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Faking a gracious smile when your rival’s name is read out on awards night is just as common for business owners as it is for film stars at the Oscars.

So, as we head into awards season it’s worth thinking about how to do things differently in 2024.

Rather than practising in the mirror in a desperate bid to seem more genuine, maybe it’s time to start thinking instead about what makes a winning entry.

After all, if Hollywood actors can’t quite pull off a smile that looks convincing to the cameras, then what chance do CEOs have after two cocktails, three glasses of champagne and a four-course dinner?

There’s every likelihood your brain is saying you look like Meryl Streep at her peak – but neighbouring tables are wondering how Patsy got a ticket to the Grommet & Fastener Awards.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

For businesses that fear they always make the shortlist but never win the big prize, there’s value in analysing what the opposition do better.

Writing a winning award entry

The first thing to consider, and let’s be honest you probably saw it coming, is that your competitor almost certainly hired a PR company to write their entry.

There’s a myriad reason why this is good practice but here’s a few:

1. Objectivity

However well you think you know your business, there’s nothing better than someone objective looking for the gold dust. PR companies do this for a living, searching for stories that make media headlines; and the process is similar for finding convincing, measurable award content that resonates with judges.

2. Expert copy

How an award entry is written and laid out DOES matter.  Judges pile through reams of them and it is human nature to stop focusing or drift off when they are difficult to read, dull or too dense. An expert PR copywriter will know what judges want to read and how to inspire them. A memorable phrase or headline stat can be key to lingering in the memory.

3. Interview skills

The temptation when writing an awards entry is to ask the nominee and nominator to send over a few paragraphs on email to cut and paste into the box. A good PR company will ask to interview the key personalities – and that invariably results in better stories and better stats. An experienced interviewer can ask questions that draw out the kind of information that makes an awards entry sparkle.

4. Understanding of the process

Unless you’ve sat on a judging panel, talked to judges or spent endless hours analysing why an entry didn’t win you’ll never truly know how to change things next time. Leave that to your PR company to find out and pass on the advice.

5. Having time to do it properly

Building an outstanding award entry is time consuming. There’s a lot of people to speak to, a lot of statistics and testimonials to find, and a lot of writing, including supporting evidence.  It’s hardly surprising that many businesses rush the process or cut corners. Appointing a PR company to do the heavy lifting takes that risk away.

The strategy of winning awards

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits a PR company can offer is to help a business build an awards strategy.

How many do you enter across a year and how many should you expect to win? Which categories are you more likely to win – and how do you balance that against which ones are the most valuable for the business?

It may not necessarily be a good strategy to enter the same awards every year, for instance. Having won last season’s big prize, is it better to focus on a different one the following year? Are there different sector awards that you haven’t thought of, but which could build your profile in a growing market?

Our client Eurest, for instance, won B&I Caterer of the Year at the prestigious Foodservice Cateys – but also scooped Health & Wellbeing Initiative at the Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Hospitality Awards, thanks to an ambitious free food scheme to support Heathrow Airport’s teams during the cost-of-living crisis.

Having realistic targets is an important consideration, not least because we need to be honest here and say there’s an element of randomness involved, even when you deliver the best possible entry.

No business is going to win every single award on the big night – or sweep the board two years in a row.

Judges, organisers and sponsors have a lot of sensitivities to negotiate, and those tables need to be sold.

Awards night is an entertainment business in the end – so, 100 miserable tables and two happy ones doesn’t make for a good show.

Getting your strategy right, however, can ensure a better hit rate across the year and keep those fake smiles to a minimum – knowing that the one you REALLY want to win is coming up next.

Contact us today to craft an award entry that stands out, tells your unique story, and positions you as a frontrunner in your industry.