Top tips on how to write a killer award entry

The team from Rocketmill celebrating winning a crop of recent Drum Awards.

OK, so you’ve decided to enter one of The Drum Awards – well done, you’ve taken the first step towards rewarding your team with the attention and recognition that their brilliant work deserves. Now all you have to do is write the actual entry!

Here at The Drum, we know exactly what normally happens next. You’ll make a note to start your entry whenever you get a spare minute, then leave it untouched for weeks. A few days before the entry deadline, you’ll get a reminder that it's due and the whole thing will be thrown together in a screaming rush that fails to do credit to the project involved.

There is another way. Writing award entries doesn’t have to be either difficult or time-consuming but it does take focus and planning. As someone who has written his fair share of winning entries for The Drum itself, here are a few tips for making the whole entry writing process as painless and effective as possible:

  • Firstly, read the entry criteria, slowly and carefully. Now, re-read the entry criteria – this time though, read them out loud. Ask a colleague to make a note of each individual instruction given and each piece of information requested.
  • Next, beside each point on your list, mark the name of the person inside your organization who can provide you with that information. Contact those individuals immediately, making it clear exactly what you need them to provide and setting a deadline well in advance of the Awards’ closing date. Chase them for a response if you need to: remind them that by making this application you are looking to shine a spotlight on their excellent work.
  • Gather the info together and organise it into a natural order that flows and doesn’t simply bombard the reader with one stat after another. The secret of a great awards entry is to tell a story in the way people expect: beginning, middle and end, with some interesting detail along the way. Leave writing any sort of executive summary until later on.
  • Go through the entry criteria, making sure that your text addresses each of the points mentioned. In some cases, this will mean providing additional information to back-up the claims of your entry. Present this additional information in a clear and easily digestible way, specifically tailored to the needs of the awards entry, e.g. don’t include an entire spreadsheet if the key information could be presented in a simple table.
  • Now that you have covered all the information needs of your entry, start to think in more detail about the tone. Does it properly reflect the personality of your agency or the work itself? Try to inject some authentic personality into it. Use quotes from your senior execs to help break up the text and to emphasize the key points you want to make.
  • Include visuals and, if appropriate, video to help the judges engage with your entry and bring it to life.
  • Before submission, circulate the entry to as many of the project team as possible for their feedback. Others will often be able to spot important points that are missing from the entry text. Revise your text to accommodate the feedback.
  • Have your most pedantic colleague proof-read the entry for typos and sense-check the document. Also, ask someone who was NOT involved in the project to read the entry. Is it easy to understand? What do they think are they key takeaways from the entry? Are these the ones you intended?
  • Once you have completed a draft of the main entry, work on your executive summary. Present the most important details of the project in no more than three or four sentences, covering the brief, the strategy, the activity and the outcomes of the project.
  • Double-check to make sure you have included all the supporting information required by your entry and that you have provided as many copies of the entry as requested.
  • Finally, moving forward, get into the habit of collating and storing the key information around an interesting project as it is taking place, putting you in a good position to easily prepare an award entry on that project in the future.

Whatever the outcome - win, lose or draw - the process of preparing an awards entry is a valuable exercise, allowing you and your team to consider your work and its impacts in detail and take pride in a job well done. In addition, the potential exposure gained from a nominated or winning award entry could bring you to the attention of new clients, new collaborators and new projects that may become future award entries of their own.

Michael Feeley is a consultant journalist at The Drum Network

The Drum Awards is a global scheme that aims to identify the best practices, companies and people in our industry. It’s mission is to share that information with readers of The Drum - one of the worlds largest marketing platforms - to help them make better decisions. Entries for the awards are now open. If you have any questions, queries or need advice on your entry form, please contact one of our event managers.

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