7 Tips on Winning Awards – Tip #1

January 17th, 2011

Tip #1: Know Who You’re Talking To – #1 Rule!

My slogan is, Who do you think you’re talking to?


First, it’s a dead giveaway that I’m from New York, and I think it only fair to be upfront about that now that I live in the docile Pacific Northwest, where no one honks and no one yells (puzzling, I know).

Second, and perhaps more germane to our topic, it’s really the most important rule in communications. Marketing-driven companies get that. They spend millions on research to find out things like NASCAR fans are very brand loyal (or at least they were in 2003, when I saw that data, which undoubtedly made the sponsorship folks at NASCAR leap with joy).

When you’re putting together an award submission, you also have to know your audience and, more importantly, what they care about. Fortunately, most award organizers will help you out.

They’ll do so with explicit criteria outlining what they’re looking for. And that makes sense – they don’t want to waste anyone’s time, least of all their judges’.

So listen closely and obey: filter your descriptions through award criteria.

This is a key strategy to winning, which is to make it as easy as possible for the judges to pick you (your initiative/team/company).


Make it really, really obvious that you are what they’re looking for.

If one criteria is innovation, for example, emphasize what’s innovative about your initiative/team/company.

–>If teamwork is a criterion, describe how the team came together to create success, what factors proved critical in driving a team approach, what challenges you faced, how success strengthened the team and improved morale, etc.

–>All within reason. Don’t go overboard, inserting “teamwork” or “innovation” in every other sentence; it won’t help to build your case.

And if the list of criteria is very long, well, you’ve got a bit of filtering to do. But if you’re applying for the right award, it shouldn’t be hard to make a good fit between what you’ve got and what they want.

Likewise, if you’re really struggling to address the criteria, maybe you should rethink whether it’s the right way to spend your time and money.

Super-quick tip: As you outline your responses to the submission questions, use the list of award criteria as a checklist. Make sure you’ve really covered all the territory and brought in all the salient bits of data that will make you fit like a glove.

Crafting an industry award submission is incredibly similar to responding to an RFP, applying for a grant, or submitting candidacy for a fellowship or highly selective graduate school – all of which I’d helped others do successfully before I ever laid eyes on an award application. And I was successful with awards right off the bat because I’d had plenty of practice making the goods match the order.

Next tip in the series: Read the Question. No lie. Ya’ll come on back.


Read the full list of tips.



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