How to write a winning award entry
It's awards season again. And although marketers aren't often to be found in red-carpet-sweeping gowns, or thanking their make-up artists and nutritionists, you might find yourself responsible for entering awards in your industry.
We write dozens of award entries for our clients every year, so we thought we’d share our tips for crafting an entry that will make the judges sit up and take notice.
1. Get organised early
Even if you only have 500 words to write, there are decisions you need to take before you start. How many people or projects are you entering, and for which categories? Are they good enough to win? Who in your organisation knows the most about each one? Do you need to provide supporting images, results or financial information? Will you need to get the entry approved by your client before you submit it? And, critically, when's the deadline? Depending on the number of people involved, it can take anywhere between ten days and four weeks to pull all this together.
2. Don't gather too much information
It's easy to find yourself grappling with a huge pile of information that you'll struggle to cut down to fit the word count. Rather than amassing everything ever written about the subject, start by gathering shorter pieces of written information such as one-page case studies.
If you're meeting with colleagues to find out about the subject, limit the meeting to half an hour. Or you can ask targeted questions to elicit only the highlights, such as "What was this person's greatest achievement last year?" or "What was the most innovative aspect of this project?"
3. Start writing, but stay focussed
An award entry statement should use the upside-down triangle structure: tell your readers about your entry's strongest suit first, giving the judges an overview of why you think it should win.
Use subsequent paragraphs to elaborate on these highlights, explaining how it meets the judging criteria and setting out the challenges the project overcame. If the judges may not understand all the nuances of your work, put things in context for them and back up your assertions with statistics or client quotes.
4. Trimming and editing
Once you've written your draft, you'll often find it's too long for the word limit. Go back over the text, and see if you can remove anything. Perhaps the judges will already have a basic level of knowledge about the subject, so you can remove some background information? Can you include images to replace some descriptive sentences? Or could you use a testimonial from a client instead of your summing up paragraph? And unless you write particularly concisely, you can probably remove around 10% of the words without losing any content, just through careful editing.
If anything is unclear, or needs more information, you can use comments to ask reviewers to help with this.
5. Be systematic about feedback and changes
To meet your deadline, you'll need to manage this process carefully. Limit the number of people involved, and ensure you're clear on the hierarchy. For example, if the client wants to include X and omit Y, does that trump the project manager's view that you should include Y and omit X? Get feedback from the person at the bottom of the hierarchy first and incorporate their changes, then work your way up until everyone's happy.
Reviewers close to the subject tend to add more material than they take out, so you may end up over the word count again. Assuming you edited it ruthlessly at step 4, you'll now have to cut some content to get it under the word count. Pre-empt this problem if you can by asking each reviewer to identify what should come out, not just what's missing.
As a writer, that's about all you can do. Now it's up to the judges. Good luck!