6 months ago

The Georgina Henry Award Changed My Life. Here’s How To Give It Your Best Shot.

Jem Collins

Founding Director & Editor-In-Chief

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment Journo Resources switched from being a passion project to an actual organisation with the capacity to help a lot of people. But, if I had to pick just one, it would be winning Women in Journalism’s Georgina Henry Award in 2018.

I remember every part of the process incredibly clearly, from dumping my application into a group chat of friends mere hours before the deadline, to the shortlisting email coming through in the middle of a business meeting. Reader, it’s safe to say that meeting was a lost cause.

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Then all of a sudden, I was at the Press Awards and Nick Ferrari called out my name to say I’d won. I looked so shell-shocked he felt the need to assure me that I didn’t have to say anything to the audience if I didn’t want too. I did, and a lot of my words ended up in entirely the wrong order.

I was handed a cheque for £3,000 right there and then, Alan Rushbridger tweeted his congratulations, and Polly Curtis came over to say well done. In short, it felt like I’d stepped through the mirror to a surreal other existence where I wasn’t just running a website in my bedroom.

It was the same for last years’ winners’ PressPad. “I remember it very clearly, it was the night Laura Kuenssberg tweeted us and said something like ‘this is a good idea’,” recalls co-founder Laura Garcia.

“We were like ‘oh, my god, Laura Kuenssberg just tweeted us.’ I think it was a big place where we started to build brand awareness.”

Though the prize has only been running for four years, it’s already produced an impressive cohort of women, both as winners and those who were shortlisted. Laura Bates was the first winner for the groundbreaking Everyday Sexism, while Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff took the prize for gal-dem, as just one part of their meteoric rise.

But as winners, we believe it’s important to open the gates to the next women. Awards applications in general can be baffling and vague – especially when you’ve got no idea of the standard, or you feel like you’re not part of the club. So, we’ve joined together to give our best advice – as well as release the applications that helped win it for us.

FYI: The Prize Is A Lot Bigger Than Just The Cash

The PressPad team after their win at last year’s awards. (Image Credit: The Press Awards)

Now in its fifth year, the award was set up to honour Georgina Henry, a founding member of Women in Journalism and former deputy editor of The Guardian. It’s run by Women in Journalism and supported by Wiggin LLP. The total prize fund is some £4,000, though the judges can choose to split it between a winner and a runner up. But, that’s not all you get.

Alongside the cash, winners are automatically given a place on the Women in Journalism (WiJ) committee, as well as being given the honorary title of WiJ Fellow. In short, this means you’ll get a lot of opportunities to meet big names in journalism, both through VIP invites to their events and informal networking and support from their team.

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“It was an important public platform for PressPad,” says Laura, who explains how it helped their work to reach even more people. “Now we’ve won, one of the cool things is that Women in Journalism invite us to a bunch of events, which we have found super, super useful. The contacts we’ve got from the Georgina Henry Awards mostly came after the event, and all kind of build on the same thing.”

And it’s not just about the senior people you’ll come across either, with PressPad co-founder Olivia Crellin telling us that the connection between alumni was also “incredibly heartening”, having already run a partnership with gal-dem. “It’s really inspiring and it just gives you a massive boost to keep plugging away,” she adds.

In short, you really should apply for this award. Here also seems like a good place to stress that this really is an open contest. Unlike other awards there’s no entry fee to apply, and there’s no need to be a ‘big name on Twitter’. So, put any nagging doubts aside – you have nothing to lose.

The Application – Treat It Like A Pitch And Prove Your Impact

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff accepts her award. (Image Credit: The Press Awards)

The criteria for the Georgina Henry Award can seem vague – all you need to submit is an 800 word proposal and three links to your work. On the flipside, this means there’s a lot of scope for different types of projects to enter, as long as it fits the brief of being a ‘journalistic project’ and ‘innovative’.

Judges are looking for an initiative or project – so you’ll either be running or proposing something which is more ongoing than just one story. They also want to see evidence of a flair for storytelling and proof of your innovation and/or impact. So, here’s how you do it.

It goes without saying that you should also look up Georgina’s work, which will give you an idea of the kind of things the judges are looking for.

Think Of It Like A Pitch – And Focus On One Key Idea

Want some pitch inspiration? Here are a load of successful ones.

“As a journalist, these applications are not dissimilar to pitches,” says Olivia. “You need to be telling someone why, in a concise a way as possible.

“What it is that you do? Why are you guys the right people to deliver that idea? And why is it important now? I would just start by writing down as much as I wanted to and then whittling it down.”

Similarly, just like a pitch, it’s worth working out exactly what you want the money for. The year I won was actually my second application to the awards.

Previously I’d written something very long and rambling about what we’d done to date and the dozens of things I’d like to do next. However, while your project might have an incredibly broad scope, the judges will be looking for you to hone in on one or two tangible outputs.

“You should be thinking about showing what you can actually deliver for that amount of money,” adds Laura. “[Originally] we started thinking we how a little bit goes to this and a little bit goes to that, and a little bit goes over there, but that gets really hard to explain to someone who’s trying to give you money. Narrow it down to a couple of concrete things that you can deliver with that money.”

Show Your Background – And The Impact You’re Having

A screenshot of our application.

Just like any pitch, as well as showing off your idea, the judges will also want to know the background, and the impact you’ve had so far if your idea has already launched.

It’s less about your project fitting within a zeitgeist, but more about proving the need for something like this, and showing that this kind of reporting or organisation doesn’t already exist.

Look for facts and statistics you can use – for example both gal-dem and Journo Resources’ applications included industry figures on the lack of diversity in journalism. PressPad used estimated costs for a young person to stay in London for an internship.

If you’re struggling for ideas you can also look at things like Google Trends, social media commentary, charity campaigns or other press coverage to back up why your response is needed – and there’s no harm in including elements of your personal lived experience as well.

Secondly, if you’ve already started on your project the judges will looking for evidence you’ve made an impact. This should ideally be a mixture of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ impacts.

Hard impacts are normally things which really on numbers – so the number of people who read your story, or the amount of people you’ve helped.

Soft are more personal reactions – perhaps someone has written to you about the impact your reporting has had on them, you’ve had some good endorsements on social media, or someone has got work as a result of your project.

It’s worth adding there that there’s nothing to stop you proposing an entirely new project – and several have been shortlisted. In this case, judges will still be looking at why it’s needed, as well as a solid plan for how you would go about it, and strong evidence of your past work.

Your Examples Don’t Just Have To Be Pieces You’ve Written

An example of some of the graphics used by the PressPad team.

One of the biggest conversations I had before handing in my entry was about what to submit for the three pieces of work. In the end I decided to take a risk and submit a Twitter thread as one of the three. It worked.

Similarly for the other applicants, it wasn’t just a case of submitting three pieces of work. Charlie put together a selection of her favourite pieces they’d published to date, while Laura and Olivia also included a pitch deck and coverage of the project from Nieman Lab.

“We were just trying to show different perspectives which support why we matter,” adds Laura. “Show your range of skills through the application – don’t just had in a word document, make it pretty. Show that you can do multimedia.”

Similarly, Olivia agrees that adding photos and graphics can be a strong asset. “We thought adding pictures was a good way of getting across the kind of people that we were helping and actually showing them. A picture shows 1,000 words you don’t even have to start with.”

So, in summary, don’t be afraid to show off something a little bit different in your three examples of work – and keep images at the forefront of your mind. Could you show pictures from your reporting or events you’ve done? Do you have screenshots of positive messages or graphics you’ve made for social media? Can you get a grab of the analytics? They all help – and crucially don’t add to your word count.

Get Feedback From A Variety Of People

And, finally, it sounds like an obvious one, but do seek out feedback on your idea and proposal before you hand it in. I dumped mine in a massive Messenger chat to friends, but also consider who else you should be asking – and make sure you send them the award brief to compare it too.

You can see more of gal-dem’s work here.

“I think the other thing to consider is that sometimes in a passion project you forget how much assumed knowledge you in put in applications,” adds Laura. It sounds obviously when you think about it, but also highlights the importance of sending the application to someone outside your team.

Ideally you want someone with no background in your project, so they can point out flaws you might not have missed. And, while we’re at it, speak to us! All of us are more than happy to have a chat about your ideas or give feedback. This award is an amazing opportunity for women of all ages, and we can’t wait to see who applies next.

Read our applications:

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff’s Application for gal-dem

Jem Collins’s Application for Journo Resources

Olivia Crelin & Laura Garcia’s Application for PressPad

You can apply to the Women in Journalism Georgina Henry Award here, until February 9.

Featured Image Credit: The Press Awards