Best Practices for Awards Submissions

Submissions at Bospar

Submitting award nominations is part of the business of PR. Client-side PR departments and agencies alike compete for awards because we want to drive visibility and gain recognition for the creativity, as well as the results, of our programs. We do this to attract new clients and for the industry buzz and credibility that help with recruitment and retention. What’s more, awards give us a reason to celebrate our successes!

Over the years, I have been fortunate to win a number of awards, and I’ve learned some best practices for preparing winning nominations. It begins with pinpointing the most successful, creative programs and campaigns that have been designed and implemented by your organization. The first step is gathering and organizing the award nomination materials and doing so in a way that meets the awarding organization’s requirements. Honestly, many firms forget the simple dictum to “read the instructions,” and it is a big mistake because it becomes the first step to disqualification.

And while it used to be that physical records like news clippings and press kits were necessary for award nominations, digital copies of campaign materials work just fine. That is why establishing a digital archive for each and every PR program when it starts is an easy way to ensure that you’ll have what you need when awards time comes. Training account teams to update these archives on an ongoing basis ensures that a reference library is available for awards, without a lot of hassle.

Ensure Submissions Are Unique – and Funny!

Award submissions must also be unique, and it helps to be funny. Awards judges are readers just like you and me, and engaging, entertaining content will win the day. Answers should not sound “cookie-cutter;” they should read uniquely and even humorously, and a conversational tone really helps. Irreverence and unexpected humor work wonders in terms of keeping the audience engaged. I have used numerous movie and pop culture references over the years, for example, and this helps judges remember my submissions, while still articulating the important points of a given PR campaign, including the problem, the solution and the results.

Starting funny can also help drive the narrative of a submission by ensuring that the judges of your work know that they are in for a pleasant journey through what can be lengthy documents. A positive tone helps keep judges in a good frame of mind by the time that metrics and reports necessarily come up. And by starting with a memorable hook, your presentation won’t look like any other.

In addition, short sentences and lots of spaces make your submission easier to read. Cutting and pasting boilerplate text between award submissions is also a big no-no, and development of strong visuals is necessary to avoid being lumped in with other, generic submissions. Be sure to give your designers plenty of time to make things look good, and allow time for internal review and revisions.

Planning, attention to detail and creativity are the keys to development of winning award submissions, while implementing best practices and a structured approach drives greater consistency. And leveraging humor and creativity ensures that submissions are unique and stand out. While there’s a little bit of work involved, agencies and PR departments can develop a process that increases the chances of winning – and celebrating your shared successes.

And the Winner Is: Why Having a Comprehensive Awards Program Is Important for PR Agencies

Award at Bospar

There’s no higher recognition for great work than winning an award—it means you’re the best at what you do.

There are awards for almost everything: Arts and Entertainment, Science, Journalism, Technology, Cooking, Sports, Business…you name it. This weekend, the Emmys are kicking off the entertainment awards season by celebrating exceptional work in television. 

At Bospar, we take awards very seriously. In fact, we have an entire task force dedicated to creating content and submitting Bospar’s work with many of our clients, as well as submitting Bospar as an agency for awards that recognize excellence in PR.

As part of the Awards Task Force at Bospar, I’m currently helping prep our submission for PRWeek’s Best Small Agency. And with the Emmys this weekend, I thought this would be the perfect time to give a few tips about how to create a winning award submission for some of PR’s most prestigious awards:

  • Client testimonials: Nothing says “you’re award-winning” better than clients giving you props. And if you’ve done work that’s good enough to win an award, chances are they’d be willing to give a statement. We’ve found that giving clients a guideline about what to say makes it even easier for them to accept. Do what you can to make it as easy as possible for them to contribute.
  • Get visual: Videos pull everything together. They give a visual representation of what you did with images and screen shots. We’ve found that our videos are what have won many of our awards because they bring our campaigns to life.
  • Prep, prep, prep: There’s nothing worse than missing a deadline—or scrambling at the eleventh hour to get something done. Most PR awards give at minimum three weeks to complete an application, and most give more than that. Grab the application right when nominations open and begin working on the application as soon as possible. That way you can revise it as many times as you need to, and it gives you time to prepare the best content possible.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat: Most awards have similar guidelines for entry, so once you spend time creating winning content, use that content for other awards. It saves time and energy, and you can finesse it as you go with each one.
  • Stay organized: Develop a grid with deadlines, links and contact info and set reminders in your calendar for when the big ones open. Life and work happen, and you might forget to check PRSA’s website in the fall to see when the Gold and Silver Anvil applications open—but if you set a calendar reminder, you won’t forget.
  • Do your research: Look at previous winning campaigns to see what they’ve done and what it takes to win. And apply for categories that you think might not have as many applicants. See what you can do to bolster your application and make it stand out among the rest.

Building a robust awards program takes work, and creating winning content is not easy. But it’s an integral part of an agency’s marketing efforts. And we’ve actually had potential clients come to us because of our award wins—so I’d say that’s even better than an Emmy!

Making Award Submissions Stand Out

Submissions Advice at BosparIn attempting to reveal that King Claudius murdered his father, Hamlet intones, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Ever since Shakespeare penned these words, finding the “hook” that gets a specific audience’s attention has for public relations professionals been akin to the search for the Holy Grail. This is particularly true when making submissions for industry recognition.

In the process of making an award’s short list – and hopefully winning the prize – getting clients to understand what makes their submission stand out from the pack involves some education. It’s not uncommon for a client to say something along the lines of, “What is wrong with giving judges a bulleted list of our accomplishments? Isn’t that how we establish gravitas?” Actually…not so fast.

Boring is the enemy of award-winning. Bospar has successfully produced award-winning submissions for clients and ourselves. The secret is to tell a compelling story and not merely recite the “facts.” Generally, when I write an award submission, I assume the judges are reading the same type of dry copy from everyone. “Who was that again?” is likely a common refrain.

One technique I like to use is opening with a question that links back to accomplishments. A provocative question like “So, what was the inspiration for your solution?” can be an attention- grabber. The point is that it be simple and pithy. And, unlike most entries, which are eye-numbing blocks of text, a short, engaging question pulls in the reader and is memorable.

I also recommend using humor. A funny anecdote can be enticing. It encourages judges to read on and is likely to be remembered. Our experience is that, in most cases, what judges are deciding on is not the quality of the person or company but the quality of the submission. Being memorable from first line to last is key.

Finally, numbers and brief testimonials can seal the deal. Whether it’s people, growth figures, customers, or other success metrics, judges want to see validation of success.

The bottom line is that submissions need to be memorable. The “kings” need a good story that lingers in their collective consciousness.