Winning industry awards can be a great way to get recognition for your company and, perhaps more importantly, your personal contributions. Who pays the most attention to them? Your bosses. That’s why industry awards are important, even if no one outside your field gives a poop.
I have a pretty good track record of winning industry awards. For example, this year I submitted five entries to the Mutual Fund Education Alliance’s STAR Awards and won all five. While I certainly stand by the accomplishments the submissions represent, I think at least 50% of the reason we won is the submissions themselves. Here are some steps you can take to improve your chances.
1. Choose the award carefully.
Most of us will never win an Academy Award—or even a Webby, for that matter. Choose awards you have a realistic chance of winning, but that are still meaningful to people within your industry. Within the mutual fund industry, everyone has heard of the MFEA. There were enough entrants to make it a legitimate competition, but not so many that we’d get creamed by bigger players with more resources. (It especially helped that entrants were grouped according to assets under management, so we competed against other mid-size companies.)
2. Follow the rules.
It’s amazing how many awards submissions get discarded because people can’t
follow the rules of the competition. If you’re asked for a one-sentence summary, keep your summary to
one sentence. If they want quantitative evidence, include quantitative
evidence. If they want eleventeen copies of each submission, bound together with masticated Zebra Stripe gum and airplane glue… you get the idea. However, following the rules is no excuse to be boring. (See steps #3 and #4).
3. Know your audience.
You are writing for the judges—and no one else. Judges have to sift through dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands, of identical-seeming submissions. They’re tired. Their eyes look like chewed grapes. They kinda wish they had never volunteered for this gig. (I once judged an independent film contest and the experience nearly put me down for a dirt nap.) So you need to make your submission stand out. Which leads to…
4. Treat your award submission as a marketing opportunity.
Because you are marketing to the judges, and no one else, there is no need to be stodgy. No need to employ industry jargon that most of us hate. Write succinctly and confidently. Don’t be afraid to be a little edgy, too. And above all, BE BRIEF! (I pared the communications objective of one submission down to one sentence, something like: “The goal of this web page is to provide financial advisors immediate access to the most salient information with the lowest possible barrier to entry.” Boom!) You are not being judged on how many synonyms you can find for “synergy” and “leverage.” You are being judged on how well you can paint a picture for the judges, without wasting a moment of their time. As Strunk and White wrote, “Omit needless words.”
My most recent experience is in the financial services industry. But these tactics apply to all industries that are big enough to celebrate their own, which is most of ’em. I hope you find this useful. Let me know if you do. Good luck!