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Make your NRA entry marvellous

I was in the position recently of being judged and being a judge of others (for unrelated categories) for the 2015 National Recycling Awards.

Being part of the judging panel for MRW’s awards opened my eyes to what helps to create an award-winning entry.

Business awards are an essential element of stakeholder engagement and PR programmes. Companies submit for industry awards in an effort to increase both relevance and validation. In a competitive marketplace, validation for your company’s products, growth, people or brand is crucial, especially for those in a business-to-business marketplace.

Prospective customers and employees researching your company for further information will come across the awards collected and know that they are literally choosing a winner. Moreover, when you hit a slow company news cycle, business awards are a solid way to project momentum, with each win serving as a touch point with customers, prospects and staff alike.

An often forgotten perspective is that awards are also a fantastic staff engagement tool: they are a great public way of recognising the fantastic achievements your teams have delivered.

So if you have a strong business case to enter an award next year, here are my top tips from my experience as both a judge and being judged:   

  • Identifying the right awards is crucial: you need to find the right fit. There is nothing more demoralising than spending days crafting your entry to then not be shortlisted because you did not meet the criteria. If the award does not match your exact industry, message or product, then you should not be entering.
  • Found the right award? Do some homework to find out what type of companies typically win the award and what categories are represented. Take a look at winners and finalists going back at least five years to get a real sense of the businesses and projects that win.
  • Take it seriously. Read the criteria carefully and write a relevant entry.
  • Gather feedback and insight on your entry from colleagues. After sending the submission to a teammate not directly involved, you may discover a detail or two missing. Any slight advantage is crucial, so check with others and have a colleague give your entry a thorough read before hitting ‘submit’.     
  • Be authentic. If there is a live presentation stage of submissions, as with the NRAs, do not send a sales or PR person because the passion and provenance of your entry will shine through more with the ‘owner’ of the project (the people who devised and delivered the results). It does not matter if you are not an expert presenter – it is the heart, soul and overall results that you will be judged on.
  • Don’t send in a one-size-fits-all entry that was written for the same set of awards with multiple categories because the criteria will be unique. Be brave and throw everything at one entry where you feel you have the best chance. Obviously if you have multiple activities that could be award-winning then go for broke, taking in the above advice for each one.
  • Make your best points first and back up your claims with evidence. It is amazing how many entries talk about a business’s good intentions without actually including any facts. Not every business can be a ‘leader in environmental practice’ and every company ‘puts the customer at the heart of its proposition’. The trick is to prove it with real and tangible examples; visuals really help bring an entry to life as a point of difference.
  • Toot your own horn – remember, you are trying to win an award. While it is important to remain truthful and transparent about your achievements, be sure to throw as much enthusiasm and hyperbole at the judges as possible. The goal is to convince someone why you are better than the competition and deserves this particular award.

But my ultimate top tip now I’ve been a judge? Make sure you put people in your entry. Staff can embody commitment, excellence and authenticity, while customers can say why you are great in a single sentence. Use people to tell your story and accelerate from the mundane to the marvellous!

Best of luck to everyone shortlisted for an NRA, and here’s to a great night on 1 July.  

Kate Cawley is creative director at Veris Strategies

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