What makes a winning entry for the CorpComms Awards?

Every year a handful of entries fail to get past a cursory glance by the judges of the CorpComms Awards. They are rejected for silly errors such as entering the wrong category, confusion over objectives or failure to stick to the rules. Here are some handy hints to make sure your entries don’t fall at the first hurdle

1) Is it really award winning?
Let’s be honest. It’s a good piece of work. It’s achieved some great results. You’re proud of it, and your boss said ‘well done’. But is it really stand out? Or is it the sort of work you should be doing day in, day out? Too often, the judges dismiss entries for being ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ or ‘just the day job!’

2) What category should it go into?
This can be a tricky one because campaigns often straddle several disciplines. The judges understand that. But sometimes entries get submitted into categories that make the judges scratch their heads in confusion. This can be due to a lack of clarity about the objective of the campaign, or a simple error. Where possible we try to reassign wrongly categorised entries, but it may be too late and the relevant category already decided. 

3) State your objectives at the outset
Laying out exactly what the campaign was designed to do can provide a natural framework to your entry as you detail the steps along the way. Keep referring back as you write the entry.

4) Make sure your results match up to the objectives
You would be surprised how many entries have results that bear no resemblance to the objectives specified. It’s like saying ‘I left in the morning to drive to Birmingham’ and then… ‘I reached Bristol before sunset.’ What happened? If you can’t align your objectives with your results then you can’t expect a trophy.

5) Make your results meaningful
One of my favourite results of all time said ‘this entry went some way to establishing X as the leader in its field’. Some way. Not all the way. Not even half way. Don’t ever try to raise a flag: you wouldn’t know where to stop! It’s about as meaningless as that old favourite ‘we raised brand awareness’. How? Can you prove it? And employees always ‘love’ the events! Of course they do. It’s a day out of the office. But what was the event designed to do? Polling attendees before and afterwards provides a better picture of whether it achieved its goals. AVEs and OTS make our judges apoplectic. Just saying. 

6) Stick to the rules
We ask for no more than 600 words over no more than two pages of A4. The judges do not award extra marks to those who test those rules to the extreme. Fancy fonts are a no no. Font size is also important - our judges are senior communications professionals who may not always be happy trying to read eight point. A4 is also non-negotiable, although the entry can be written in either landscape or portrait style. If you can fit it all on one side, so be it.

7) A little scene-setting never hurt
Not all organisations that enter are household names. It can help the judges if the entry contains a brief explanation of the business and the industry within which it operates. It helps them to better understand the challenge that has been faced. 

8) Check yur speeling
The judges are only human. They have to consider a lot of entries over a relatively short period. Entries that are well structured, comprehensively written and have clear objectives and goals will always score better than a muddled entry littered with spelling mistakes. Grammatical errors also can impact the way a judge views an entry. These are busy people who have generously given their time: surely you can take an extra few minutes to check that the entry is as sparkling as it could be? Try to include the correct awards programme: it may be an entry that has been submitted elsewhere, but it is only polite to mention the scheme in which it is now entered. (Note from editor: this irks me more than the judges, but they certainly notice and there's a lot of eye rolling.)

9) Avoid cliches and acronyms
Cliches make judges cringe. But an entry littered with acronyms is just as bad, particularly if they are particularly related to your sector and not in common parlance. Both cliches and acronyms make for lazy copy. 

10) Don’t waffle
Every year we get a handful of panicked calls from potential entrants who ‘just cannot fit everything we did into 600 words’. Of course you can. I once described how deep out-of-the-money put options blew a hole in a bank’s balance sheet in about 300 words: choose your words carefully. The judges do not need to know every part of your campaign, from the brainstorming to the late nights. If you were down the pub with friends and they asked you to tell them about the campaign, what bits would you highlight? 

11) Don't be scared
You’re communicators. Clearly articulating your strategy, creativity and results should be child’s play. If you don’t think you’ve quite nailed the salient points, hand it to a colleague that was unassociated with the campaign and ask for their opinion. If they have questions that the entry (in its current form) doesn’t answer, then you can be sure the judges will do too.

12) Try to include budgets 
Budget information can remain confidential but omitting it from entries can make judges suspicious. Are you embarrassed that it is too high? It can negatively impact their impression of your entry. There is also a trend among judges now to do simple back of the envelope type calculations that divide the budget by the results to assess return on investment. 

13) Don’t bury your results
Some entries are too modest. Several years ago, a charity entered a campaign that focused on achieving a change to legislation. It was a worthy cause, but the entry simply ran through the strategy and timeline; it looked as if the charity had been unsuccessful. It was only when one judge looked through the supporting materials that he uncovered reams of newspaper cuttings hailing the charity’s success. Give yourself the best chance you can: there is no guarantee that judges will check supporting materials if they have already disqualified the entry. What’s to stop you writing an opening line that says ‘Our campaign set out to achieve X and after six months, our goal was reached’ or something along those lines? Certainly not us.

14) Don’t make bold claims that can undermine your entry
Yes, gross domestic product may have risen over that quarter, but are you really trying to imply it was down to your campaign?

15) Choose your supporting materials wisely
Supporting materials can bring an entry to life and, as already mentioned, lead it to victory. If it is between your entry and one other for the trophy, the supporting materials might just give you an edge.