Have you or your business won an industry award? It’s a great way to show the success of your business and get media attention, or if you win an individual award then it can be a useful lever the next time you talk to the boss about a salary increase. Every industry has their own set of awards, but do you know the tricks of how to write an entry that will make the judges sit up and take notice?
This was the subject of a webinar that I participated in yesterday. It was hosted by Engage Customer who are reminding everyone in the customer experience field that their own Engage Awards are open for entry until July 17. The webinar was led by Chris Robinson, the MD of Boost Marketing. Boost is a specialist in helping companies enter industry awards and their success rate is around 40% so clearly they know what judges want. My role during the webinar was to chip in with comments from my own experience of judging various awards, such as those hosted by Engage Customer, the British Computer Society, and the Global Sourcing Association. I am a judge for the 2017 Engage Customer awards so I’m also keen to see who enters this year!
Before the webinar started I quickly noted my own thoughts on what I personally have experienced as a judge for various industry awards. Every different award is judged slightly differently, but in general there are mistakes that keep on being repeated by entrants that prevent them from winning.
- Check the rules; this is the most common problem. The judges have to score your entry based on fixed criteria. The entry information will tell you how the judges are going to score entries and what questions they need answered in your entry. If you only answer half the questions then you have no chance of winning.
- Tell a story; the first paragraph is critical – just like great journalism. You can hook the judge from the opening lines of your entry by creating a story that is interesting, rather than just listing reams of statistics about your entry. Make it interesting from the start and the judge will devote more time and attention to the entry therefore enhancing your chance of a win.
- More is not always better; you might think that loads of supplementary information supports your entry, but most judges will decide on a winner or loser based on the main entry document. Adding ten extra files with graphs may be of interest if the entry is very strong and the judge is inclined to check all the supplementary data, but if you are telling a good story in the main entry then the extra documents just support the case – they will almost never be the difference between a winner or loser.
- Offer evidence; if the award rules ask you to show evidence of how innovative your project is then don’t just self-define it by saying ‘we designed an innovative solution’ – show it and prove it. You can use surveys, industry comparisons, or customer feedback, but use something that can really show how your project made a difference and really does meet the criteria stated in the rules – not just because you say it does.
- Respect the time of the judges; most award entries have a word count limit, or time limit if video based, so it’s hard to offer too much information, however the judge will be ploughing through many entries so you should remember and respect this. Your project may have changed the world, but if you don’t represent it in a compelling way with supporting evidence then it will be discarded – make the judge laugh or sit up and pay attention to your entry and you have a great chance of reaching the finals. Remember, you might be the 49th entry the judge has read that day – how can you grab their attention?
As Chris noted during the webinar, some companies get very upset when they fail to win an award because they see their project as visionary or extremely important for their business. They often ask if the judges are biased or if the number of tables they buy for the awards ceremony makes a difference.
I’ve certainly never seen any corruption in all the judging processes I’ve been involved in and I don’t even know who is buying tables for the Engage Customer awards so none of these factors affect the process. When an award entry fails, it is almost always one of these issues I have listed above that causes the failure. It might be an amazing project that deserves to win, but if the award entry was written at the last minute without any supporting evidence then it will not go anywhere.
If you are planning to enter an award soon, I highly recommend checking the webinar playback option as Chris details exactly how to write a great award entry and his feedback on the common mistakes that lead to failure is based on experience of thousands of award entries.
Please let me know what you think about entering industry awards by leaving a comment here or tweeting me on @markhillary.