How to prepare a winning award entry

How’s your trophy cabinet looking?

When it comes to awards – both on an individual and corporate basis – there tends to be mixed opinion surrounding whether they’re worth the effort.

Some cynics will boldly claim that award schemes are “a fix”. We’ve worked in the industry long enough to have heard lots of reasons why…

  • “We’re not a big enough brand – we could never have won!”
  • “In our sector, the judges simply alternate between winners – everyone gets a turn!”
  • “We don’t spend enough with that [magazine/newspaper/events company], so they were never going to pick us.”

Of course, these statements might sometimes be true, so when it comes to such awards, the resulting certificate is a waste of the paper it’s printed on.

But it should also be noted that, often, the people that complain about the credibility of various industry awards, are those that are yet to have been successful. You therefore have to question whether there’s a touch of SLS – sore loser syndrome – being thrown into the mix here. Because, dig a little deeper, and there are a number of credible initiatives that exist to truly reward the businesses and individuals who work hard and make a difference.

So exactly how do you work out which accolades are worthy of the blood, sweat and tears you’ll put in, to construct a decent entry?

  • If you’re a business professional, start with your industry body. The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants… the list goes on and most bodies have award schemes with esteemed judging panels, to highlight the successes their members are experiencing.
  • Then turn to the media that supports your profession. Most career paths have relevant trade journals and these magazines often run award schemes to reward the ‘best in the business’. Think about where you’re based regionally too, and investigate well-established awards in your geographical area. In Yorkshire alone, there are many prestigious campaigns to enter, including the Yorkshire Post Excellence Awards, the Business Masters and the Yorkshire Residential Property Awards, to name just a few.
  • Think about the awards you’ve seen other people win and consider which of these you have really respected. If they’ve caught your eye, the chances are they’ll also impress your clients and colleagues if you were to win one.

Then it’s important to look at the entry process. Nomination-only awards are great, because you receive an immediate endorsement from a third party. But if it boils down to the total number of ‘votes’ you receive (or similar) it can be tough to be crowned the ultimate winner, if you’re not yet a huge brand.

That’s why written submissions are great. They create a level playing field where successes, providing they’re evidenced, are (usually!) judged relative to the person or company submitting the entry. Some awards are fairly straightforward, but they tend to be the schemes with less ‘clout’. Those with more rigorous criteria on the other hand – which require a lot of upfront effort to enter – naturally come armed with greater credibility!

Time invested at this stage is certainly worth it, so carefully review the entry requirements, ensure you have facts to back up every point you make, and try to source endorsements from other individuals and companies, to reinforce your claims. If there is a word count, stick to it (you don’t want to risk judges stopping at word 1,000 and missing the pièce de résistance). But if supporting materials are permitted, include them – they could enable you to include the crucial ingredient to enhance your entry!

Finally, if you’ve written the entry yourself because you don’t have a trusted PR company who can help you, ask an honest friend, peer or colleague to review your submission, before you hit “send”. They should eye every paragraph with the “so what” mentality, to ensure you’ve truly explained your achievements and highlighted why they make you a worthy winner.

After that it’s over to the judges. If you reach the shortlisting phase, enjoy the moment and be proud of it. Many award schemes can attract hundreds, if not thousands of entries, so standing out is not easy.

Scooping the highest accolade is an even bigger achievement. Of course there’s the overwhelming buzz associated with taking centre stage to collect a prestigious trophy. But when the ceremony is over, and your gong is in your cabinet, ensure you maximise the post-event benefits that come with the win.

Media coverage and social media posts, for example, can heighten brand awareness, provide a competitive differential, strengthen perceptions and attract new business. The accomplishment may even energise the workforce and help to retain all-important talent.

So, when it comes to entering awards, we certainly sit firmly on one side of the fence. Yes, some accolades are a feeble attempt to ‘reward’ success. But others really can transform your business and bring you’re the recognition you deserve.

Now the important bit – here’s how we can help you further…