Early in your career as a communicator, you will come to learn that a client’s notable reputation can extend far beyond press placements and social mentions. A seal of approval from a reputable third party is another fantastic way to expose the brand to new consumers and can even spark a fresh marketing opportunity. Having a credible backing to help solidify a client’s services as industry-leading is what makes entering awards and rankings an important part of their communications strategy.
Once you have identified the right award program for your client, and it’s time to write the submission, having a cheat sheet for best practices helps make the process go a lot smoother. Below is an insider’s guide to ensuring a strategic process from start to finish with the goal of helping you secure a win for your client:
The first order of business in entering an award program is identifying the deadline for submission and creating a realistic timeline to reach completion. More often than not, you are working close against the due date—and not responsibly managing expectations, or (worse!) missing the deadline could risk severely damaging your clients’ trust in your work. Luckily, in our experience, award program organizers are often willing to give a buffer if you simply just ask. Don’t be afraid to identify the proper award contact, give them a call and kindly request an extension. Even just one extra day can feel infinite if it helps you get to the finish line!
All award programs have requirements and criteria sections, but I recommend not stopping there. You can reach out to the same award contact you identified previously and request more information and clarity on what the judges will be looking out for specifically. Often, they are willing to give you a “heads up” on what section or question to focus on and bolster. This insider information will be a big help in informing your overall angle for the submission.
Now it is time to write; but what about? Take the information you learned about what judges focus on and use it as your north star. For example, if the judges are especially interested in hearing about the nominee’s community impact, find a clever and organic way to weave in this narrative throughout the submission, even if the prompt does not necessarily require it. This step is critical when you lose inspiration (and after a few days of consistent writing, it is likely you will), as this is the storyline you can always feel confident coming back to.
Although the number of awards submitted by other brands is not public information, it is safe to assume you are competing against hundreds of them. You do not want to risk having judges overlook your nomination because they are fatigued by reading unnecessary complexities. For this reason, always remember to use the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid) in award writing. Write concise sentences that provide specific detail, and support your statements with both qualitative and quantitative facts, statistics, metrics, etc. Additionally, do not underestimate the power of inserting quotes into the copy; this is a pithy way of expressing a first-person observation.
Cheers to you if you have made it this far in the submission process. Have your eyes glazed over yet? After taking on a long form writing project for various days, it is common to lose focus. Unsurprisingly, this may seriously affect your ability to sniff out errors. At this stage proofreading becomes crucial. Use your team. Hand it to three—even four— coworkers to give the submission a careful review for spelling, grammar and brevity. You will be surprised as to what obvious mistakes they find. Lastly, if you have access to a printer, I recommend printing out a hard copy and reading your submission aloud from start to finish. When your client is up against numerous other nominees, the submission cannot afford any errors.
Once the above is all said and done, it is time to submit.
Bonus tip: submitting materials can take up to—or over—an hour depending on the award criteria. Make sure to account for that in the timeline you’ve put together.