Blowing your own trumpet

Writing award entries that win

Award submissions are a fantastic way to showcase your work and achieve recognition. Winning an award – well that’s even better! It gives you permission to shout about your success from the rooftop and has the credibility that comes from being endorsed by a third party.

But, having coordinated award submissions across Asia Pacific for a mid-tier PR agency, I know that writing award entries can be fraught with potential pitfalls. Here are my tips for writing an award entry that will make the cut.

Stick to the word count

So you think that you can’t possibly tell the full story of your glory in only 2000 words? Wrong, of course you can, and what’s more sunshine, if you want to win, you’re going to have to stick to the word count! The judges aren’t going to look upon you kindly if you’re the 47th entry and you’ve gone over the word count by 50 percent. Most awards have clear guidelines that will direct you on how to structure your submission. Use this structure to your advantage to organise your thoughts and distil key information appropriately. Structure, headlines and bulletpoints are all your friends.

Know and understand the criteria

I can’t emphasise this enough – READ THE CRITERIA. Make sure you are selecting the most appropriate category for your submission. This is not a case where more is better. Pick your category carefully and make sure your entry truly and clearly addresses the selection criteria.

Follow presentation guidelines

Every year for various regional PR awards, I would review the award guidelines and create a template for my teams which adhered to the formatting rules outlined in the awards entry kit. This would include the appropriate section headings, font selection and size, and any other formatting restrictions. And I guarantee you that every year I would receive draft submissions that did not follow this structure at all. If I had been the judge, rather than an internal editor, I’d have put them on the discard pile, no matter how great the content might have been. Make reviewing your entry easy for the judges by including information in the format they have requested.

Give yourself plenty of time

Many awards have a cut-off date, and then a late entry date with an additional fee applied. DO NOT AIM FOR THE LATE ENTRY DATE. Always, always give yourself plenty of time by aiming for the official entry date, and keep the late entry option as an emergency buffer. I know that preparing award entries can often slide down the priority list when faced with more pressing client concerns. Consider outsourcing the writing of the award entry if you suspect that time pressures will not be on your side. (Who to outsource to? Well, ahem, I know an experienced award entry writer you could contact!)

It’s all about the evidence

It doesn’t matter how great your product/service/campaign is if you can’t prove it. And your word isn’t going to be good enough – this is where you should be thinking hard numbers, like ROI, or sales data, or any other measurable metrics. If you don’t have the supporting evidence to illustrate your success, then I’m going to be blunt and tell you not to bother. Award entries take time, effort and money to put together. Look at the awards criteria and if you can’t produce the necessary supporting materials or data, then the judges aren’t going to consider your entry to be credible.

Even if you don’t win, the process of preparing an entry can provide you with a selection of material that you can repurpose into other marketing documents, such as a case study. Indeed, preparing for and entering awards should be a considered part of an integrated marketing campaign.

Need help writing award entries?

Does preparing award entries freak you out? Or do you find yourself missing deadlines and then being disappointed when your competitors win instead of you? If you’d like to have a chat about how to improve your award entries and boost your chance of success, then contact me. I’d love to chat about how we can get you the glory that comes with winning.

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