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What makes a good award entry?

What makes a good award entry?

You don’t have to be Gary Oldman or Frances McDormand to experience the ecstasy of winning an award.

Every industry has its own version of the Oscars, and nothing beats the moment of glory when you stand on stage clutching that trophy. Even so, many people are put off entering awards through fear of failure, or by the amount of effort it would take to compile their submission. But it needn’t be that bad. Here Sarah Webster shares some insights on writing awards entries that lead on to stardom.

Why enter awards?

Obviously, the main objective in entering awards is to win! The media exposure surrounding an award win is tremendous. To have one or more publications throwing the spotlight on your team and their work is probably the best PR anyone could wish for – because it comes from third party endorsement. Your work has been validated and saluted by a jury of respected influencers in your industry or profession. They will have deemed it best-in-class and worthy of praise from your entire community. And your win can be amplified on social media and emblazoned across your website, so the halo effect goes way beyond the awards ceremony and immediate media coverage.

Amongst the elite

And if you don’t win an award, but are a finalist, you’ll have every reason to feel hugely proud of your work, in the knowledge that you rank amongst an elite few, and will be credited as such in the awards ceremony. Realistically, there will always be an element of luck in the winning process, depending on who you’re up against. The year that a UK event management company organised the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games, it was a foregone conclusion that a project of such stature and scale would dominate that year’s events industry awards. Those agencies that had produced excellent events on a corporate scale were understandably cast in the shadow of the big-budget extravaganza. But even in such cases, there’s no dishonour in having your name listed next to such mighty competition.

Morale booster

But how would you feel if you don’t receive that ‘Congratulations – you’ve been shortlisted’ email? Disappointment will be the first reaction, naturally enough. But even the process of taking time to revisit a stand-out project, campaign or piece of work will have been worthwhile. So often we complete a job and rush on to the next, barely pausing to congratulate ourselves and each other on a superb team effort. So, taking the trouble to catalogue the activity that went into producing that project – and congratulating yourselves for achieving it, is a great morale booster for everyone involved. (And, of course, it gives you a great case study to post on your website or use in new business pitches!).

Impressing the judges

Having decided to enter, it would be logical to assume that your brilliant work will speak for itself, and that you merely have to supply the information requested to earn the points. But it’s not that straightforward. Judges, who are generally busy people with day jobs, will receive a hefty portfolio of entries to read and evaluate over an uncomfortably short period. To stand out from the crowd you will need to wow them with an inspiring and memorable story. Your submission will need to convince those judges that it is not just very good, but more deserving of an award than the other 29 or 35 entries in the category.

So, a turgid description of what we did, and what happened next, will quickly bore the judges into a stupor. Conversely, they’ll groan out loud when confronted with boastful, unsubstantiated claims and exclamations of “amazing” and “incredible” in every paragraph.

How to write a winning award entry

The most compelling award entries are clearly and succinctly written, so that they bring the project, campaign or team to life, demonstrating with quantifiable evidence that they have broken new ground, or excelled far beyond the industry norm.

It’s not a quick job. You should approach your entry as you would any other marketing communications activity, allowing ample time to gather statistics and supporting material (images and/or video). The content should be compiled and presented by a skilled award entry writer and read objectively by colleagues before submission. You may also need extra time to gain authorisation and approval from a client featured in the and sales industries – many entries going on to win Silver, Gold and Platinum awards. Of these, the toughest challenge was for Marketing magazine’s coveted ‘Agency of the Year’ suite of awards (no longer existing). In 2011 the entry written for client TRO won Agency of the Year in the Experiential category, while client CPM scooped Field Marketing Agency of the Year and Contact Centre Agency of the Year. A formidable hat trick and collectively our greatest ever award win