Cunningly Good Guide to… writing a killer award entry

Eight tips for creating a killer award entry

In the communications team one of the tasks we are regularly asked to do is to write award submissions for clients. We thoroughly believe in the value of entering awards, and lead by example by entering ourselves into numerous award schemes, primarily the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Scotland PRide awards that acknowledge and celebrate the best PR campaigns in Scotland. Last year, we were honoured to receive the coveted Small PR consultancy of the Year award at the CIPR Scotland PRide awards.

It’s our pleasure to share with you all our top tips and guidance on how to write killer award entries that will make you stand out from the crowd, and secure that winning award.

  1. Things to consider – WHY enter

Writing a winning award entry does take a lot of time, so it’s really important to seriously consider WHY you are entering a particular award and consider if the effort is worth it. Being shortlisted, and of course, winning an award is a great marketing tool, but you may wish to consider given the experience of entering for an award, or multiple awards, whether it is a cost effective way of marketing your business.

  1. Things to consider – it’s a great way of marketing your business

As mentioned, winning an award can be a great way to market your business. There are many benefits:

  • It raises your company’s profile within your marketplace.
  • It helps to attract potential recruits and new business.
  • It creates publicity for your business – you can announce your shortlisting or win on social media, and enjoy profile at the awards ceremony itself. It can be used to emphasise your credibility within your own marketing and new business tenders.
  • It’s a great way to motivate your team, encourage your staff and a way to take pride and an acknowledgement of a job done well.
  1. Don’t be afraid to blow your trumpet

Culturally we’re not very good at promoting ourselves, but this is really a chance for you to SHINE so it’s time to pick up your own trumpet and start blowing it.

  1. Things to consider – which categories?

The key thing to consider is which categories to go for in any awards scheme. This requires carefully reviewing the categories, and criteria of each category, to consider which are most relevant to your business and which categories you most stand the chance of winning. Make a note or highlight each individual instruction given and each piece of information requested.

Consider who is the best person in your organisation (if you don’t have the information to hand) to give you the necessary information and contact them immediately to ask for this information and give them a deadline to respond, well in advance of the awards closing date. Chase them for that information if you need to and if they need a reason to provide that information to you, remind them that by making this application you are shining a spotlight on their excellent work.

  1. Demonstrate the three ‘S’s – Story, Success and Sizzle

The most important part of award writing is demonstrating the three ‘S’s, which are:

  • Story
  • Successes
  • Sizzle

We’ll start with Story – what is your story? The secret of a great awards entry is to tell a story in the way people expect: beginning, middle and end, with some interesting detail along the way. You should leave writing any executive summary (if that is required) until later on. The award entry needs to tell a story that has a natural flow, and doesn’t simply bombard the reader with one stat after another.

What are your successes? Sounds obvious, but highlight your successes – where you’ve met and exceeded your objectives, and make sure you have sound evidence to back that up (data).

What is your sizzle factor? Consider the one thing that makes you stand out over and above your competitors.

  1. When writing consider the 5 ‘P’s – Presentation, Prose, Package, Pictures, Perfection

When you’re working on your award entry, you need to consider the 5 ‘P’s:

  • Presentation

This is your chance to make that all important GREAT first impression, and it could be that this award entry is the judges’ very first introduction to your company. Consider also, that this award entry reflects the care, pride and attention to detail that you demonstrate in your business generally, so a great presentation is essential.

Make sure that your text addresses each of the points in the criteria. In some cases this will mean providing additional info that will back up the claims of your entry. Make sure you present this information in a clear and easily digestible way, specifically tailored to the needs of the award entry. For instance, don’t include an entire spreadsheet, if the key information could be presented in a simple table.

  • Prose

As mentioned before, make sure you tell your story in the way that people expect – with a beginning, a middle and an end – with a natural flow. If your project had objectives to deliver, make sure you explain clearly how the project delivered those objectives, providing evidence to back that up. Often that will be what the judges look for in the first instance – the beginning (objectives) and the end (evaluation), before looking at any of the middle – strategy and tactics. They can make a judgement on the beginning and end alone, with the part in the middle backing up their decision either way.

It’s important to consider the tone of your writing. Is it reflective of the personality of your business or the work itself? Try to inject some authentic personality into it. Make sure the copy is compelling, that it’s something you would want to read yourself. Test it on other people – get them to read it and constructively critique it.

If writing is not your thing, find someone within your team who is really gifted at writing to write the award entry, who can effectively communicate your story, and if there’s no one in your team, outsource it to experts who can help you create a truly award winning entry.

In addition, it’s really important to be mindful of the word count when you are writing your answers. This forces you to keep your answers succinct, without waffle. Most award entries are now submitted online, so if you don’t keep to the word limit you will lose that additional text. Conversely, make the most of the word count and write up to the maximum allowed, this ensures that you’ve given yourself every opportunity to shine.

  • Package

The way you package your award entry also reflects your capabilities as a company – and your care and attention to detail. However, as most award entries are submitted online these days, packaging it up to best effect can be a challenge. The aim of anything you do is to make your award entry stand out head and shoulders above the others. Make the most of the opportunity to include any supporting evidence if allowed, this will give you some space to bring some creativity by using pictures, pdfs, or video. It also gives you the chance to highlight certain elements of your writing, or make more of the results that perhaps you’ve not been able to touch upon much due to the limited word count. In addition, double check that you’ve included everything requested.

Your award entry should be eye-catching but in a positive, unique way. If you’re making the submission off-line, remember to provide as many copies as has been requested.

  • Pictures (& multimedia)

As previously mentioned, the use of supporting evidence is helpful with a limited word count. Include visuals, and if possible video, to help judges engage with your entry and truly bring it to life. As the old saying goes: “A picture tells a thousand words.”

  • Perfection

Remember, your award entry is representative of your business. Take care in providing everything requested.

Before submission, check and double check that everything is included. Circulate to the team involved in the particular project and get their feedback. Often others will be able to spot important points that are missing from the entry text. Revise your text to accommodate the feedback. Have your most pedantic colleague proof-read the entry for typos and sense-check the document. It can be a good idea to ask someone to read the award entry who was not involved in the project, just so they can also sense check it and that it actually flows in the way you intend it to. Ask them if it is easy to understand.

Once you’ve completed the award entry, if it’s required, draft your executive summary. Present the most important details of the project in no more than three of four sentences.

To make sure you have the best chance of submitting a document which is truly reflective of the quality of your work as a business, make sure you start the award entry early, so you’re not rushing to meet the deadline which can often be the cause of mistakes or forgetting to include things that needed to be included. It sounds obvious, but be aware of the deadline, and schedule a program of activity working backwards from that deadline to make sure you’re able to get everything you need and submit the award entry before or on deadline.

  1. Going forward

To give yourself every chance of success in future, an important bit of advice moving forward is to make sure that you get into the habit of collating and storing the key information around an interesting project as it is taking place, including any results, which puts you in a good position to easily prepare for an award entry on that project in the future.

  1. Good luck… and we’re here to help!

The key thing to remember is to prepare and plan well. Be conscious of the deadline and schedule a plan of action in order that you can complete the award entries in good time, in collaboration with others, so you’re not at risk of rushing to get everything complete.

So, good luck! If you need any help or assistance with writing your award entries, we’d love to help. Please contact Emma Davies on 01738 700134 or email