By Penny Hatcher
As with many other things in life, sometimes the hardest part of entering an awards competition of any kind is just getting started. There are so many nagging questions hindering you from even taking the first step. What to enter? Is any of my work even good enough? What if I don’t win? And let’s face it, we all want recognition but do we really want to admit that to others by letting them know we are even trying? Whew. I mean, it’s easier to just stop before we even start. Right?! But then that other nagging little voice kicks in, “I’ll never know if I don’t try.”
We can always (easily) talk ourselves out of things, but here are a few pointers to help talk you into entering awards. And while I may be referring to Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA)/Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF) awards, given this is a PR blog; I’m certain the information carries over to all award entries.
- No excuses. Start now.
The awards happen every year. It’s not a surprise. The deadline may change each time but we all know it’s roughly around the same time each year, barring any major changes. So why wait until you find out the actual deadline? Start now. Start when you start your project. The entry follows the process of your project so write each section as you go. Doing this can serve as a sort of checks-and-balances to make sure you are doing those vital parts (Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation) of your campaign/publication/event and not just deciding things on your own.
2. Awards aren’t just for big corporations or agencies.
PRCA and SPRF awards, along with most others, aren’t a ranking system where only the top three win an award. Awards are given based on a scoring range and each entry is judged against the criteria – not against each other.
3. Don’t stress the small stuff.
Categories matter but really, not so much. There IS a category for everything! If you can’t find the right category for you then it’s “potpourri.” Problem solved. I know this may seem like such a small detail but sometimes the small things turn into a big hurdle and an excuse not to do something. Don’t let it stop you!
4. Answer everything. Completely.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is people not fully answering the questions on the entry. It’s great that your campaign, event, brochure, etc. is absolutely AH-mazing but, if you don’t TELL your story in your entry narrative, the judge isn’t going to know it. The awards process isn’t just about the final product. It’s about the steps you took to get there (Remember RPIE?). And tell ALL. The judge isn’t familiar with your company or organization or the event so don’t assume they know who/what you are. Rather, assume they know nothing and tell them.
5. Be specific.
Don’t just say you did research, tell what research you did. Was it formal or informal? What was your response rate on the survey? Who did you interview?
Don’t just say your event was a success. HOW was it a success? In measurable terms.
Don’t just say “we increased awareness.” HOW did you do this and how do you know you did it?
Be specific. Be detailed. Remember, the judge only has the information you give them, don’t leave anything out.
6. Spell-check is your friend!
ALWAYS put your entry in Word and use spell-check. This one simple step can go a long way. Just do it.
7. And it doesn’t hurt to use your colleagues either.
Ask someone to critique your work. Preferably someone not connected to the project. Arm them with nothing more than your entry (complete package of what you will enter in the system – narrative and any supporting documentation), along with the judging criteria. Ask them to review your entry as if they were the judge.
8. Serve as a judge yourself.
Don’t shy away from judging just because you’ve never entered. You are still a professional. You’ve got expertise. You’ll get to see the other side of the awards coin and see for yourself what other professionals are doing right and what they can improve on in their entries.
9. It’s okay (encouraged actually) to double dip!
Many states offer multiple platforms for which you can enter awards. In Alabama, we can enter through the Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA) as well as the Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF). It’s very common for entrants to repurpose a submission from one organization, and enter it into another organization’s award system. In other words, use PRCA and SPRF awards programs to continue tweaking your entry and your process! Just make sure your work falls within the time frame specified for each awards program.
I strongly encourage you to give it a try. The only thing you have to lose is well, nothing. Worst case? You enter and don’t win.
You still haven’t lost.
You’ll gain the feedback of judges that will allow you to tweak not only your entry, but more importantly, your future work! Plus, it’s a darn good feeling of validation when you do win, and whether we want to openly admit it or not, we are all looking for the affirmation!
Happy awards writing!
Penny Hatcher is the Public Relations and Marketing Director for Southern Earth Sciences, Inc. In her role, she oversees the company website, social media, employee newsletter, advertisements, and publications. She also assists each branch with proposals, government standard forms, and prequalification forms for soliciting new work.
Penny earned her B.A. in Communications with a focus in Public Relations from the University of South Alabama in 2002, and a M.A. in Corporate and Public Communications from USA in 2006.
She is a member of the Public Relations Council of Alabama (PRCA) where she currently serves on the State Board, Mobile Area Council of Engineers (MACE), Partners for Environmental Progress (PEP) Communications Roundtable, Junior League of Mobile (JLM), and is a member and past-president of the USA National Alumni Association.