Back in May, my PRSA chapter judged another chapter’s annual awards program. Fifteen binder-stuffed boxes were sent for our review.
Spending time with one of those BIG boxes inspired some ideas on how to improve award entries.
Follow Directions If you’re told you’ll be judged on measurable objectives, you’d better put some in your entry. It sounds obvious, but it was amazing how many entries ignored this completely.
Revisit Research Make sure you consider all of the research that went into your planning. You may not have primary research to support your entry, but every company is flush with secondary research.
Audience You’re been immersed in the industry, client and project so the audience is obvious to you. And since it’s not always requested, many don’t include it for brevity. But you should quickly define the target audience early in the entry.
Sex Doesn’t Sell Some national media clips, or four-color printed materials, might seem capable of carrying your entry. But that’s not the case. They may help show results, but you need steak before sizzle.
Highlight Key Points. Literally. One entry was printed in color as key points were highlighted in yellow. This helped with readability since most entries are crammed into a page or two using small, single-spaced type. Use this sparingly for impact.
Size Matters Your entry is short, so go long in the appendix to get credit for all the work you’ve done. Include samples of research, results and other relevant information. Don’t run out to Kinko’s and three-hole-punch a phone book to beef up your entry. Merchandise how thorough you were in planning, execution and evaluation. In reviewing the scores I handed out, the bigger binders tended to get higher scores.
Close In Summary As I noted above, supporting material IS critical in vetting your entry. I reviewed each appendix to confirm or deny a score I already had in mind. But a concise, well-written entry can close the sale and win the award. Don’t leave any questions in the judges' mind for the appendix to answer. This is risky. Make it easy for the judges to assign you a winning score.
Color Outside the Lines Consider ways you can make your entry stand out to capture the judges’ attention and keep it while they review your entry. David Ogilvy noted "rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men." Follow directions and don’t break the rules, but exceed expectations.
End on a High Note Despite the format, award entries should tell a story. Yet too many of them simply end. Consider the entry title, the project's objective and how a one-sentence summary of the project's success might tie it all together for a strong conclusion.
Have A Stranger Read It Before adding the entry to the binder, have someone unfamiliar with the project review the entry. This helps identify questions your entry leaves unanswered or areas where you need to clarify points you’re making.
Putting these binders together is hard work and the entry fees add up pretty quickly. Apply these hacks to help ensure this investment pays off and brings home some hardware.