No matter how big or small your business is, being recognised by an awards body is a sure-fire way to build awareness, credibility and positive publicity, not to mention pride among your team. Even if you’ve got the best product or service under the sun, it can be all too easy to miss key deadlines and information if you’re too busy or too close to the subject. That’s where working with professional communications experts can make all the difference to help extract the best information and polish your award to make it even more judge-friendly.
Each year we develop a number of successful award entries for our clients (including two represented in the Western Morning News Business Awards last night!) so we thought we’d share some top tips gleaned from our experience over the years…
So, you’ve decided to enter an award…
You’ve chosen the right category for you based on the demonstrable strengths of your business. Your first reaction may be to look at the deadline and feel relieved that you’ve got months – but take it from us, it’s never too early to start. Whether it’s an award that requires pages of supporting evidence, or a punchy 400-word entry, it takes time to get it right.
1. Don’t underestimate how long the process takes
No award process is the same, so preparation time will vary. You’ll need to assess what facts and information you require and how accessible the relevant information is to you. Often digging out the facts and figures takes more time than you think, so don’t get caught out by leaving it too late. Also, do your research into the entry format (is it an email attachment, online form or other format?) and be sure to check the word/character count you need to meet.
2. Study the entry criteria carefully
This one may seem obvious, but we can’t stress enough just how important it is to address exactly what the judges are looking for in your answers from the outset. Don’t waffle or waste precious word count on anything that doesn’t address the entry criteria.
3. Get to the point
Imagine you’re a judge: you’re reading numerous entries for the exact same award… what stands out? Clear, tangible points that show an understanding of both the question and how your business successfully meets the award criteria will always work. Don’t be afraid to use bullet points if the entry format allows. If your award doesn’t have set questions, try and introduce subheadings that relate directly back to the category criteria, keeping you focused and making it easy to review.
4. Prove it
A strong, credible entry is always peppered with up-to-date figures, tables, charts and even infographics – any evidence (within the confines of the entry format) that demonstrates why your business is the best in the category. Remember, it’s much more powerful to show than tell.
5. Always demonstrate results
A good entry can always support its claims with tangible results: it could be a relevant statistic but we’re not just talking numbers – a specific example of success that takes the judge on a journey can make all the difference. This helps ensure your entry is fact-led and not based on opinion, and shows the judges the positive impact your actions have had on your business, the community, your customers, clients, staff and so on.
6. Identify where your business goes the extra mile
Judges aren’t just looking for ‘good’; they’re looking for ‘outstanding’. So this would be a good time to review your USPs in line with the award questions. What does your business do that others fail to? Don’t just focus on things that are to be expected of your business – shine a light on elements that exceed expectations. Another good tip is to look at who won the previous award and see how you can do better.
7. Call on others for a different perspective
When writing award entries for our clients, we often discover gems of information that clients themselves would have all too easily missed. We’ve heard them gloss over something fantastic they do, simply failing to realise its potential value in an award entry. We call these things ‘entry gold dust’. So to get some perspective, make sure the entry-writing process isn’t a one-man job; we’d recommend asking friends, colleagues or an external advisor with a fresh perspective on why they think your business should win the award. Often this can uncover some valuable points that you might not have thought of.
8. Anticipate the competition
Knowing what you’re up against will give you an advantage. If your competition is in the same sector as you, make sure you stress how your business goes above and beyond to achieve success in the award category. If they come from different sectors, think about things you can tell the judges about that they won’t be reading in the other entries.
9. The power of testimonials
At one time or another, we’ve all read rave reviews of a product which have urged us to click the ‘buy now’ button – and testimonials are no different. If you can use testimonials, ideally from those who have positively witnessed/experienced your strength in the awards category, then you should include them. Try, wherever possible, to quote the source of the testimonial – anonymous feedback is never as strong. If you’re short on word count, testimonials can sometimes be included as part of the supporting information.
10. Avoid repetition
It isn’t uncommon for one of your points to be relevant to more than one question in the award entry. To make sure you’re packing your entry with the highest number of valuable points and not wasting any of the word count, try making a list of your key points, then set them out under each question (remembering to consider any word limits). This way you’ll avoid incurring repetitions and be able to set out a clear structure for each answer.
11. Final check
Now it’s time for one last check of spelling, grammar and word count, and to verify that supporting evidence can be easily downloaded and read. This is where a fresh pair of eyes from a colleague can prove invaluable, as it can be surprising what tricks the brain can play when proofreading your own work – even for the most analytical of writers!
Using these tips should help you on your way to creating a successful award entry, but if you find yourself short of time or looking for professional help with elevating your entry to that of a top contender, our team of experts are ready to help. Each year we help businesses enter awards ranging from regional to national level and we’re building quite a reputation for success on behalf of our clients. In fact, we’ve had a 90% plus success rate in the last couple of years for the award entries we’ve written for our clients either winning or being shortlisted. For help with awards or indeed any other aspect of PR and marketing, contact our team today on 01392 680740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.