How to craft winning award entry submissions  

The emphasis on positive communications in modern business has made quality content an essential aspect of almost every marketing strategy. Many brands have invested time, effort and resources into innovative methods such as video production, AI and social platform enhancements to ensure they are being viewed and recognised in a positive light. This is all good practice, but as companies flock towards these exciting and fresh solutions, it has created a gap for the most astute to capitalise on overlooked traditional methods for generating positive, authentic and evidenced third-party accreditation. Ones that directly stack you up vs. the competition and infer a number 1 ranking.   

I am of course alluding to, awards.

Do businesses still enter awards?   

A narrative developed during the global pandemic that the day of the awards ceremony was dead. Replacement web-based awards ceremonies worked hard to bridge the gap during lockdown, when social distancing was still essential, but never truly captured the essence of dressing up, networking with peers and celebrating achievements of those either in local proximity or facing the same sector and national challenges. Just like tradeshows and events, however, awards have made a comeback and are very much alive.   

Writing award entries for our clients before and after this time has given us some interesting insight into the new status quo that has developed. The major players in a given industry are still generally valuing and investing in awards, but some challenger brands and SMEs have directed their attention elsewhere. This has created a scenario in some sectors where the threshold for being shortlisted is perhaps lower than before, where more opportunities to be recognised exist and where a positive narrative around the company you keep (being shortlisted alongside or beating the likes of Sky, EE and Shell) is more achievable than ever.  

While concerns about costs and time investment might give pause for thought currently, entering awards is often more cost-effective than you may think (even free on occasion) and the rewards that can be reaped are truly transformative.  

What are the main benefits of being shortlisted for an award?   

When your business receives an industry or business award, it’s akin to being given a seal of approval from experts and peers in your field. Even being nominated for a prestigious category can significantly enhance your brand’s credibility and reputation – in an age where trust and authenticity are paramount. Reviews online for businesses and their services have too often been manipulated in recent years and younger audiences especially no longer hold as much stock in five-star ratings as a true reflection of whether a brand is trustworthy.  

If you want to solidify your status as a leader in your sector, recent award wins give customers a compelling reason to choose your products or services over others. The traditional and heritage nature of this type of accreditation works in its favour as digital techniques cannot be used to mask anything. An industry expert will have analysed a business and selected them for praise and recognition compared to their peers. This also opens the doors to content with news value, shared by independent outlets, awards bodies, category sponsors and more (not to mention networking opportunities with a sector or region’s best and brightest).  

Recognizing and celebrating the efforts of your team through industry awards can be a powerful morale booster internally too. This acknowledges their hard work and dedication, showing contributions are valued and recognized beyond the confines of the company. This can lead to increased job satisfaction, motivation, and overall employee engagement.  

Why should I listen to you?  

Good question. Whilst we cannot claim to have won every award we have ever entered– we do have a fantastic track record, often being shortlisted and winning awards for our clients across diverse sectors and locations. Over the past five years, we have written over 50 award submissions for entry into the likes of The Firm Awards, Employer Brand Management Awards (EBMAs), Princess Royal Training Awards, RoSPA Health & Safety Awards, Safety and Health Excellence Awards, HR Brilliance Awards, Nursing Times Awards, Women in Business Awards, The Care Home Awards, LaingBuisson Awards, National Chamber Business Awards and many other regional and sector ceremonies.  

Our success rate currently stands at 68% shortlisted, of which 54% have gone on to win.  

This includes success for own agency, with WSA being named winner of the Commitment to People Award at the regional 2022 Chamber Business Awards and also named the silver winner (runner-up) for Business of the Year, under 50 staff, at the MKBAA Awards 2022.  

So, how do I write a successful awards submission?  

Of course, everyone entering an awards category wants to make sure their submission shines brighter than the competition. This can be daunting, especially if you do not have natural writers in your business, but by following some step-by-step guidance and approaching the process methodically, this is entirely possible. It is important to remember an awards entry form is not a puzzle that needs to be solved, all of the answers you need exist amongst your colleagues and the submission is purely an opportunity to share your story.  

Below are some free tips for drafting award submissions that will grab the judges’ attention and hopefully bring home those coveted trophies. 

1. Research is Key 

Before you put pen to paper, take the time to thoroughly research the awards you’re targeting. Understand the categories, judging criteria, and past winners. This will help you tailor your submission to align with what the judges are looking for. By showcasing how your achievements specifically match their criteria, you’re more likely to stand out. 

2. Tell a Compelling Story 

Awards aren’t just about numbers and metrics; they’re about the journey and impact. Craft a compelling narrative that takes the judges on a journey through your achievements. Highlight the challenges you’ve overcome, the milestones you’ve reached, and the positive impact your work has had. Personal anecdotes, quotes, and testimonials can add a human touch that resonates with the judges. 

3. Quantify Your Success 

While storytelling is crucial, don’t shy away from the numbers. Tangible results and metrics provide concrete evidence of your success. Whether it’s revenue growth, customer satisfaction rates, or market share increase, quantifiable data adds depth to your submission and demonstrates the real impact of your efforts. 

4. Unique Value Proposition 

Highlight what sets you apart from your competitors. What unique strategies, innovations, or approaches have you adopted? If you can’t think of any, don’t panic. This doesn’t have to be an overarching business directive – you can emphasize any aspects that make your company different. Ask yourself, why do I work here? What is good about being here and what keeps me from going to work for a competitor instead? Whether it’s your company culture, sustainability initiatives, or a diverse range of products, showing passion for your ethos and values can make all the difference.  

5. Collaborative Efforts 

Give credit where it’s due. Acknowledge the teamwork and collaboration that led to your achievements will only add to your creditability. Highlight the collective efforts of your employees, partners, and stakeholders. Demonstrating your ability to foster a collaborative environment reflects positively on your company’s culture and leadership – be the type of company an awards provider would see as a useful ambassador in future.  

6. Innovative Presentations 

When it comes to the visual presentation of your submission, think outside the box. While adhering to any guidelines provided by the judges, consider using multimedia elements such as videos, infographics, or interactive presentations if these are allowed. These can help convey your message more effectively and engage the judges on multiple levels. If your company has invested in social media assets, updated imagery or advertising campaigns – showcase these as they all tell the story of your business and will have already been crafted to portray a positive light. Word counts can be restrictive on submissions at times, so read the fine print carefully about what additional uploads or hyperlinks in the copy are allowed. Never ignore the rules but take any opportunity you have to showcase all that is good.  

7. Alignment with Trends 

Stay current with industry trends and align your submission with relevant market developments. Show that your business is not just successful, but also forward-thinking and adaptable. Highlight how you’ve embraced emerging technologies, market shifts, or changing customer preferences to maintain your competitive edge. It is no surprise that topics such as sustainability, diversity and technological automation have all become key components of award entries in recent times. Consider what would impress you about a company similar to yours and think about how you can showcase yourself in a similar light, either pointing to current successes or plans for the future.  

8. Attention to Detail 

Proofread your submission meticulously. Typos, grammatical errors, and formatting inconsistencies can detract from the professionalism of your entry. A polished submission reflects the care and dedication you’ve put into the process, increasing your chances of making a positive impression on the judges. Try to use as much of the allocation character or word count as possible, but never waffle. It is better to have a couple of sentences that answer the question clearly and thoroughly than a couple of paragraphs that skirt around a topic or go on unrelated tangents. Judges will be busy and will read similar entries with like-minded businesses making comparative claims – get the best stuff in front of them early and concisely to aid progress to the maybe pile and worthy of consideration for a more detailed read.  

9. Early Bird Catches the Worm 

Never wait until the last minute to submit your entry. Give yourself ample time to draft, refine, and review your submission. Early entries not only alleviate the stress of last-minute rushes but also allow you to make any necessary adjustments based on feedback from peers or colleagues. Whilst it’s true that lots of awards have deadlines extended, this is never a given. Plus, if you impress the judge’s early doors, this can see you earmarked for shortlisting before the influx of late entries, which are then treated as whom to progress with you rather than instead of you. We should not forget the role of the judge is exactly that, to judge – and whilst the quality of the submission will always be the most important aspect, making a positive first impression as a timely, professional and efficient entrant will do no harm to your chances.  

10. Celebrate Your Achievements 

Regardless of the outcome, celebrate the effort you’ve put into your award submission. Recognize your team’s dedication and commitment to excellence. If you’re fortunate enough to win, share the news across your marketing channels, showcasing the recognition you’ve received. Engage with the network of award providers, sponsors, judges and other winners to maximise the reach of your news. If you are shortlisted but do not win, congratulate publicly those that do. Showing grace and professionalism will ensure you still create a positive narrative around your involvement and may plant the seeds for future partnerships and success.  

Awards remain a powerful way to gain industry recognition and elevate your brand’s profile. Whether you win or lose, awards showcase your recent achievements alongside the wider passion and commitment that drives your business forward.  

Crafting a winning award submission takes time and effort. You’ll need to gather data, compile achievements, and articulate your business’s story effectively. It’s essential to ensure that the effort put into entering awards doesn’t detract from other essential activities, but even if you don’t win, the feedback you receive can provide brilliant insights for future growth. 

Need help with crafting your next awards submission? Get in touch with us here.  

Joe Cuffaro
Joe Cuffaro

Joe Cuffaro joined WSA Communications in 2014 as an Account Executive and has progressed to Head of PR & Marketing. Joe has a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a PR & Communications Digital Diploma from the PRCA. He has helped clients achieve regional, sector and national coverage in a wide variety of media; including news stories on all major BBC channels (TV, Radio and Online) and providing scripts for adverts broadcast on the likes of talkSPORT. Joe has written multiple successful award-entries and continues to assist clients with content for news, advertisements, recruitment, marketing collateral and more. Despite the warnings, his dream holiday destination remains either Jurassic Park or Itchy & Scratchy Land.

Articles: 32