GUEST POST: Top 10 tips for writing winning awards entries

With normality creeping back so have awards. There is value in entering them so Joanna March has some tips for success.

After a year of cancellations and digital ceremonies, face-to-face award events are back on – these events provide fantastic opportunities for networking with your peers and getting to learn more about exciting initiatives within other organisations.

Awards showcase best practise and being able to demonstrate excellence amongst your peers is great for both personal and organisational reputation.

As they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it so, hands up, who likes writing award entries? Collating the evidence you need and writing entries is also a fantastic exercise in both evaluation and reflection, two things busy teams often don’t have time to do as well as they would like. 

In recent years I’ve written and submitted countless award entries, the majority of the submissions I’ve worked on have been shortlisted and some have won. One of my weirdest experiences was following an event Twitter feed sat in the dark at home (senior colleagues attended the ceremony). Everyone in my household had gone to bed and an automatic timer switched my lamp off as the category I had been waiting for was announced. My entry won so I posted a quick congratulatory message on Twitter, joined in the banter on the team WhatsApp and celebrated by finally going to bed.

Most people who work in PR and communications will have to write an award submission at some point in their career so here are a few things I’ve learned in over twenty years of writing them:

  1. Research awards that are most relevant to your organisation and the projects you are especially proud of – I use the free lists created by Boost Awards and receive their free monthly award reminder emails. This list is an excellent starting point but don’t forget to double-check details directly on award websites as there has been a lot of change since the start of 2020. It is also worth checking out relevant trade journals and local business press for new ones that may not make the Boost list. Don’t forget to use your professional judgement to see if the awards are worth entering by checking out previous winners to see if your peers have entered. 
  1. Once you have identified the awards you wish to enter, make a note of the entry deadlines and any other important information (such as entry fees) in a planner. I use an Excel spreadsheet but there may be a more efficient method out there. 
  1. Four – six weeks before the entry deadline review the award categories and entry criteria. Most entries need evidence to prove you achieved your aims and objectives, solid facts and figures are essential so make sure you collect this information as early as possible.
  1. A strong entry often includes testimonials so take some time to identify people who will be willing to provide one, submit your requests and allow some time to review and collate them. 
  1. Review your photography – do you have suitable pictures? I’ve sometimes had to rush out to take pictures just before submitting an entry so be prepared.
  1. Writing your entry – if there is an online entry form, copy it into a Word document noting word and character counts. In my experience the longest entries can take more than a day to draft and review, technical entries may take longer if you are not an expert in the area.
  1. When your draft entry is ready review it against the criteria, this helps to make sure you’ve covered everything.
  1. Once you are happy with your draft, ask someone else to read it through and follow whatever sign-off procedure you have in place.
  1. Allow time to upload your entry onto the website – some online forms are easier than others. I’ve experienced entry forms crashing as everyone scrambles to upload their submissions. When this has happened I’ve contacted the awards administrator and have been advised to submit by email (this is where your Word document comes in useful) or wait until the following day.
  1. Make a note of the shortlist announcement and keep everything crossed for a good result that you can use for social content and corporate news pages. 

You’ve got to be in it to win it, so start looking at the award you’d most like to win and see if you can submit an entry.

Joanna March has worked in public relations for more than 20 years in the public and private sector. She is available for freelance and longer term opportunities. You can follow her on Twitter at @MsJoMarch.

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