How to write an awards entry that stands out

How to write an awards entry that stands out

You’ve got to be in it to win it.

BY Sarah Megginson, 7 min READ

You’ve put in the effort and the hours to create an incredible business – now, it’s time to get some recognition for all of your hard work.

Are you keen to put forward a submission for your state tourism awards? Is your business or organisation ready to compete for a marketing gong, a leadership award or the latest round of Telstra Business Awards?

Whatever the potential accolades up for grabs, you’ve got to be in it to win it. This is truly one of those situations where you need to put your best foot forward from the outset, so here are 7 tips for writing an award’s application that stands out from the pack:

1. First, nail the basics

Things everyone must do: answer every question and stick to the word limit, or your entry may be considered ineligible. A good rule of thumb with word count is to go no less than 15% under, and absolutely nothing over the limit. The judges may be considering your ability to concisely convey your expertise as much as anything else, so stick within the boundaries they’ve set. i.e if the entry calls for 300 words per answer, submit no fewer than 255 words, and definitely nothing over 300 words. And of course, never lie. Creatively toot your own horn, but not to the point of flat-out fibbing.

2. Focus on 2-3 keywords per answer

Look for opportunities to inject the keywords from the question into your answer. Let’s say you have invested in hiring a new staff member in the last 12 months to manage your digital marketing. We could spin this a number of ways: it could demonstrates growth in your business, innovation if your new hire is helping you pivot in a new direction, or leadership and forward-thinking, if it places you at the forefront of the industry. By positioning your answer as closely as possible to the criteria, you’re increasing your chances of favourable attention.

3. Make sure you answer the question

Sounds obvious, I know, but this is actually quite common. You start off answering the question, “How do you demonstrate innovation in your business?” and 300 words later you realised you’ve prattled on about something else entirely.

4. Consider outsourcing it

Awards submissions are an invitation to persuade and convince the judges that your business, project or leadership is A-list. A professional copywriter can help you sell yourself with clarity and engagement, to help your entry stand out. While it is a small investment, professional copywriter might also be the most cost-effective solution – I recently helped a client prepare his submission for the Telstra Business Awards, and he estimated that he and his off-sider spent 30 hours last year preparing the same awards package. Factoring in their hourly rate, he invested several thousand dollars in staff resources into their awards submission – on a project that he could have outsourced for a quarter of the cost. Consider also that after you engage a wordsmith to work their magic on your awards submission, you can use it as a base from which to prepare future awards submissions.

5. Keep it simple and specific

Don’t overcomplicate your submission to sound fancy with big words and bigger sentences. Judges are reading dozens, perhaps scores or even hundreds of applications – the last thing you want to do is make their job harder, so they gloss over and potentially miss all the best bits! Keep it simple and be as specific as possible, with as many metrics, facts and figures as you can muster up. What has revenue growth been? Have staff or resources increased? How have you invested in new tech and what other aspects of your business can you quantify?

6. Get it reviewed

A workmate, a trusted colleague, your partner, your best friend: these are all great candidates to give your awards submission a quick once-over before you enter. Ideally you want someone who isn’t across the finer details of your business to review your application, as they’ll be able to give you honest, objective feedback about how compelling your entry is. They can also check for typos and spelling errors that have slipped through the cracks.

7. Don’t leave it ‘til the last minute

I know – we’re all insanely busy. So, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that 80% of awards applications are generally submitted in the last few days before the deadline. When you leave it til the last minute, you risk running out of time to have it reviewed, missing the window to gather testimonials and supporting documentation, and massive pressure if you encounter tech glitches. The last thing you want is to hit “send” on a sloppy entry, so build in a buffer of time. Pencil the deadline into your diary for one week prior, and you’ll have plenty of breathing space to prepare an application that is perfectly polished.

Sarah Megginson is a Business Chicks premium member. She has edited or ghost-written more than 20 books, working with clients such as Lorna Jane Clarkson, and the ThankYou group’s Daniel Flynn. Connect with her here. 

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