AB Thinks  →  2nd March 2017

How to win awards

The deadline is set. By the 28 April your entry must be submitted to the Institute of Internal Communication for its 2017 awards programme. We don’t like to boast but AB has won over 40 awards in the last four years alone. Drawing on our experience, managing director Katie Macaulay shares her hints and tips on creating an award-winning submission.

Tell a great story

This is easily my rule number one. Write for your audience. Judges are usually hard-working volunteers generously donating their valuable, precious time. Make your entry a rewarding read. Facts, figures and objectivity are key – but don’t forget your judge is human. Tell an engaging, compelling story of creativity and tenacity overcoming a challenge or adversity.

Don’t break the rules

Word counts, supporting materials, questions you must to answer – check the rules carefully before you begin and stick to them.

Get permission

There are sometimes reasons your client – whether internal or external – may not wish their project to gain publicity or exposure with an award. Always check and, ideally, get written permission before you start.

Make your objective clear and prove you fulfilled it

The objective of your project must be clearly stated. Don’t be tempted to embellish your project’s goal – not every initiative needs to change the world. Honesty is the best policy, but ensure your objectives are measureable – ideally leading to a tangible change. Then prove to the judges your project fulfilled or exceeded this objective. You’ll need quantifiable proof in the form of some solid evaluation. And don’t be tempted to change your objective to fit the results of your research. Your entry will not ring true.

Admit to mistakes and lessons learned

As a judge, I never look for perfection. The best entries often describe a journey that may have ended in success but where detours and obstacles were encountered along the way. It is in the near failure or lessons learned the real story emerges.

Substantiate your success

This is the second tip on measurement – it matters that much. If in doubt about how to evaluate the success of our project, turn to an expert. Too often, satisfaction is confused with effectiveness. Solid measurement quantifies a tangible outcome linked to an objective. For example, if an internal campaign asked employees to ‘think twice about every journey’, then a reduction in travel expenses would be an obvious mark of its success.

Proof read and sub edit your entry

Ask a colleague with strong editorial skills to check your entry for mistakes, inconsistencies or any lack of clarity. A fresh pair of eyes will highlight obvious mistakes you may have overlooked.

Support your entry

Spend an equal amount of time considering the materials that support your entry. Don’t deluge judges in a volume of data. Choose documents and multi-media files that breathe life into your project and which substantiate its success.

I’d like to thank…

Paying tribute to the entire team that produced the work is not only the right thing to do, it helps the judge understand the scope and breadth of your project. If external agencies, freelancers or other areas of your business played a part, explain their role and give them credit.

Start a year before

The AB team may have heard me say this once too often – the best award entries are written at the very start of a project. When faced with a new communications challenge, it‰’s useful to start at the end. How might the award entry read in 12 months time? Creating a clear vision of success – in 1,000 words or less – is a useful starting point.

Finally, honesty is the best policy

Looking back over our winning entries in recent years a common theme emerges. They deal with sensitive and controversial issues with unprecedented honesty – no spin, hoopla or hype. Stories are told in a human, not corporate, voice. There is a credibility and authenticity about the entry that draws the reader in.