The reward of awards
During the Olympics we’ve witnessed remarkable people achieve the ultimate goal, winning gold in sports’ greatest competition. We’ve heard their post-event interviews where they talk, laden with emotion, about how much their achievement has meant to them to be recognised as the best at what they do and how it was worth all the effort and work put in. Having cried every day during London 2012, my chin is still wobbling a little bit just thinking about it (hey, don’t judge me!).
We now know that Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Victoria Pendleton and our local Leeds boy Alistair Brownlee (to mention just a few of the 29 new Olympic champions) are amazing – it’s been demonstrated beyond all doubt. But what comparisons can we ordinary, non-superhuman folk ever hope to draw with our own lives, achievements, businesses? We probably can’t hope to run as fast, cycle as hard or even look as good in a wetsuit (I can personally vouch for that!) but can we not hope to achieve excellence in our own fields, comparable in our own worlds to their great achievements?
Nobody does it half as good as you
Having worked with a lot of businesses it is clear to me that most are doing things really well. What is also clear is that few realise it and even fewer shout about it. We often view our day to day activities as just ‘what we do’ – nothing special. It’s amazing how the most impressive facts are just dropped, casually, into a conversation. I think it’s a combination of not truly appreciating own talents and self-deprecation – that very British characteristic of not wanting to seem arrogant.
As a marketer I have to coax these achievements and demonstrations of excellence from clients in order to determine their competitive advantage and key selling points – all marketing lingo of course for ‘stuff we are more brilliant than anyone else at’. When I do this and am particularly impressed with what I hear I often suggest that they go a bit further than just talking about what they are good at on their marketing materials and use their fabulous-ness to enter some awards. Initially I tend to be met with “Who? Us? Really?” but then the thrill of the potential outcome – actually winning one – captures their imagination.
Baby you ARE the best!
Winning an award is an extremely powerful way to say that you not only good at what you do, you are the best. The recognition that you get, confirmation from impartial, highly respected judges that you actually ARE the best, goes way beyond anything you can say yourself on your website or sales materials. If you can demonstrate excellence, in whatever way, my advice would always be to investigate the opportunity to enter an award.
I’ve worked with a few companies to help them put together strong award entries, the most notable of which was RTR UK Ltd in Barnsley who were not only highly commended in the Entrepreneur of the Year and Business Growth Awards at the Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber Business Awards last year but actually won the overall Business of the Year 2011. This created a fantastic profile for the company, who were up against some serious competition.
As well as writing entries for awards I’ve also been involved from the other side having worked with Forward Ladies who, among many other things, run the annual Women in Business Awards. I therefore realise how competitive awards can be but also what the judges are looking for. If you put a strong enough case forward and follow a few simple rules you stand a good chance of being shortlisted.
My top tips for entering awards are as follows:
• Make sure the awards are relevant to your business. You may well win the Cleanest Loo award but if you’re an engineering firm it’s not going to achieve anything for the business (if you are a restaurant or public attraction however this may well work for you).
• Make sure you meet the criteria – if you don’t you’re just wasting your time entering
• Stay within the word count. It seems a simple thing but most awards organisers will be very strict and disallow those who exceed the stated word count. It’s easy to get carried away when writing about how brilliant you are but you need to keep it as close to the word count as you can. Likewise, use as much of the word count as you can – you may be missing out on the opportunity if you don’t include enough information.
• Provide evidence. If you’re saying you’re the best at something you need to back it up somehow. This could be evidence of growth, successes achieved, customer testimonials, profitability etc.
• Give them what they ask for. Again, this seems obvious but often entries are wasted because people write enthusiastically about what they think is great about the business but fail to provide the evidence that the award specifically asks for. Check through the award guidelines and criteria, which are there to help you, and ensure that you’ve included information that clearly answers each point
• Make sure your written content, style and tone is appropriate for the award. If it’s an industry specific award it may be appropriate to use technical terminology; if it’s a general business award it may not
• Make it easy for the judges. They get a huge number of entries so make yours as easy as possible to digest. That means providing clear evidence against the criteria early in the piece (often you’ll be asked to provide a summary so you should include a brief overview of your evidence here), have a concise structure and clearly state WHY you should win it.
• Provide relevant supporting documents (if appropriate). Many awards allow you to include some supporting documents with your entry that don’t affect the word count. If so do include some but make sure they add value (eg don’t just send copies of every press release you’ve ever done). This might include press coverage, customer testimonials/references, other awards won etc
• Meet the deadline. Another simple one but most are very strict and will not accept entries beyond the stated deadline.
So, look at your business – are you doing something really well? How does a bit of recognition sound? Getting your entries right is a skill that needs developing so try a few and see how you get on. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get shortlisted at first, just keep trying – it can take a few attempts to get it right.
If you’d like some help putting your entry together, or even just sourcing the right awards to enter, then get in touch and let’s see if we can get you on that podium! (I also scrub up OK if you want to invite me to the glittering awards ceremony!)