Winning an industry award can be a great achievement. Yet how to win an award can seem like a mystery.
Our guide to writing award-winning submissions aims to debunk the myths around entering awards. We write awards entries for clients across a myriad of different sectors and for a wide variety of awards. Regardless of the topic or sector, there are some golden rules that we always follow. It’s a tall order to write a compelling story that brings your brand to life on a page, whilst evidencing your success, and within a wordcount!
Winning a well-regarded award can bring several business benefits. It’ll raise your profile, add credibility and can even bring new business opportunities your way – as well as gaining you some PR! You can use your shortlisting and (hopefully, your win) as a reason to touch base with previous clients, use it in your pitches and proposals, and create some noise around it on your social media channels.
The benefits of entering awards aren’t limited to your external audience. Internally, awards can help with employee engagement, retention and buy-in to your brand. They can provide a great opportunity for staff to pull together and contribute to the submission, making them feel part of your business success.
The awards night itself can offer networking opportunities, a chance to entertain clients and staff, as well as the potential to get your brand in front of industry peers.
With the above in mind, writing your first entry can seem like a daunting task. There’s no sure-fire recipe for success, but our tips will help you hone your award applications and put you on the path to the winners’ podium.
- Make sure you’ve got the time to enter
- Check your timelines
- Do your research
- Talk to yourself
- Support your claims
- Talk about them!
- Answer the question
- Take your time
- Make it a team effort
- Aim high
- A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end
- Stick to the wordcount
- Only rely on facts
- Sweat the small stuff
- It’s the final countdown…
- Check, check and check again
- If at first you don’t succeed…
1. Make sure you’ve got the time to enter
Creating an award-winning entry is time-consuming, so make sure you’ve got the headspace to do it properly. Depending on the award, you’ll not only need to submit your initial registration for inclusion, then write and design your submission and supporting documents, but also potentially be called for interview, which will in itself involve a presentation or preparation of some form. You’ll have to set aside time for thinking and writing – plus, time to rehearse.
2. Check your timelines
Every award has its own timeline. Some industry biggies are set in stone, others move around a little. Don’t forget to register well in advance so you can get ahead with collecting all the evidence you’ll need for entry.
For some, it’s a case of registering in September to submit by Christmas. For others, it’s a case of register by May to submit final documents by June. Make sure you’ve got a handle on the awards you want to enter well in advance so you can schedule in key dates. You don’t want to be ready to submit your completed entry only to find that you never registered your interest in the first place so are unable to enter.
3. Do your research
If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
Take it seriously. Each award will have different criteria, questions and entry processes. Taking a bit of time to understand who has won before, for what and to just double check that you’re entering the right category and with a project or business which is within the right timescale can save you hours of work. If in doubt, ask the awards organisers. It’s rare, but you might ask something they’ve not thought of. The awards organising team is likely to be a font of information – particularly if the submission deadline is delayed, giving entrants a few crucial extra days to hone their efforts.
4. Talk to yourself
Be honest. Keep asking yourself, what have you done that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary? The awards worth winning aren’t those you can buy, they’re those judged on merit.
Have confidence in your achievements and be proud of them. Let them spur you on to greater heights. But equally, be pragmatic when it comes to awards time and make sure you enter awards for which you’re eligible.
5. Support your claims
Back up what you say with evidence. Prove your sales figures, company growth, the number of clients brought onboard, energy efficiency, boxes of nails used… tangible facts and figures help. As do testimonials and feedback from clients, if they prove you really do put the customer at the heart of your business. Talking of customers and clients…
6. Talk about them!
Demonstrate how what you have done has helped them. Show, don’t tell. Ask if you can have a quote from them to use in your entry. Chances are they’ll jump at the opportunity to support you! Use their words and show how you have added value. The best testimonial of all isn’t what you say – it’s what your audience says.
7. Answer the question
Don’t get so carried away with your agenda that you forget to answer the questions in the criteria. Keep referring back to the questions – and make sure you blow your own trumpet. It’s one of the few times that it’s absolutely ok to do so!
Use clear language so the judges can get quickly to the heart of what you’re saying. If you’re submitting the same project for two categories, make sure that you’ve rewritten the elements to be relevant within the second category.
8. Take your time
A good award entry will be thoughtfully and well planned out. Judges will be able to tell who has thrown their entry together at the last minute. Take the time to write it all out beforehand, making sure the grammar scans and your submission reads well.
9. Make it a team effort
Get your team and customers involved, particularly when it comes to the bigger awards. Depending on what sort of information is required, you’re not going to be able to pull it together alone. You’ll need input from across your business and showing your clients you’re going for an award will increase credibility in your brand.
10. Aim high
If there’s a gold-standard award in your industry which you’d love to win – make sure you have a strategy to get yourself into the running! This may include entering a number of smaller awards as a practice run or strategically positioning yourself onto a project you might otherwise pass up – but go for gold.
11. A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end
Think about the structure of your entry. Lead with your best points – if you’ve got 1,000 words to use and the judges have to wade through 100 entries in each category, they’re going to be looking for standout information to begin with, they won’t want to wait until the fourth page to figure it out.
12. Stick to the wordcount
Be brave with your language and edit it ruthlessly. The word counts are there to be obeyed and we’d always recommend you stick to them.
They’re there for a valid reason, which is to allow the judges time to get through all the entries. If they’ve got a lot of entries to consider, going over may even penalise you. Plus, if you’re having to submit via an online form then it’s possible that your additional words will just be cut off in mid-flow.
13. Only rely on facts
Any award worth its salt will be judged by experts in the field. They will know if you’re embellishing the truth or make wild claims. There’s a difference between presenting yourself in a good light and lying – make sure you are on the side of truth. Build a picture that accurately reflects your business and results.
After all this effort, don’t let yourself fall at the last hurdle. If there’s a checklist of what needs to be included, tick it off. Triple check your entry answers the questions the judges have asked.
Plus, make sure you’ve obtained client approval if you need it for case studies, projects, images and confidential information.
15. Sweat the small stuff
Get the details right. Make sure your entry is proofread and spell checked, as well as saved into the right format. Don’t be caught out on a technicality.
Should your company name be on the documents, or not? Pages numbered, or not? Headings in line with the style guide? It’s always worth at this stage someone else having a look through just to be sure.
16. It’s the final countdown…
Meet the deadline in good time. You don’t want to be at the mercy of a systems crash on the final day of submission.
17. Check, check and check again
Make a diary note of the shortlisting date and be sure to check your spam folder in the interim. It may be the case that additional information is asked for, and after all this effort it would be a real shame if that email goes into your spam folder, never to be answered… equally, the announcement that you’ve made the shortlist might end up there too!
18. If at first you don’t succeed…
Try, try again! Don’t be scared to ask for feedback to help with next year’s entry too.
Good luck with your entries! If you’d like a hand with yours, give us a bell on 01452 379 980.
We’d love to know if this article has helped you with writing an award entry. Let us know your thoughts on social media or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org