7 ways to write a winning award entry  

With a host of industry awards now open for entry, former IWFM Awards judge Cathy Hayward offers 7 tips to writing a successful award entry.  

Winning industry awards isn’t just a matter of luck. If you’re going to spend time and money entering an award scheme, then it’s worth planning it properly and producing the best entry you can.  

1 / Choose the right award

There are numerous award programmes within the built environment from the FX and PFM awards to Mixology and the IWFM awards. But if you’re looking to raise your profile in a particular sector, it might be worth looking at awards for service in that area – healthcare, education, law or financial servicesfor example.  

2 / Enter the right category 

When choosing the category, read the requirements carefully. Many awards have time criteria – for example a project must have been started or completed within a certain timeframe. Check your entry is eligible.  Are there any new categories in that particular programme? Newer categories are always less popular than more established ones.  Who is sponsoring that particular category? You don’t want to find yourself accepting an award from a competitor through gritted teeth. 

 3 / Choose the right project, team or individual  

Don’t opt simply for your latest or biggest project. Think carefully about whether you have a good relationship with your client and the depth of material you’ll need to put together a winning entry. If innovation is a key criterion, have you genuinely broken new ground? If partnership is the theme can you demonstrate joint working? If site visits are part of the entry process will these be easy to arrange? If testimonials are required are you confident that your client thinks as highly of your performance as you do? A visible client always helps. Make sure you have the hard data to back up any claims you’re making about the success of your project.  

 4 / Engage your client  

Not all award categories involve clients but where they do, you want them signed up to the idea. Ideally they should want to win the award as much as you. Explain to them how winning the award will enhance their profile as well. This will make it easier to get cooperation when it comes to putting the entry together and getting it signed off.  It will also help should you win. Think about who you can nominate to be interviewed by journalists. Ensure that you not only have permission from your client contact but also their corporate communications team as they will have the ultimate say.  

5 / Think of the judges and tell a story 

Awards judges have to read a lot of submissions – yours needs to stand out. So don’t simply list facts, provide a compelling narrative.  Explain how your work was part of a wider initiative to improve performance, reduce costs or rationalise locations. Provide some context – tie your project into your client’s mission or objectives.  Take the reader along the timeline – from conception to implementation; from pilot to full roll out.  Make it personal – add quotes and feedback from staff, customers, visitors etc. But also provide a summary of the key features and achievements. Make it an interesting read.  

6 / Provide evidence 

Many awards entries fail to score well because they don’t back up their claims. Too many make assertions but don’t produce the evidence.  If your new helpdesk system resulted in a “major improvement in customer service” then provide the KPI or survey data that shows this. If you achieved “significant cost savings” then quantify them or at least give the percentage reduction in costs. Include simple graphics to make the point. Don’t be woolly.  

7 / Paint a picture  

Even if the submission doesn’t require images you’ll almost certainly need them should you make the shortlist, or win, so be prepared.  Many submissions are let down by poor photography and there really is no excuse, with the consumer equipment available today, even if you don’t want to employ a professional. Consider making a short (sub 3 minutes) video to bring your submission to life. You can replay this if you are invited to present to the judges and use it on your website, on social and in pitch presentations so the effort won’t be wasted.  

Finally, if you are lucky enough to be shortlisted or even win, then make the most of your success. Issue a press release, publicise it internally, on your website, through social media and in newsletters. Many award schemes will offer downloadable media kits, including finalists and winners logos that you can add to marketing material, stationery and email signatures.  

If you really want to get ahead of the game, write your winner’s press release before the event! That way all you’ll have to do is drop in the judge’s remarks and you can enjoy the celebrations safe in the knowledge that you won’t be up at 6am trying to write sparkling copy with a hangover!  

So, if you are thinking of entering an award this year, we can help! Click here to find out more.

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Cathy Hayward
Cathy Hayward
Cathy Hayward