New Value, Judges and Nudges: What Made Writing Our 2020’s MRS Awards Entries Different

December 20, 2020

Jack Miles
Senior Research Director

This year has been a different experience for us all - and writing the Northstar Research entries for the MRS Awards was equally so, writes Jack Miles.

Northstar has entered the MRS (Market Research Society) Awards for the last 9 years. During that time we’ve seen changes in the awards’ purpose, the people involved, our reasons for entering, how we produce the entries and the party that celebrates them. Let’s take a look:

Purpose and Value

The MRS Awards evaluate the value our sector creates. However, value is a changing concept and what value means in 2020 differs to what it meant in 2019.

Societal upheaval in 2020 meant we had to assess our work’s value through a different lens. This year we looked at:

  • How our market research supports society as well as balance sheets
  • What our value as an employer is - including our diversity, openness and psychologically safe environment, rather than the usual emphasis on training and retention.

Our aim is not only to assess the past but to inspire the future through our work. And in these trying times, it can only be a positive thing to find inspiration for how research can do more, for more people in more ways.

People – Nudges and Judges

An MRS Award entry is never one person’s work. Each year, including 2020, clients, co-authors, copywriters and proof readers help us write our entries. What did change, however, were the audience considerations, particularly the MRS Award judges.

In 2020, we had to consider how and when judges read the entries. For example, on a screen rather than paper. Also, after their 7th team meeting of the day when they had screen fatigue.

The competition this year was stiff. To nudge judges to notice our entries, every aspect of them had to scream READ ME! Subtitles had to ooze clarity, while 200-word summaries had to win attention like never before.

However, grabbing the judges’ attention wasn’t enough. We also had to win the judges’ minds too. We can all agree that 2020 has been the year of the bad news story. That’s why we felt that a more subtle and engaging form of entry writing was needed this year. The MRS Awards entries are an opportunity for judges to read good news stories. We wanted to make our entries as engaging, personal and subtly promotional as possible.

Production - The Power of “Off”

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, rightly says:

“The problem is that, before writing anything worthwhile, you must spend at least an hour staring into space. This is almost impossible in a modern office.”

Writing MRS Awards entries is undoubtedly worthwhile. Ordinarily, hours of staring time at the office can be challenging, with impromptu meetings, visitors to your desk and so on. Concentration can be interrupted.

In 2020, the starting time was more manageable thanks to remote working and being able to press the “off” button on work devices. Writing entries was more straightforward as a result, including being able to explain our complex methodologies in a clearer and more concise style.

Winning Isn’t Everything

Writing award entries is hard work. You need to drive too. In the past, this came from the desire to get work recognised. But not this year - in 2020, the MRS Awards aren’t about winning or recognition. They’re about positivity and creating a feel-good factor within our business.

We wanted to remind ourselves that despite the economic turmoil the world is experiencing, research makes a difference. And the positivity and confidence this creates will keep us powering our way through COVID-19’s troubled waters.

The Remote Researchers’ Rave

This year’s traditional December MRS Awards celebration was a virtual affair. We couldn’t catch up with old colleagues and clients in the same way. There was no wondering how to expense that final round of shots or the mad dash for the last train home. Instead, researchers’ front rooms were a hive of excitement on 7 December.

Much has changed about this year’s MRS Awards, but what hasn’t is their permanent legacy and how each year, writing the entries is an exciting and valuable learning process.

Find out more about the finalists and winners, including Northstar here.

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