7 Tips on Winning Awards – Tip #3

March 21st, 2011


Until you’ve done a few, you have no idea how time-consuming it can be to complete an award application. The longest I’ve done is 35 pages but even shorter ones can take surprisingly long to put together.

Recall the famous quote, featured on my Web site:

“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation…if an hour, I am ready now.” – Woodrow Wilson

It really does take more time to be succinct. More on that in Tip #6 (“Be succinct.”).

What will you need to do?

1. Get organized: Depending on submission length and complexity, this could be as easy as setting up a few meetings or as detailed as a long spreadsheet of questions, subject matter experts (SMEs), status updates, etc.

2. Reconnoiter the territory: AKA do your submission homework. Winners carefully review not just the application and judging criteria but also scour the award site for additional resources such as a list of tips, a preparatory Webinar, examples of winning submissions, etc.


Time is your frenemy.

3. Gather the data: Some SMEs are easy to find, schedule time with, talk to, coax information from and persuade to send you PowerPoint decks, graphics, charts, metrics, etc. But don’t count on it.

Also, don’t count on being able to identify the right SME, right off the bat, especially if you work for a company with tens of thousands of employees (you know who you are). Prepare for triangulation.

4. Write the darn thing: If you’re a fast writer and it’s a short application, you’re golden. Otherwise, be realistic about how long you need to synthesize all the data into a coherent, compelling story. If it’s a 35-pager, get prepared.

5. Manage the approval cycle: Having only one SME who gets back to you right away with minimal edits is bliss. You should be so lucky (and very often, I really am, and thankfully so).

Remember, too, that there are likely higher ups who’ll need to weigh in. With ridiculously busy schedules. Who might request major last-minute changes.

6. Battle the Technology: Increasingly, award applications are online. COUNT ON having technical issues, especially on deadline day, when everyone who didn’t read this post is scrambling to submit and the servers are on overtime.

Be sure to carefully review the online application well in advance so there are no last-minute surprises. Trust me on this one.

So how MUCH time does one need to complete an award submission? I once did 11 submissions in six weeks, but that’s not a pace I recommend, unless you’re OK with sleep deprivation (we did win eight!).

Obviously, it will vary according to any number of factors, but here are some very rough rules of thumb if you’ve never done one before:

– A single-program award: 6-8 weeks

– A ranking award (not including the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, which takes 6-8 months all tolled): 8-10 weeks

These are words to the wise. Use them well!

More tips!

See Tip #2: Read the Question

See Tip #1: Know Who You’re Talking To

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