Write yourself to victory

Jo SutherlandWith the IWFM Awards 2020 now open for entry, Jo Sutherland offers tips on writing a winning award entry.

Choose the best category
When choosing the category, read the requirements carefully. Many have time criteria – for example, a project must have been completed within a certain time frame. Check your entry is eligible. Are there any new categories in that particular programme? Newer categories are less popular than more established ones. Check who is sponsoring that particular category. You don’t want to find yourself accepting an award from a competitor through gritted teeth.

Choose the right project, team or individual
Don’t opt for your latest or biggest project without good reason. Think about whether you have a good relationship with your client and the depth of material you’ll need.

If innovation is a key criterion, have you genuinely broken new ground? If partnership is the theme, can you demonstrate joint working? If site visits are part of the entry process, will these be easy to arrange? If testimonials are required, are you confident that your client thinks as highly of your performance as you do? A visible client always helps. Make sure you have the hard data to back up any claims you’re making.

Engage your client
Not all award categories involve clients but where they do, you want them signed up to the idea. They should want to win the award as much as you.

Explain how winning the award would enhance their profile. This will make it easier to get cooperation when it comes to putting the entry together. Ensure that you not only have permission from your client contact but also their corporate communications team, as they will have the ultimate say.

Tell the judges a story
Awards judges read a lot of submissions, so yours will need to stand out. Don’t simply list facts; provide a compelling narrative. Explain how your work was part of a wider initiative to improve performance, reduce costs or rationalise locations. Provide some context by tying your project into your organisation’s mission or objectives.

Take the reader along the timeline – from conception to implementation. Make it personal by adding quotes and feedback from staff, customers, visitors, and so on. Provide a summary of key features and achievements. And structure it in the same way as the list of requirements to make it easier for the judges to see that you’ve covered all the areas.  

Provide evidence
Many entries fail to score well because they don’t back up their claims. If your new helpdesk system resulted in a “major improvement in customer service”, then provide the KPI or survey data that shows this. If you achieved “significant cost savings” then quantify them or at least give the percentage reduction in costs. Don’t be woolly.

Paint a picture
Even if the submission doesn’t require images you’ll need them should you make the shortlist or win, so be prepared. Many submissions are let down by poor photography and there is no excuse with the consumer equipment available today, even if you don’t want to employ a professional. Consider making a short (under three minutes) video to enliven your submission.

You can replay this if you are invited to present to the judges and use it on your website, on social media and in pitches.  

Publicise your success
If you are shortlisted or win, make the most of your success. Issue a press release, publicise it internally, on your website, on social media and in newsletters. The IWFM Awards offer finalists and winners’ logos that you can add to marketing material, stationery and email signatures.

Write your winner’s press release before the event. That way, all you’ll have to do is drop in the judge’s remarks and you can enjoy the celebrations safe in the knowledge that you won’t be up at 6am trying to write sparkling copy with 
a hangover!    

Magenta is running a free award writing workshop on 13th February from 4-6.30pm in London. Visit tinyurl.com/FacMag0220-Awards for details. 

Jo Sutherland is managing director of Magenta Associates

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