Whether it’s a 40 Under 40 list for top executives or a trade case history honor, industry awards generate great PR for organizations and their employees. Earning an industry award can position a company as a leading employer, an innovative partner, or the maker of an outstanding product. Yet crafting a winning entry for a professional award can be daunting. You want to stand out among the hundreds of entries that judges read, but what moves an entry to the shortlist? Here are a few tips on how to earn that next award.
Start with the right category
The category fit is all-important, so never try to shoehorn your story into a slot where it may not work. Always check previous category winners to make sure you’re in the right place. Pay special attention to little-known or niche categories where there may not be large numbers of entries. Once you find a category you can dominate, be sure to understand the full entry criteria. Every question posed by the prompt should be answered directly in your response.
Back up your claims
Use the award template as your project guide before you begin. It’s best to gather pieces of the requested information and have all the internal input beforehand so that you’re well equipped to tell the full story. Every award program and category has a specific focus and your answer should address it directly. A generic entry that doesn’t fulfill what is asked won’t cut it. This especially rings true when entering multiple categories — entries should not be one-size-fits-all.
Craft a story
You have all of the information you need and the case study has rather impressive results; now what? Transform your information into an attention-grabbing story that conveys your organization’s success or captures an individual’s achievements. The goal is to leave something that stays with the judges after they’ve read the submission. Think of the objective, work, and results as your beginning, middle, and end. Begin by explaining what the company or person originally set out to do, the challenges or obstacles they faced, how those challenges were met, and what kind of impact resulted. The reader should feel as if they’re on a journey.
– Make sure the judges understand who the work was for, and never assume they know the brand or audience. Be mindful of any unfamiliar technical terms and use regular language.
– Present a human side. If success resulted from a collaboration among employees or partner organizations, expand on that. Offer testimony from team members about how the company or person faced and overcame challenges.
– Make the story flow so the reader isn’t bombarded by stats. This is where bullet points and quotes can come in handy; they’re a great way to pull details out without overwhelming the reader.
– Make sure your results track back to the objective. KPIs are the meat and potatoes for entries. Judges are looking for authenticity so having supporting evidence is essential. Don’t leave out the evidence of impact. Explain to the reader what the results mean and what they mean for the client.
– Keep it exciting! Imagery is memorable and will give that extra bump for your entry to stand out. If you can provide videos, images, or links to press coverage, take advantage of that.
– Adding a bit of personality won’t hurt. Don’t shy from being humorous or playful! Judges will remember something that made them laugh.
Finally, be clear about why your entry should win. What makes it more worthy than anything else? Creating a learning experience for the category or industry does this by presenting takeaways. Demonstrating innovation in the form of impact on an industry, a benefit to others, or a trend-setting practice is a surefire way of showing why your story is a winner.