How to write award entries that get shortlisted

How to write an award entry that gets shortlisted

Industry awards are a key tactic for organisations that want to build a reputation as leaders in their sector. But, the trick to taking home a trophy isn’t having fancy campaigns or projects to boast about – it’s writing an entry that impresses the judges enough to get you on the shortlist.

Writing awards entries can be tough. There’s tonnes of information to gather, decisions about what supporting evidence to include and, the worst bit, squirming while bigging yourself up. Yuk!

If there’s anything I’ve learnt from writing successful award entries for clients and being a judge at the CIPR North East PRide Awards 2018, it’s keep it simple.

Here are my five steps to getting your award entry shortlisted:

1. Enter the right awards

There are lots and lots and lots of industry awards out there so you must make sure you’re entering the right one. Your choices should be dictated by your communications/marketing/brand strategy – think about what you want your organisation (or you) to be known for and identify the awards that will get you recognised for that.

Think about the project or campaign that you want to showcase and ensure you’re entering the right award and the right category. If your campaign mainly deployed marketing tactics, don’t submit it for a PR award because you sent out one press release. Similarly, don’t enter a marketing award if your campaign’s success was founded on media relations. Entering the wrong award will just waste your time and make you feel very disheartened if you don’t get shortlisted.

2. Read the criteria

I can’t emphasise this point enough – you need to read the criteria for the award you’re entering. This might sound like extremely basic advice but you’d be surprised by how many entries miss out on being shortlisted because they’ve not paid enough attention to the submission requirements.

This includes checking:

  • Dates for eligible activity – did your project or campaign happen within the correct timeframe?
  • Mandatory information – what has to be submitted as part of the entry and what optional information could you add?
  • Guidelines for supporting materials – how much can you send and in what format? Do you have that information available?
  • Word limit – what is it and have you got enough information to reach it?

You need to check out all of this stuff BEFORE YOU START TO WRITE YOUR ENTRY. Don’t waste your time writing something that you’ll have to re-do when you try to submit it and realise it doesn’t comply with the entry criteria.

3. Pick a good project

No amount of fancy wording or creative language will cover up a mediocre project. Before entering any awards, you need to identify projects that stand up to scrutiny and have some great results behind them.

This can be hard to do when you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece of work, but you’ve got to think about your projects objectively. What makes it stand out? Why is it unique or best in class? What did it achieve?

Make sure you have some data to back up your affection. The judges want to see that the project delivered on a clear set of objectives – give them the facts that prove it was a success. Don’t bluster through your word count with grand statements; link every point back to a specific example of something you researched, planned or did as part of the project.

4. Explain yourself

The judges will know nothing (or very little) about your organisation/project/campaign so your award entry needs to give them everything they need to understand why the activity was so extraordinary.

This means outlining what your organisation is all about – its vision, aims and objectives – and how the project in question contributed and/or responded. Explain any external factors – social, political, cultural, financial, competitive – that created the context for your work so it’s clear why the project was significant.

Avoid using acronyms, industry jargon or colloquialisms that might confuse the judges. You’re aiming for the judges to walk away with a clear understanding of the environment you’re operating in and a strong sense of the successes your project delivered.

5. Check everything…twice

Don’t press send until you’ve double-checked everything.

That means going back to the start to make sure you’ve entered the right category and complied with the submission guidelines. You also need to proofread the full entry (including any supporting materials) and check all documents are in the correct format. Don’t get declined or lose points for the finer details not being up to scratch.

This five-step plan might sound pretty simple and fairly obvious but strategic applications, great projects and well-written entries that comply with the submission guidelines really are the key to writing award entries that get shortlisted.

Need some help?

If you’re still feeling daunted about applying for an award, I’m happy to do the leg work for you. Get in touch at to have a chat.

One thought on “How to write an award entry that gets shortlisted

  1. Pingback: 30 North East business awards for 2020 – Strategic communications consultant

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