HOW TO WRITE A GREAT AWARD ENTRY – 18 TOP TIPS
Updated: Apr 14
Is your business delivering award-winning work but every time you enter a set of awards, your entries just don’t get the recognition they deserve? If so, it could be that your written entry is falling flat with the judges.
As a regular judging panel member on awards, such as the UK Content Awards, European Content Awards, Social Media Awards and Company Culture Award, I often see the bones of a great campaign in an award entry that does it no justice. Often there are details missing, the entry is structured all wrong, the writing is dull or the author gets carried away with the big idea and doesn’t explain the business rigour that drove it.
During my 20+ years in PR and communications, I’ve also entered and won lots of awards for both my clients and the businesses I have been a part of. The combination of these experiences means that I have learned a thing or two about what makes for a good award entry and what captures a judge’s imagination. Here are my insights on how to create award entries that bring home the trophy…
Read the award entry criteria and category explanation thoroughly. You would be surprised at the amount of entries I have had to flag for being in the wrong category or completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. Trying to shoehorn something in doesn’t work – you simply end up wasting yours and the judges’ time, not to mention the money you spent on entering.
Take some time to explain the client business. You might understand them inside out but the awards judges don’t. Take the time to outline what it is that they do and how they do it.
Remember you are telling a story and your copy must reflect this. With so many entries to read, judging can become heavy going. If you serve up an entry that inspires and jumps off the page, then you are halfway there.
When asked what the objectives of your campaign were – make your response SMART. Judges will relate the results you detail later on in the award entry to what you wanted to achieve, so don’t be woolly with your upfront aims. Same goes if you are asked about the audience – be specific - saying everyone just won’t cut it against another entry that knows its customer inside out.
Breakdown the budget. For your entry to be judged fairly, a judge needs to understand what spend went where and to put a figure behind the specific activities that drove the results. Other entries in your category will be doing this and it may just be the thing that gives their entry a leg up on yours.
Don’t get so wrapped up in the BIG idea that you forget to explain the strategy behind it. Share the insights that laid the foundation for why you did what you did. The judges want to see that a campaign was clearly thought through and has a strong rationale.
Add some inspiration to your award entry. It could be one of 12 entries in a category and so will need to stand out, or it could be the one and only entry and the judges may be reluctant to let it win just because it’s the only one there.
Keep an eye on the question your answering. Judges have points to allocate to each section and if you’re explaining your strategy in a section on implementation, then you’re losing unnecessary points. It’s easy, just put the right information in the right section.
Don’t make the judges go searching for information. Make sure your entry includes all the relevant details - if it doesn’t a judge won’t go looking for it. For the last set of awards I judged, I reviewed 40 entries – I didn’t have time to go looking for extra background information or results.
Bullet points are your friend. When it comes to tight word counts and making a point, if you break out the information into bullets then your entry becomes easier to read and your salient points stand out.
Think about using imagery within the entry, to bring the story you are telling to life. There may be a word count limit but often there are no rules around images. By adding in pics of creative and graphs that demonstrate results, you add colour and help the judges to visualise what was achieved. But don’t go overboard - that’s what supporting documents are for.
Bespoke the entry to the category. It may be time consuming but ensuring that your entry fits the category you are entering it for is key. Too often I see the exact same entry put into different categories, in the same set of awards. Judges find it lazy and more often than not these entries are always scored down as they simply don't meet the brief. If you don't have the time to tailor the content, then save the money and don't bother entering.
Create and share log-ins. If you are showcasing something that needs a log-in or the judge has to set up a profile to access, then provide this already set up in the entry with mock profiles (e.g. judge1 / judge 2) and passwords. If there’s a whole heap of hoops that a judge needs to jump through, then you’re just eating into their time and energy.
Read you entry to make sure it makes sense. Even better still get a fresh pair of eyes on it by asking someone who wasn’t involved in the entry to read it. See if they get all the salient points, are impressed by the work undertaken and the results achieved. If not – redraft.
Remember Google exists. Don’t overclaim the impact of your campaign or overstate your results, judges will hit Google if something sounds too good to be true, discounting any entries where the numbers just don’t stack up.
Avoid giving one sentence answers. If an entry has a whole section dedicated to a particular topic don't answer with 1-2 sentences, or simply state the obvious. You are being asked for this information for a reason, so break down the detail.
Make your supporting documents visually engaging. Don’t just submit a dry list of results or links to every output - pull some of the best results out and show them as visuals. The judges won’t have time to click on every link if there are more than around eight but pictures and images will grab their attention.
Get a professional to write the entry. If you’re serious about winning and you think that wining the award could have a positive impact on your business, either internally and/or externally, then ask someone in your PR or Marketing Department to write it. Otherwise, think about bringing in some external support to add some value.
If these tips have given you some food for thought on how to approach your award entry writing in future, then that’s awesome. However, if you feel that you need a fresh approach to your awards strategy, or your entry writing, then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org