A key characteristic in any public relations role is researching awards and drafting submissions. Whether it be for your PR agency or your client, writing award submissions is an important skill to sharpen. Drafting an award-winning entry may seem like a daunting task to some, but we’re here to help you nail down the key aspects of a solid entry.

From the IABC Gold Quill Awards to the Stevie Awards, we’ve compiled our top tips for writing a submission that judges won’t want to put down:

Start early
By early, we mean a few months before the submission is due. The key to a quality, polished entry is giving yourself plenty of time for revisions. If you’re serious about whatever award you’re applying to (and you should be!) then the process is not one that can be rushed. Multiple team members should review the draft and give their input. If possible, have a trusted outside source review your entry. Revise, revise, revise!

Critically evaluate supporting documents
Elizabeth Leis Newman, a Bulldog Awards judge shares her tips for an award-winning entry, one of which pertains to outside materials submitted as attachments. If you’re attaching images or videos to your submission, you must ensure they are the highest quality. There’s no room for broken links or blurry images.

If you have an opportunity to direct judges to an attachment within your application, do so! Newman advises this because it increases the chances of the judge fully appreciating the supporting document.

Research the organization that’s sponsoring the award
Last month, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) held a webinar which walked participants through the strategic framework of a winning submission for their Gold Quill Awards. It pays to visit the website of the award you’re interested in to see if they have helpful tips or webinars, like IABC provides.

Check to see if the awards program has posted a copy of the scoring criteria. Not only will this help in your writing process, but it gives you an idea of what the judges are specifically seeking in an entry. For example, IABC shared their seven-point scaling system as well as their evaluation process:

Sign up for newsletters
Another way to stay informed about award entries are newsletters. The Stevie Awards provide a weekly newsletter which features updates on the four Stevie Awards competitions. Issues include information like calls for entries, deadlines, entry kit availability, plus interviews with honorees, judges, and sponsors.

Don’t shy away from sharing the hiccups in your campaign
There’s no telling what can happen during a marketing campaign. If you went over budget, you lost a team member, or you had to change course halfway through, share this! Detail what you and your team did to handle these difficulties. It’s unrealistic to expect that every campaign will execute perfectly; highlighting how you faced any challenges head-on is more impressive than attempting to make it seem unscathed. Instead, position your difficulties as opportunities to come up with clever solutions.

Keep your evaluators in mind
Many evaluators are well-trained and experienced communications professionals, so keep this in mind while writing your submission. They will see through your weak points, so there’s no room for fluff. They might not know much about your client’s industry, maybe even your client’s country, so be sure to leave a portion where you succinctly explain it to them.

Oftentimes evaluators are volunteers. Be mindful of this and consider how many entries they are reviewing. Typically, it takes at least one hour to review one submission. Be courteous and stick to the page length rules, as difficult as that might seem. You won’t have a problem with this as long as you follow our very first tip!

Describe your use of resources and budget (even if you didn’t have one)
Just because you had a budget of $0 doesn’t mean you can’t elaborate on this. Instead of saying, “the budget was zero because it was pro bono,” use this as an opportunity to describe how you valued your time and used staff resources. IABC suggests outlining what you would have charged had it been a paying client.

If you did have a budget that you’re able to share, include this. Highlight who you collaborated with, showcase your project management skills, and demonstrate how you used your resources effectively. Sharing your budget will allow the evaluators to better understand what you prioritized and how you balanced resources.

Align your objectives and measurements
IABC said that a top mistake they come across are entries that introduce measurements later in the submission that don’t seem to relate to any goals or objectives. Outline the objectives of your campaign using SMART Goals and ensure that any metrics you have back up the high-level purposes of the campaign. Consider these questions when describing your campaign objectives:

• What does your project fit under?
• How does this contribute to what the enterprise is trying to accomplish?
• What are you trying to accomplish? Grow market share? Increase employee retention? Be the #1 solution provider?
• How does communications meet those goals?

Again, if there were goals that you didn’t meet, don’t sugarcoat it. Explain why you didn’t meet them and more importantly, detail what you learned.

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to submitting a high-scoring award entry!

Does all of this seem like too much work that you just don’t have the time for? Then reach out to us today and see how we can help!

By Rachael Paul, Account Coordinator


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