurdle simply because you’ve neglected the basics.

Also, it should be concise and focused, not rambling or needlessly wordy. Anne-Gret Iturriaga Abarzua, head of communications for INEOS in Cologne, Germany argues “less is more”. A complex topic can and should be explained in no more than five sentences, she feels. “Come to the point! That would be my advice. And a not so great idea doesn’t get better only because there are nice photos or videos added.”

Faisal Alzahrani, former Director of Media and PR at the Saudi Ministry of Health says that initially he looks for a well-written, well-articulated and to-the-point entry. He is also a stickler for good spelling. Thereafter, he focuses on creativity, out of the box ideas, new approaches, impact, tactics, success in changing behaviours, influencing opinions, overcoming challenges or minimising cost. 

“My weak spot,” adds Alzahrani, “is a project with a personal touch. I am easily influenced when emotionally touched.” 

As to trends among this year’s entries, Alzahrani hopes to see greater utilisation of volunteers to address humanitarian issues globally. He expects to encounter “more creative work, relying on high tech and software programming and cost effective solutions”.

Compelling reasons to enter

Why enter? Well, for a start you’ve got to be in it to win it.

“Winning matters for two simple reasons,” says Alain Grossbard, an educator in public relations at RMIT University, Melbourne. “To be acknowledged by independent assessors as to the value and significance of the public relations activity submitted. Secondly, to let clients, customers, stakeholders and publics know that the work is regarded as of national and world high quality standard.”

It’s impossible to argue with that. An IPRA award is a badge of quality. But that’s not all. There are other advantages in taking part.

“Entering is a great team builder, a way for the internal team to come together to assess the quality of your year’s work,” says Lea-Ann Germinder, President and Founder of Germinder + Associates, GNFP Digital and “If you enter regularly you already know what campaigns have a shot at winning and have hopefully compiled materials along the way so entering won’t be so difficult. I learned this early on in my career...the hard way!”

Yusur Al Dabbagh, the Iraqi co-founder of Rouya PR Consultancy in the United Arab Emirates agrees that awards success is wonderful for team spirit and business development. “An award-winning agency increases the chances of building its corporate profile within their market and beyond,” she says. “However, and more importantly, winning will offer them brand recognition, which is an asset that adds long-term value and increases their business opportunities. In addition to that, winning will increase team and management’s morale.”

Meanwhile, Filipino national Richard Burgos, Director of the Science and Technology Information Institute, offers a dramatic rationale for entering. “Battle survivors wear their scars. They also love to tell their stories. Trophies are excellent embellishments to stories. They would be welcome additions to the pages of our legacy books. Then the stories can be told over and over again.”

Or as IPRA President 2019 Svetlana Stavreva put it in her recent presidential message to IPRA members, the GWAs are the most prestigious PR competition in the world, attracting talents from around the globe.

Now, who wouldn’t want the chance to face off against the world’s best? Imagine the kudos of winning!

Why the judges do it

Iturriaga Abarzua treasures the interaction and discussions with colleagues that come to the fore at the in-person judging stage. “Most of the times we agree unanimously and have very often the same opinion whether an entry qualifies for a GWA – or not,” she says. “It is great that the others (and myself) very often are able to add something to an entry according to their diverse and truly global background and their deep knowledge of the different sectors and industries.”

Richard Linning, IPRA President in 2011, is pleased to provide feedback based on his extensive experience. However, he also enjoys the stimulation of witnessing work addressing the challenges of the “post truth/lack of trust” era.

For Grossbard, a practitioner-turned-academic, judging provides “currency” in the public relations field. “After leaving the corporate world to work in academia, I can continue to be updated and pass on my evaluations of entries through case studies to my public relations students.”

All of the judges consider time spent scrutinising entries to be both enjoyable and educational. There is always something new to learn. Which in itself is remarkably energising.

“Collectively, the entries make me so delighted that after a long session of marking I am as fresh as when I started out,” reveals Purcell. “The energy transmitted from the entries makes it hard to sleep that night as the campaigns swirl around in my head.

“I smile, especially when they convert negatives to positives and change mindsets using scientific data. It is constantly amazing how fabulous, inventive, measurable and positive the public relations profession is becoming. I feel fortunate to take part in the Golden World Awards and am honoured to serve as part of the IPRA Community.”

  • The closing date for this year’s awards is Monday 13 May. For submission criteria or to enter, click here.


The author

Rob Gray commissions the IPRA Thought Leadership series of essays and sits on GWA 2019 Jury.




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The Author

Rob Gray

Rob Gray commissions and edits the IPRA Thought Leadership series of essays and is a regular member of the GWA judging panel. He also works as a business journalist, is a writer and editor for a range of brands and agencies, and has authored corporate histories and other non-fiction books.

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