Six top tips for writing a winning PR award entry from Maja Pawinska Sims
20th October 2014
Winning awards is a compelling way to attract and retain clients. Award-winning work turns heads, brings recognition to your team and draws in great people who want to work with you and for you.
I’ve helped consultancy and in-house teams achieve shortlistings and wins for hundreds of PR, marketing and digital awards in every major awards scheme.
As entries open for the PRmoment Awards, here are my top six tips for giving your entry the greatest possible chance of a thumbs-up from your peers on the judging panel:
1. Select the right campaigns. Focus on topical, creative, innovative, challenging work with a big, bold idea at its heart. Be honest: is the campaign a winner? Is it stand-out, best in class PR? Are you still excited enough about what you achieved to effectively communicate its brilliance? If not, why would the judges’ shortlist the entry?
2. Read the criteria. Follow the criteria. Stick to the rules. Meet the deadline. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to pull together an entry. Start early. Factor in time for client approval.
3. Give the job to your best writer. Tell the judges a great story. Don’t lean too hard on lists or bullet points. Watch spelling and grammar. Avoid cheery exclamation marks, flannel, waffle, and marketing jargon. Proof, proof and proof again for typos.
4. Judges have dozens – if not hundreds – of entries to review for each category of every awards scheme. Make sure yours really spells out why it has the X-factor: don’t expect them to read between the lines. Include enough market/industry/real world context to help them understand why the campaign was needed. Don’t be modest, and do always give the client team credit.
5. State measurable business and communications objectives and ensure the results section proves that every objective was met. Include as much evaluation data and evidence of the impact of the campaign on the client business or organisation as possible, from an increase in sales to higher levels of engagement with audiences. Never use AVEs or rely solely on media measurement.
6. Engage judges with the human or emotional angle. There is one in every campaign, if you look hard enough. Who cares whether the campaign was a success? What did it really mean? To whom did it make a difference? Whose lives did it affect? A huge proportion of winning entries elicit some kind of emotional reaction – some stories are even told powerfully enough to prompt tears. Not a good look in the judging chamber, but proof that your work was compelling, and meaningful.
Finally, remember the magic formula: clear objectives, matched to proven results, plus great storytelling, equals your best chance of winning. Assuming your campaign was brilliantly conceived and executed in the first place, you’ll be well on your way to picking up an armful of shiny gongs.
Maja Pawinska Sims is a copywriter specialising in writing and editing award entries for PR consultancies and in-house teams.