Over the years, I’ve had the fortune of being involved in extraordinary work, learning from some of the best minds in marketing and PR along the way. Having been able to both participate in the work and participate in merchandising it (through case studies and award entries), I’ve learned that success and recognition (usually) go hand in hand.
But not always. By virtue of quality, exceptional work doesn’t mean it will be showered in trophies. And if sold well, slightly less exceptional work can win just as well. Most often, it all boils down to the pages within the award submission.
What goes into a winning award entry? Well, for starters, the work’s got to be stellar, but the act of composing the entry is a nuanced art. Here’s what can separate trophy-worthy work from the pile:
1. Quantify and qualify the results.
Obviously, the results section is one of the most important pieces of the entry. It’s where you really sell the success of the campaign—show its impact and how it influenced decisions, increased purchases or generated awareness. To fully tell that story, inject both quality indicators and quantity metrics within the section. For example, if you’re discussing a campaign that has content marketing components, you may talk quantity (how pieces impacted web analytics, for example), but you’ll also talk quality (how it improved customer sentiment or engagement through social sharing).
2. Discuss the challenges.
No marketing effort ever goes off without a hitch. There are always bumps in the road—limited budgets, compressed timelines, compliance snags and more. Mention them! Part of a campaign’s success depends on its adaptability—how it navigates tough waters flexibly. If you turned lemons into lemonade, that makes a compelling case for an entry worthy of recognition.
3. Tell the story.
Frame the context of your program through a narrative. Make things flow and inject transitions where appropriate. Mix short sentences with long ones, and be conversational when appropriate. Connect the sections (goals/objectives, challenges, strategy, execution, results) for a continuous piece that reads from beginning to end. But mostly, tell the story (without corporate fluff) and make the judges really care about it. After all, you’re selling this to them.
4. Revisit the goals.
Some of the most common award entries include a goals/objectives section at the top. Problem is—many entries mention the goals/objectives here and never speak of them until the results section. The goals are what really drive the thing, so they should be top-of-mind at every moment of the project’s duration. Revisit the goals throughout the entry and talk about how they played a role at every major juncture—from strategy to execution and measurement.
5. Make it visual.
Even pretty words look plain without visual treatment. If allowed, inject visuals that really tell the story of the project. If using photography, opt for professional shots when available. When formatting text, make it clean and fresh. Choose typography carefully. Use white space. Decide on a color palette and stick with it. Make sure the visuals complement each other and the written entry. And when possible, include your creative services team to ensure the submissions look clean, fresh and design-minded.
Often, one of the hardest parts of entry writing is recalling the project in the first place, especially when chronicling work that finished months before. To jog your memory, make it a point to pen a brief case study at the end of every campaign or effort. Not only will it help you write the entry later, it will also help you showcase the work on your website, portfolio and elsewhere.
Bana Jobe, Communications Manager, Marketwave
With a passion for writing, Bana focuses on content strategy—from editorial direction to measuring/reporting content performance and analytics. As communications manager for Dallas-based Marketwave, she represents the agency’s Austin presence. She serves on AMA Austin’s technology committee as blog manager. This post originally appeared on Marketwave’s blog and has been reprinted here with permission.