How to make your next award entry best in class

Everyone loves a top industry award and a bit of professional recognition. Question is, are you telling the right story to pick up that gong? Rather than talking about our five latest wins at MemCom – including Agency of the Year and Best Print Membership Magazine – we thought we’d share our tips for topping the communications charts.

In short

  • Awards should be an investment not an afterthought
  • You can learn so much from the process if you start it early enough
  • An entry is a story, not a business plan

Awards deadlines have a habit of creeping up on the teams writing the entries. We’ve all been there ­– frantically emailing round for evidence and extending the submission date. But, if you invest more in the awards process and build evidence gathering into your daily workflow, you might just find you need to get a new trophy cabinet installed…and fast.

The dos

  • Start your entry a year before – not the night before: easier said than done, yes, but if you imagine what the entry could say before you start on a project and look for data and effectiveness from day one, it won’t be just your awards entries that improve. We can all learn something from the process.
  • Get senior buy-in: entering awards takes time and money. It’s a business decision, so decide what awards will add value to your organisation and then give each entry the time it deserves.
  • Tell a good story: I’ve judged so many awards and the entries I remember are those that recognise there’s a human at the other end who will appreciate a good story. No one wants to read your business plan. They want to get to know you.
  • Find your hook: business as usual does not an award win. All good stories need an angle, so make it memorable.
  • Think outcomes, not outputs: what you do is only relevant if you set it within the context of why you’re doing it. Solve problems, overcome challenges – and then write about them.
  • Measure, measure and measure some more: data is everything, but it’s worth remembering that success is only success if it is based on what you defined as success in the first place.
  • Enjoy the process: whether it’s announcing that you’re nominating projects or thanking people for their contributions, if you bring the rest of the organisation along for the ride, they’ll be more likely to support you when the next request for information comes along.

The don’ts

  • Never underestimate the weight of a quote from your CEO: great for morale and judges like it when the whole organisation gets behind an entry.
  • Ditch the jargon: big ideas, not big words, will get you noticed. Judges probably won’t know as much as you about a subject.
  • Never be afraid to talk about the bits that failed: if all your projects go to plan, then please tell us your secrets! Every failure is a chance to demonstrate valuable learnings.
  • Ignore feedback at your peril: speak to your audience segments and tell their stories. But, don’t confuse satisfaction with effectiveness. Judges like happy members, but they don’t tell the whole story.

And don’t forget to celebrate. Celebrate the entry. Celebrate the shortlist. And hopefully, you should soon be celebrating that win.

Congratulations to our clients CIPR, AAT and BACP for their wins at the recent MemCom Awards 2017. We’re so proud of the work we do for you.

And, we’re also proud to take home the Agency of the Year award for our work with membership organisations in 2016. As the judges said: “Think certainly helped organisations to find their voice in 2016. Organisations like CIPR, ICAS and AAT have all benefited from Think’s expertise in the membership sector, and clients speak highly of the overall quality of the work Think provides.”

If you’re interested in the list of our latest accolades, head to our About Think page to find out more.

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