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I have organised a fair number of awards and top lists. From Global Top 100’s through to Rising Stars. Some have resulted in trophies and award ceremonies; others have created a well-respected ‘go to’ directory of data and analytics talent on a web page. I’d imagine I’ve read close to 2000 individual nominations in my career so far. I’ve spent hours sat with industry judges, hearing them discuss nominees and their attributes, and why one person or company stands out to them above another. Therefore, I feel somewhat qualified to speak on what it takes to get noticed and win these accolades. 

Before I list some of my top tips for awards, I think it’s worth spending a moment talking about why they’re important. Sure, they make you feel fuzzy and warm when that email comes in. You get a bit of an ego boost, there is no denying that. However, it’s more than just that. Awards are a great way to show internally what you’re all about. It can be challenging to benchmark yourself internally, especially when so many people don’t really know what you do. However, you send a picture of you and your team all glammed up at a ceremony grasping hold of a shiny trophy to the company Slack channel, suddenly everyone from finance through to operations knows you must be doing something right! 

It’s not just beneficial internally either, externally, that ‘go to’ list I mentioned above, is used by recruiters, content creators and event organisers of whom they should approach for opportunities. What you’ll often experience is that once you find yourself on one list, others will follow as many organisations will use a credible list as their foundation and build from it. So, if you’re keen to get out there for more opportunities, it’s great to be recognised. 

So, how do you get recognised? 

Below I’ve shared some of my top tips of what to do, and what to avoid. I’d be keen to hear in the comment section of this blog what your experiences have been. 

Nominate yourself.  

I may as well start with the most awkward piece of advice. This blog is based on part of the CPD-accredited course Kyle Winterbottom, and I developed for Chief Data Officers (returning in 2025), and when we get to this part and we mention self-nomination, we always see our participants physically recoil at the thought.  

The truth however is that no one cares as much about your success as you do, and naturally no one is going to know your story better than yourself, either. Swallow that pride, move the awkwardness to one side and accept that it’s one of the most efficient ways of beginning the journey of recognition. At the end of the day, if one of your motivators is to be headhunted for a new role, for example, it’s really in your own interest to put together a strong nomination. 

And here’s an inside scoop, of all the projects I’ve overseen around 80% of the nominations I’ve read are self-nominated. Your peers are doing it. Your competition is doing it. So, you may as well do it, too! 

What’s important to remember as well is what I mentioned about it being a snowball effect with other organisers using their competitor’s campaigns. Often you only need to put yourself forward a handful of times, and then you’ll be noticed and picked up from the marketing of that award, and so on. 

Have a list of achievements ready to go.  

I think every professional should have this as standard, regardless of awards as it’s handy for interviews, pay reviews, managerial 1-2-1’s and also some good old-fashioned imposter syndrome busting! Keep a list in a Word doc or notepad somewhere and add to it as and when relevant. Organising a lunch and learn, speaking at a conference, saving X on the budget, being promoted. Keep score of all these things you’re doing, it will surprise you how quickly they add up. 

The reason this is helpful when it comes to writing a nomination is being able to draw on unique stories for the judges to read easily. Often, we see a pattern of similar nominations, but the ones that really stand out have strong use cases and examples. If you already have a list of examples at your disposal suddenly the nomination almost writes itself! I also think it’s pretty obvious when something is rooted in truth and experience, which again makes it really stand out. 

(From a practical perspective I recommend visiting this list once a month to keep it up to date.) 

Professional Bio & Headshot  

In the same vein as above, it’s crucial to have things organised so you don’t miss out on an opportunity. You should have a professional up-to-date headshot that’s in colour and good quality ready to send. When I say professional, I don’t necessarily mean taken by a pro, but something that looks award-list ready. Not the blurry cropped pic from your mate’s wedding, but a nice smiley headshot that’s in focus and represents you well. 

The same goes for a professional bio. This should be up-to-date and contain all the key information that a reader may need to get a good overview of you and your role. It does not need to be war and peace! 

Top tip: If the nomination calls for a bio in a different format or length to what you have, pop it into ChatGPT and prompt: ‘Please make this more concise” or “Please re-write this into third person” – and then edit it accordingly.   

Not all awards are equal 

As with many things, not all lists and awards are equal. I often get asked which ones are the ones to go for, and which are the ones to avoid. Honestly, it’s quite a hard question to answer, as it depends on your goals. Personally, I would advise against placing any significant budget towards a campaign that doesn’t have an in-person element/ceremony, unless it’s a publication that’s incredibly well-known and respected in our industry. 

If we’ve been connected for a while on LinkedIn, you may remember a post, I wrote earlier this year about an award I had been lucky enough to win, as being top 10 in data visualisation, or at least… I could win it if I provided them $2k. There are of course a couple of issues with that honour, 1) I am not a data visualiser 2) the winning was dependent on me paying the two thousand dollars and 3) that is a huge amount of money for a publication I’ve never heard of, and I am confident that our industry doesn’t actually read. 

How can you spot the awards and lists to bother with? 

Credible industry judges and people involved in the decision-making process. 

A well-mapped out process (nomination deadline, publication deadline etc). 

A history of finalists from all walks of life. 

Campaigns that are built around more than just simply a data collection effort. 

Sponsors and partners that align with the community the awards are celebrating. 

A really simple way to test whether it’s worth your time is to bring it up in a networking environment and take a bit of a temperature check on what your peers think about it, just be wary there are always going to be some sore losers too. 

This blog is in no way exhaustive of my thoughts on awards and top industry lists, in fact, let’s call this part one, as I’m sure I’ll want to add to it in the future, but it gives a fairly strong introduction into my initial advice for getting yourself out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

 You can read more of Catherine’s blogs and follow her newsletter here.

About the Author

Catherine King

Global Head of Brand | Editor-in-Chief, The Driven by Data Magazine

Catherine works passionately to provide senior executives with the hottest content and insights in the areas of Digital, Data, Analytics, Information, Business Development & Innovation. She hosts and moderates large events as well as directs, produces, and hosts industry-leading podcasts.

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