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This may sound like a communique from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious, but if you want to win an award, make time to craft a good entry.

When I say make time, I mean treat your entry like you would any other marketing campaign. Because it is one. Again, obvious perhaps, but so easily forgotten.

Treat your entry like you would any other marketing campaign

Detail and dedication

I attended The Drum’s Awards Workshop breakfast recently to hear exactly this from a panel of seasoned judges from across the marketing industry – that crafting award entries requires the same level of flair, attention to detail and dedication as an entire campaign. Point being, if you’re not showing that level of commitment, then why are you entering in the first place?

Of course, it’s not hard to imagine – you’re working all week long dedicating every possible minute to important client work, juggling jobs and firing on all cylinders to come up with ideas across a multitude of accounts and industries – and then there’s the award entry you have to see to. It might not seem as important as all that other important stuff you’re importantly doing, but, importantly, it is.

That award entry might feel like an afterthought when compared with more pressing missions – after all, it’s not paying the bills, per se. But if that’s the attitude you take to your award entry then you’re perhaps not thinking it through.

Your award entry is a pitch to a client that doesn’t know they’re being pitched to yet.

It’s a prized product

Great marketing material

Let’s say you do win an award – on the back of that win you’ve got instant clout. It’s marketing material in its own right. You’ll have other prospective clients looking for leading marketers in any one particular industry or with a specific skillset – where do they look to first?

Perhaps you’re working for one division, department or locale of a large, multinational corporation. Let’s say another division or department is interested in procuring marketers – they’ll be after highly recommended partners that are also familiar with the company’s tone of voice and mission. Where will they begin their search?

On the back of that win you’ve got instant clout

Need I go on? Well, our blog at Southerly won two UK Blog Awards, last year and this year. I can tell you for one, we’ve solicited new business enquiries simply by being on the winners’ list, and we receive a string of organic search queries from that domain. My point is, it works. But you won’t win unless you present a persuasive case. You have to market your entry like it’s a prized product.

Content marketing by another name

We’ve also written award entries for several of our clients that have made that investment to get it right. They want to create not just an entry, but a campaign unto itself. Interestingly, the parallels between crafting a marketing campaign and preparing an award entry are even more pronounced than you might think.

First, your target audience – and this one is easy; it’s your judge. Really, your marketing persona could not be better defined. You already know what they want to read; it’s more or less laid out in the application pack. All you need to do is create content that ensures their needs are satisfied.

So, bear in mind the judges of any award will be inundated with words. They’ll want to give every entrant their due attention and fair chance, but like everybody, these are human beings with tired eyes at 3pm on a Friday. Make it easy for them.

Quality, not quantity

A good read

I’ve often equated good journalism with good content marketing and that equivalence stands here, too. If you want your award entry to be noticed, make it noticeable; make it a good read. Give it personality and bring a smile to the judge’s face.

Make it simple for them to digest – ensure your opening paragraph, like any good news story, has everything they need to know in it. Write it engagingly and scrap the jargon – if they like you, they’ll read on.

Use fewer words, too. Just because you’ve been given a limit of 500 words per entry, doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. Quality, not quantity, is as much a rule of thumb here as it is anywhere else.

That rule also goes for the data you refer to. Your poor judge is going to be just as weary of the numbers as the words. They’ll only be looking at relevant data, so first and foremost make those numbers easy to find. I know that you’ll want to cite reams of data points to pepper your product and back up your case, but be very wary of overkill. If increases in page views or your Twitter followership aren’t relevant to the award you want to win, leave them out. Irritating your judge by giving them information they don’t need won’t do much for you.

Tell a story

Find your human side

And with that, ensure you can show a more holistic, or human, measure, too. One thing a judge wants to see when handing out awards is that they’re awarding something worthy, something that’s made a difference, something that makes them sit up from a laborious task and go “Wow, what a wonderful campaign!”

For them, it means they’re satisfied they’ve awarded a campaign that deserves it, which for an award judge is more or less one’s primary concern.

Have you inspired a behavioural change or can you show a deeper emotional connection brought about through your work? Demonstrating a measurable difference on a spreadsheet is one thing; showing you’ve made a measurable change to hearts and minds means so much more.

To this end especially, tell a story. If you’ve engaged someone on an emotional level in your campaign, do it again for your award. This is as much an exercise in brand storytelling as it was when you first started drafting out your marketing strategy. Put that same passion into marketing yourself for the win. More and more brands are investing in writers and agencies specifically to create great stories for their award entries.

To be honest, if you aren’t going to make a song and dance about it, why waste time entering in the first place?