Today we’re talking about how to write a winning award submission. As awards shortlistings and wins can be used very successfully as part of an integrated communications strategy, it seems sensible for us to share some of our winning tips!
*Plug alert* We draft a lot of award submissions, and it is very rare for our copy not to result in a shortlisting. Our clients have also won a fair few awards over the years as well.
If you’re already on the road to success with your drafting, you might want to check out our post on maximising the PR opportunities of winning awards (also contains some handy links to the awards we recommend).
Anyway… back to our award-winning advice…
1. Do your research
We only ever advise our clients to enter an award we think they stand a very good chance of winning or at least being shortlisted. Otherwise *vanity project alert* what’s the actual point?
2. Go through the award criteria with a fine-toothed comb
Check, check and check again that you can meet and potentially adduce evidence if necessary for at least 90% of the criteria requirements. If there are a couple of areas where you are struggling, consider explaining why you don’t quite meet the criteria, or even outline the plans you have in development to meet them. Or just develop the areas in question and wait for 12 months.
3. Check if there are any other requirements over and above the criteria
Whilst the submission criteria need to be your ‘go-to’, quite often there are requirements for covering statements, additional evidence and broader criteria. They are frequently hidden (helpfully) away from the individual criteria – so do a bit of digging. You don’t want to have your submission dismissed on a technicality.
4. Highlight the criteria
Read through the criteria carefully and critically, then highlight (using a pen and highlighter if needs be) each key element. You’ll need to methodically ensure you describe how you meet each one in turn.
5. Avoid waffling
Get to the point – elaborate if necessary and if it adds weight. But if you start talking fluff, sack it off.
6. Be clear
Ensure that what you have written is penetrable for a lay-person. Don’t expect the judges to work hard to understand your submission. Your job is to make it easy for them to select your entry and put it on the top of the pile.
7. Show don’t tell
Make the most of facts, figures, statistics, quotes, testimonials, media coverage and any other evidence to hand that can be used to back up the submission criteria. You may well be the best employment law firm in the UK, and you can say that. But if you can back it with other award wins, outstanding client testimonials, 100% year on year turnover increase and a Legal 500 tier 1 listing, for example, the judges are going to be much more likely to believe you.
Give the judges what they want. There will be certain phrases you have highlighted that really match your strengths, so steal and repeat them to highlight your successes in that area. By using the criteria phraseology verbatim you are mentally allowing the judges to give great big ticks against your name and the criteria they are looking to hit.
9. Take the judges on a journey…
Work out your story; what makes your firm, you, your junior practitioner, team, whoever you are writing for – different? Work out the back-story and how to tell it, and your submission will genuinely come to life.
10. Know your audience and write for them
Are the judges lawyers, lay-persons, business people, journalists? A mixture of all these? Understand who they are, and then write for them. Avoid jargon, explain technical details if necessary, and keep things relatively simple.
11. Be confident, not arrogant
Write hopefully and confidently and sell the nominee’s strengths. But be careful to avoid arrogance, bluster and hyperbole.
12. Read your submission out loud
You may want to find a room to do this… but it is a genuine suggestion and us pro’s do it all the time. Read the copy out load and you’ll find a number of surprisingly awkward sounding phrases. You’ll also weed out repetition of words and phrases, and where you’ve missed words by accident. You’ll feel like a wally for about a minute, but it’s worth every second, I promise.
13. Stay within the word count
Sounds obvious but just stay within the word count. Check whether additional evidence is permitted and if it is included within the word count. Some judges will stop reading at the end of the permitted word count so don’t bother chancing it.
Equally, don’t feel you have to meet the word count. If you can get your point across succinctly within 700 of 1000 words, don’t feel you have to pad for a further 300 words. 700 is fine.
14. Have it checked
This is a slightly controversial one. I always have my submissions checked and signed off by clients, but because I know them and their businesses so well, it is usually a matter of approving and filling any gaps. It can be helpful to have an award submission checked but ensure whoever you ask understands what you are trying to achieve and isn’t a real-life submission grinch who will suck the life out of your beautifully crafted copy.
15. Bring in the professionals
Obviously not everybody writes beautifully and award submissions are time consuming. So if you are really struggling, get some help.
Award wins can not only help to drive new business, raise a firm, team or individuals’ profile, and help to generate media opportunities, but can also act as a kitemark of quality, success or peer approval.
Here at LexRex we draft submissions and provide awards consultancy to lawyers across the UK. So if you fancy adding the phrase ‘award winning’ before your name, why not get in touch on 0161 393 6121 or via email@example.com
By Victoria Moffatt
LexRex Communications is a specialist consultancy providing strategic PR and marketing support to boutique law firms.
We help lawyers stand out from the crowd.
If you would like to know more about our services, please drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet us LexRexComms or @vicmoffatt. You can also connect with Victoria on LinkedIn.