Econsultancy’s Innovation Awards deadline is fast approaching and I thought it would be useful to provide some guidelines on what judges typically look for in an awards entry.

Ultimately it’s about focus, and answering questions in a clear and concise way. It’s about accuracy. And it’s about standing out.

Here are 15 things to keep in mind when compiling your awards entries…

Answer the questions properly

I once wrote a “brilliant” essay on the disadvantages of renewable energy. Yet my teacher gave me a score of 2 out of 25. The reason? It was – with the benefit of hindsight – rather obvious: I should have been writing about the advantages

Read the questions very carefully, and write some very targeted answers. In our case you need to explain how you have been innovative. 

Don’t ignore the word count

This is one of the biggest no-nos. Last year each of our judges read something like 350 entries, the equivalent to three or four novels. It takes a long time to do this in a considered way, and you shouldn’t extend the process by writing 1,000 words if 500 is the stated limit. Judges are on a deadline too.

Avoid copy and pasting at all costs

It is remarkably easy to spot content that has been copied and pasted. Content lifted from press releases and tech brochures tends not to answer the key questions. Think twice before you copy large chunks of text from other sources.

Banish all PR jargon

Always write in plain English. You didn’t ‘leverage’ that thing. ‘Synergies’ were not created. Integration is rarely ‘seamless’. Your company might be brilliant, but it probably isn’t ‘leading’, whatever that means. Just tell it like it is, and nothing will be lost in translation.

Write persuasively

Use compelling words and an active voice. Write with verve and you’ll stand out from the copy and paste brigade.

Include supporting evidence 

Make it easy for the judges to make sense of your entry. One way of doing this is to provide context and background. In addition, facts and figures can improve your awards entry, though remember that awards like ours aren’t necessarily about choosing the entry that generated the highest ROI. As such, be sure to submit the right kind of facts and figures. 

Remember that words beat links 

The format for business awards entries is typically text-based. As such you need to be able to explain yourself using words, rather than videos, or demos, or half a dozen links. It’s a bit like an elevator pitch in that respect. 

Make it easy to access websites and files

If you do include files and links to further reading then use short URLs (e.g. Bit.ly, which allows you to track clicks) and avoid 16-digit passwords. Inviting judges to download heavyweight files in proprietary formats is another no-no.

Leave yourself (just) enough time 

Most of us tend to wait until the deadline is imminent before rushing through the entry process. That’s human nature for you. Assuming you’re not going to leave yourself plenty of time then you certainly need to allocate just enough to create a compelling awards entry.

Assign somebody to the job

Someone in your company should be responsible for awards entries. This person isn’t necessarily going to be the closest to the projects that you’re submitting, nor the finest copywriter, but will take ownership of your awards calendar. Coordination is essential, otherwise you wind up missing deadlines and rushing through your submissions. 

Consult colleagues

In-house crowdsourcing might be the best way to create a standout awards entry. If you appoint an awards coordinator then they can become a curator, extracting the right information from the right people, while making sure that your entry is submitted on time.

Proofread

Whoever writes the awards entry needs to push it in front of the best writers in your organisation. It needs to be thoroughly checked and optimised before it is submitted.

Avoid lame typos

Clean, easy-to-digest copy should be mandatory for all forms of written communication. More so when you know you’re being judged. Typos never help you make a good impression.

Make sure clients give you the thumbs up

If you’re submitting an entry on behalf of a client – or one that references a client project in any kind of detail – then be sure to seek approval in advance, especially if it contains commercially sensitive information.

Be passionate

It goes without saying that real passion can help your words to jump off the page. Don’t hide your light under a bushel!