Some say award ceremonies are decided by a complex calculation of your media spend x your brand status. That aside, I do think it’s possible to fight your way in on merit alone.
I strongly believe there is an art to crafting a winning award entry. It’s a piece of content in its own right (and normally a pretty lengthy one), so it should be treated as such. Here are my tips:
- Select the right category – sounds obvious but I’m often surprised when clients tell me which category they want to enter, and perhaps that’s the point – sometimes an outside perspective can be useful to understand which areas you’re strongest in, not just what you’d most like to win.
- Look at last year’s winner – when you’ve got an idea of which category you’d like to enter, find the winner and shortlist for last year’s equivalent. This should give you an idea of what the judges are looking for.
- Be realistic – the above is handy for getting a benchmark of the standard you’re competing against. Ask yourself the tough questions – what about your product, service or project is truly unique? Benefits are not the same as USPs.
- Check dates – often you can only submit work that’s happened within the past year – which makes sense seeing as most awards are annual, but in my experience it’s very common for clients not to realise this, especially if they are new to the awards in question, so please don’t get 1,000 words in only to realise your entry isn’t valid.
- Use wording from the brief – a bit like in a job application, it can help to weave in some of the language from the category spec to demonstrate how you’re meeting the criteria, but do it subtly.
- Structure your entry according to the brief – some award entries will already have a set format, but others are more open. While it can be tempting (and a lot quicker, believe me) to format it in a chronological order, structuring it according to the brief makes it easier for the judging panel to score you in each area. Think of it like an exam paper being marked and give yourself the best chance possible.
- Space is precious – easily one of the most important points, you have to be really selective about what you include, both in terms of keeping inside your word count, and keeping hold of the judges’ attention. Award entries often include unnecessary background information about the company, or waffle into their entry like a blog post. Go through every sentence and ask yourself is it necessary, and is it helping me score points? Space is precious, this is not a web page.
- Formatting is important – even within a standard Word doc template that you download from your entry pack, you can still consider things like bullet points and bolding key words and sentences to ensure important information isn’t missed.
- Mention previous award wins – I wouldn’t recommend dwelling on this, but a short sentence summarising any other successes, such as award wins you’ve had that are relevant to your category within the past year can be helpful. As human beings, if we hear other people value something, it makes us question how we see it too, whether we like to admit it or not.
- Focus on real-world results – typically the award section of any award entry is where the big marks are available, and what they’re looking for is cold hard facts. Pack this section with statistics, but go a step further and consider the ‘so what’ factor on your results. For example, sales have increased by 30%, but what does that mean? Did you hire a new team? Invest in new equipment?
- Swot up on the judges – if you want to be a real nerd, you can look up the judges and learn a bit more about them to get a feel for what they value and prioritise.
- Write a strong summary – often you’ll have to write a separate summary which the judges read before looking at your entry. This is important for two reasons in my opinion – it’s basically your conclusion, so succinctly explaining what’s so mind blowing about your entry here keeps this front of mind when they’re going through the details. Secondly – and this is purely conjecture – part of me sometimes wonders if when faced with hundreds of entries in a really short amount of time, if they read an awful summary, do they bother to read the whole thing?! Not worth finding out in my opinion.
- Your supporting materials are your secret weapon – the best way to genuinely set yourself apart in my opinion is to treat your supporting materials almost like an award entry in itself. This is your proof essentially. Be creative – if you’re allowed to upload one document, make a PDF that includes all of your supporting materials in one go.
What are supporting materials you ask? Here’s a few things you could include:
- Client testimonials – and better still, multiple quotes from different clients, at different levels of seniority, focusing on different benefits.
- Videos – videos not only bring your entry to life but can be a huge way to save space or word count.
- Graphs, statistics and screenshots are all great proof
- Photos – this could be of your work, or it could be photos of certificates or similar
Obviously the amount of time and effort you could spend on an award entry is infinite, but your time most likely isn’t, so weigh up what this is worth to you and make a judgement call on how far to take it.
Alternatively, get in touch and we can help you :)