And the Award Goes To: 5 Tips for Creating Winning Entries

Trophey TrolleyIt’s awards season again, and not just in Hollywood! Chances are you or your company has been spending the last few weeks and months submitting your stellar campaigns for various industry awards. Recently we’ve had everything from the PRSA Silver Anvils to the PR Daily Awards, and the competition is even fiercer than best picture at the Oscars! So, how do you ensure your entry stands out, like Lupita Nyong’o’s powder blue dress against the red carpet? Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way:


1. Have a great title. Nothing starts off an entry summary on the wrong foot like a 20-word title with no drama or mystery! Cue the “get-off-the-stage” music now. Your title should give the judges a taste of what’s to come but leave them wanting more. For example, we’ve been submitting our work with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU on their Holiday Cheer campaign for a variety of awards. A title like “Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Spreads Holiday Cheer” probably wouldn’t even be in the running for Best Extra in a Short Film (yes I made that up). But a title like “12 Days of Cheer for Children Sparks Locally, Spreads Nationally” is sure to take home that gold trophy (fingers crossed the awards panel reads our blog).


2. Tell a story. Just like in Jared Leto’s acceptance speech in which he painted a picture of the challenges he overcame to find the success he has today, our award entries should tell the judges a story. What situation led to the campaign? How did you decide on your goals and tactics? How did you implement your plan? Do your results connect back to that initial challenge? Narrate the story for the judges, showing them the thought and effort that went into executing your award worthy campaign.


3. Pay attention to detail.  Be sure to read the full Call for Entries and highlight specific requirements (like word count) or questions your entry needs to address. You might reuse content from other award entries… in fact you should reuse content, but be sure to tailor each entry to the specific award and category. Entries might seem like a menial task to be passed to the person who has time that week, but they are incredibly important for agencies that want to show they possess industry expertise and value. Entries should be spilled over, proofed and re-proofed, edited by an outside party unfamiliar with the campaign, and then proofed again. As Lynn Casey, PadillaCRT’s leading lady, would say, “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” When representing the work you have done, you should ensure you are putting your best foot forward; otherwise, don’t bother seeking an award for it. You wouldn’t show up to the Oscars with a single hair out of place, would you?


4. Include outcomes AND outputs. The Oscar doesn’t go to a movie that was simply liked by people or was a box office hit. Judges want to see a movie like Gravity that challenged previously set standards of filmmaking or Frozen, which bravely stepped far outside the Disney-living crowd and became a national sensation. PR award judges want the same. They aren’t just looking for media coverage, likes, video views or impressions; any successful campaign should produce those. They want to see that your campaign had an impact on business objectives. Did you generate leads? Create brand ambassadors? Influence legislation? Educate a population? If you can prove those outputs, you have entry gold!


5. Plan ahead. I’d be willing to bet that while Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Cuarón are directing a film, they have awards in the back of their mind. We should too! When planning a campaign, we should start thinking about awards at the early stages when setting goals and objectives. Create measureable and time-related objectives, keeping in mind the outputs and outcomes you want to report. Not only does this increase the success of your future entry, but it also serves as a reminder throughout the campaign to continually focus on goals and not get caught up in the tactics.  


mcconaugheyLynn Casey says she used to be ambivalent about awards because, “so much of what we do for clients doesn’t fit into the award entry mold.” You can do great work time and time again without being rewarded (just ask Leo), but these days, “winning awards is shorthand for being an excellent agency in the minds of clients and prospects.” If you think about an RFP as a Hollywood audition, who would get the part: Meryl Streep, who has won three Oscars and has been nominated 18 times, or someone who the director has never heard of before? Remember, awards are important for showcasing your work and your clients, and they give your agency the respect and recognition it deserves. So, place a premium on awards this season and in seasons to come. With these tips, you’re well on your way to Matthew McConaughey’s “alright, alright, alright!”


What have you learned this award season? Share with us in the comments!


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