How to write a winning awards application

How to write a winning awards application


Why write an awards application?

There are some very good reasons for applying for and winning awards.  I am going to cover some of them here and give you ten top tips for writing them.

Winning or getting on the shortlist for an award is a great way to get recognition for your brand, your products and services or your customers.  Because they lead to media interest they are a good PR tool. In addition, they can also be valuable to differentiate yourself from your competition and to give buyers confidence in doing business with you.

Winning an award gives your business credibility and provides a morale boost for staff, not to mention attracting new talent and investors.

The downside is they can sometimes take a long time to put together, so you only want to invest the time if you can see some direct benefits.

It’s worth investing time and resource in getting the entry right, there are obvious long-term benefits to being an award-winning business, including:

  • Increased credibility, profile and reputation amongst your customers, stakeholders and employees
  •  Attracting the best talent – everyone wants to work for an award-winning business
  •  Team morale

What makes a winning award entry?

Any credible awards scheme will have rigorous entry criteria that only rewards outstanding work with a demonstrable and meaningful impact. A winning entry will focus largely on the outcomes rather than the outputs of the work carried out. However, entering awards is like applying for a job – your entry must stand out to the judges amongst all the others, so it does need some creative stand out. Being award winning is about going the extra mile to do something truly innovative that your competitors are not.

But innovative work that has had a big impact doesn’t necessarily win awards. Like any piece of content, your award entry needs to be engaging and memorable to capture the judges’ imagination. It needs to go further than a list of facts and figures. It needs to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. With a tight word limit, the technical jargon and background bumf needs to be left out to make space for the bits that are really meet the judges’ criteria.

Ten tips for writing an awards application that will dazzle the judges.

1 – Talk about a product or service that deserves to win

Whilst a well written award entry may get you onto the shortlist for an award, it is genuinely the best products, or the most innovative services that actually win the accolades. Although you believe your product or service is the best, it really must stand head and shoulders above the others to be sure of winning.

Select those categories which align with your business goals, because they will play to our strengths. Also, double check your eligibility for entering and always read the small print before you begin. You might find a more suitable category than your first choice or that your business is eligible to enter across multiple categories.

2 – Start off strong

The problem with awards is that they tend to have many applications. To stand out you need to go in strong with a very clear message.  Two ways of going in strong are:

  • Start with a strong quote or something unexpected.
  • Create an elevator pitch for your submission which very succinctly explains what they are going to read about. This will be very benefits driven.

The next step is to review the entry criteria.

  • Be honest self about whether your submission is worthy of winning.
  • Be selective about which awards and categories you enter
  • Only go for awards that you are confident you are cutting edge for.

Before you start writing, gather all the evidence and data that shows the impact of the work carried out. Begin by identifying the objectives of your project, then mapping the evidence and data you’ve gathered against each objective before fleshing out your entry into a compelling story.

It’s important to review your submission from an external perspective. In the same way the judges will.  To do this, take your time and make sure you gather input and feedback from colleagues and supporters.

What others say about you is far more powerful than what you say yourself – this is why testimonials and reviews are like gold dust in marketing.  Always include these third-party testimonials and if you don’t have any yet, go and talk to your clients and ask for them.

3 – Assume the judges don’t know your business

Firstly, it’s easy to assume that judges know a lot about your business – especially if you have spoken to them in the past. However, they can’t award marks if the content is not in the award form in black and white. 

Secondly, we all sometimes forget how much we use industry jargon – a phrase you think is in everyday use in your industry may be unfamiliar to a judge. The same is true of acronyms, but there are so many of them about these days, it’s easy to get them wrong.

Lastly, make sure you spell out any benefits you have brought to your clients. Often, judges may not connect the dots and see that a help system you have created will save a company a lot of money by significantly reducing calls to a help desk.  Make sure you make this connection for them.

4 – Prove your content

Lots of people make claims, but the trick is being able to evidence a benefit and to put it into context. For example, you helped your client to increase their turnover. How much? What Is the % growth? Over what period?

Where possible always provide additional information in the form of supporting documents in the form of appendices. This is solid proof to back up your claims, adding credibility to your entry. This content can also include statistical evidence such as sales figures, company policies, customer testimonials, and links to online resources or certificates.

If you attach files, make sure they are easy to access and open with a universally used program.  My suggestion is always a PDF because it can’t be amended or changed and when it opens it looks just the same as you made it. 

5 – Get customers back-up

It is one thing claiming that you are amazing, but it’s even better if you can get a customer to do it for you.  Ideally, any quotes or case studies you use should be peppered with facts to back up any claims being made. It’s never a waste of time getting case studies created – they can also be used on your website or on social media. There are endless ways to use case studies.

6 – Think about your language and evidence

Make your writing simple yet specific and include facts and figures for support. Even testimonials can be valuable if you have space.

Avoid copy and pasting text. Or if you do, then make sure you massage the text to match the job in hand to make it fresh and appropriate.  Your tone should always be consistent, and a copy and paste can be easily recognisable.

A simple structure to follow when answering a question is to state what the issue was, how you solved it and the outcome of this. On other words, dwell on the benefit that was gained rather than the process of achieving it.

Use emotive language can demonstrate the importance of your work and create a great mental image that the judges can picture.  So, rather than being generic and saying, ‘our help system saves money’, you could demonstrate it by stating that ‘our clients on average save 20% of their running costs by implementing our help system’.

It’s tempting to use formal language and business jargon or buzz words when writing formally but when it comes to awards entries it’s better to be straightforward. I always advise my clients to keep the reading age low, the sentences short, and the language to every day words.

Finally, proof-read your writing and get someone else to proof it too. Spelling and grammar mistakes can ruin an otherwise impressive entry.

7 – Pay close attention to the word count

There is usually a word count for each answer. This is because the judges will have a limited amount of time to read all the awards applications.  They will check your work counts. Some even count the words in any graphics you include. Generally speaking, they will ignore every word after the word count is reached. So, if you have included something important at the end of your question, and you have overrun your work count, they won’t mark it.

If you are offered the opportunity to send supplementary information, then do so, but only if there is something that truly supports the claims you make in the award entry. Respect the judges time.

8 – Give yourself time to write your awards application properly

As with all writing projects, don’t leave it to the last minute. If you rush your entry, you may overlook something important.  Your application should be considered and thoughtful.

Take the time to collate the information you need to be able to complete the entry, including and examples and evidence that supports your case. It’s also very valuable to have time to get others to review and provide feedback on your document before you submit.

Always start with a rough draft, using bullet points for each question or idea and then expand on these later, giving you time to polish your entry later. You might even send this to a professional writer at this stage to get a final polish.

Make sure you submit your entry on time – if you submit too early there is a danger that something may change, but if you leave it to the last minute the portal can be subject to a problem which can prevent you from uploading on time.

9 – Always answer every question

This might sound obvious, but it surprises me how many people leave out questions they find difficult, or just give a cursory answer. If you don’t answer all the questions fully, you won’t stand a chance of winning or being shortlisted.

Awards are a bit like bids and tenders insofar as they tend to use a marking scheme. Therefore, you need to make sure that your entry is in line with the marking criteria that has been provided. So, if they ask for three examples, make sure that you give three examples, otherwise you will lose marks.

Most judging processes use a marking scheme and you need to align the content of your entry to this. If the criteria asks for five examples of how your business is using a sales and marketing strategy to increase sales, give five examples.

10 – Make the most of being shortlisted or winning

If you get shortlisted or indeed win your award, you will want to make the most of it and not waste the effort and time you have invested. Here are a few tips:

  • Use social media to shout about it and create a buzz around the awards themselves.  Don’t forget that this raises your profile, as well as the profile the awards themselves, making your involvement seem more important.
  • Create some graphics that you can share with your social media posts.
  • Attend the awards themselves. Get plenty of photographs including o f you in your finery. I’ve even known attendees where outfits that fir their branding to make the photos they share afterwards more attractive! Remember the event is a formal business event, so act accordingly.
  • Make sure you have some marketing content ready for after the event Even if you don’t win, if you have been shortlisted it is still something to shout about. It’s also a great chance to check out your competition, see what they did differently and learn for next year.

What Next?

If you don’t have time to create your awards applications, or do not feel confident writing them, then talk to The Bid Writer about some help.  I can write your application from scratch or just edit and proofread it for you, offering some suggestions of where I think it would be improved.  Give me a call to see how I can help you.


Alison Reeves

My clients win more Bids, Tenders and Proposals.  Don't forget - you only get one chance to make a first impression.  Most business is lost through poor communication, not through the products or services you offer. Bid Writing, Bid Writing Training Courses, Case Studies, Reviewing Editing and Proofreading, Tender Proof your Business, Build a Better Bid Library, General Business Writing Training.

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