How To Enter Awards

So, you think you deserve a Don’t Panic award? Maybe a UK Business Tech Award, a Global Agency Award, or a MENA Search Award? You quite possibly do. But standing between you and the recognition you undoubtedly deserve is the (not so) small matter of writing your submission.

Each entry consists of a written submission of up to 1,000 words split between 4-5 sections, plus supporting material. The entry form is your only opportunity to persuade the judges that you deserve to win. There’s no face-to-face second-stage or judges Q&A to elaborate. So, with your chances hanging on your written submission, what can you do to maximise your chances of winning?

To help aid your submissions, here are some important pointers from Chris Robinson from Boost Awards, the world’s first and largest award-entry consultancy. Chris has over 17 years of expertise in award entry consultancy and has shared his key top tips specific to the Don’t Panic awards. Keep scrolling to discover them all.

1) Choose your stories wisely

Most organisations have a plethora of projects, company strategies, case studies and people worthy of recognition, but which stories should you invest the time, energy, and money in submitting for an award?

Ignore myths that suggest that household brands and big-budget campaigns/projects win more often. The judges are all industry experts working with a clear scoring system that ensures the scoring is on merit only. Don’t Panic awards always provide entrants with feedback, and this will never say ‘it wasn’t a big enough brand’ or ‘the budget was too small’.

So, what are the qualities to look for? Prioritise stories if:

  1. Any named partner or client will fully support the submission with a testimonial, evidence of impact and time spent being interviewed and signing it off.
  2. The strategy/project/campaign has been implemented long enough to demonstrate impact, but not so long ago that it feels “too old”.
  3. By the deadline, you can get hold of compelling evidence of a ‘smashed it out of the park’ result (see evidence top tip later).
  4. There is something wow (see later also).
  5. There is at least one category that’s a great fit. More ideally.

Remember, you can submit an unlimited number of entries, and the same story into multiple categories. In fact, the cost per entry will reduce, and you’re more likely to leave the event with a trophy if you do.

2) Answer the questions in full!

OK, this sounds like a blindingly obvious point. Yet as obvious as it might appear, I can’t tell you how many times people reached out to me to share entries that didn’t win (in awards programmes that don’t share feedback). They feel hard done by and hope I will agree they should have won. Almost without exception, I reply to their email with two core reasons behind why they didn’t win – and the first is always “you didn’t fully respond to all the entry requirements/questions.”

You see, the judges have clear scoring criteria, aligned with the category description and entry form, and if you don’t fully answer the questions – you will be bleeding marks.

So, review the category description and each question and before writing any narrative you create a set of headings or instructions for yourself which ensure the judges can clearly see that you have answered the questions in full.

3) Tell a story – succinctly

I’ve just told you to meet the strict judging criteria by answering every element of the questions posed but ensure that, in doing so, you tell a story. By this I mean, include drama if appropriate, an engaging tone throughout, and a clear flow from the context through to the conclusion.

You can nuance the headings I suggested in the previous tip to help. For example, responding to the ‘challenges overcome’ criteria with the heading “Our three inter-twined challenges.”

I agree that answering the questions robustly while telling a story, all within the 1,000-word limit isn’t easy, but you can guarantee that the winning entry will have done exactly this. This year, wouldn’t it be great if that entry came from you?

4) Make full use of the supporting materials

If you are struggling to do your story justice within the 1,000-word limit, then you can use supporting material as appendixes.  You can provide this in MS Word, PDF, or JPEG formats (under 2MB each file). But not Zip files. You can even share a video using a URL but keep it short!

Do not use this as an opportunity to drown the judges in swathes more text. Only add additional content if it really adds value, like additional graphs, short testimonials, certificates, or photos. Try and keep the additional words here to a minimum – headings and captions mainly.

5) The evidencing challenge

The second most common mistake people make is their body of evidence not being robust enough. Being ‘well-evidenced’ is the trickiest of the vital qualities of a winning entry – and it can take many weeks to build this body of evidence. Most strategies, campaigns and projects will have a lot of low-level data points to hand (e.g., click-throughs, media hits, leads generated etc.) and as interesting as these are, they just stop there! Try and get senior contacts to share higher-level data points – metrics that matter in the boardroom. Financial impact at the least.

My top tip with data is to get the person who knows the story best to be interviewed or find an hour to map out what you will say and where. The vital thing to do here is to create symmetry between objectives and outcomes and split these into high- and low-level metrics. I can guarantee that you’ll find a substantial list of data points to complete your story, and these will require a fair amount of digging. Only by starting early will you have enough time to create this winning body of impact evidence.

Important point: Don’t worry about confidentiality. The judges have signed non-disclosure agreements, and the organisers will not publish your entries’ content without first seeking approval.

6) The all-important WOW

While you can get a high mark in each section with well-evidenced responses, you need to also bear in mind that this is not a box-ticking exercise. Judges will meet to discuss the highest-scoring entries and agree on each winner. To maximise your chances of being the one they agree upon requires you to induce more of a ‘wow’ response from the panel than the other applications.

Bear in mind that the extraordinary aspects of your achievements may not be obvious to someone unfamiliar with the relevant sector or situation. If something is bold, unique, innovative, or extraordinarily creative in your context then spell this out explicitly and confidently. Ideally, qualify your claim with some evidence.

Convincing a judge that your wow is for real is easier said than done, I accept that. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here sadly, because by definition each ‘wow’ has to be unique. However, if you simply accept that you need to evidence your wow factor as a vital ingredient to your entry, then that alone has made reading this article worthwhile.

I hope my top tips created a few lightbulb moments that will help you earn additional marks. This could make the difference between a shortlisting and a win. If you need help picking stories, writing entries, or identifying measures of success, do get in touch. Either way, good luck, blow their socks off!

About the author: Chris Robinson is MD of Boost Awards, the world’s first and largest award entry consultancy. Boost’s team of 25 (mostly pay-rolled) has helped clients of all shapes, sizes and geographies win over 2,000 awards, including dozens for awards programmes by Don’t Panic. Contact Boost for a free informal chat about awards, browse their awards list, or sign up to their popular free monthly email deadline reminder service.

Get in touch with Boost via email, or follow them on LinkedInX, and Facebook.

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