How to tell an award-winning story

Edit: written by award winners!

An important job of public relations consultancies is to help their clients to tell their story in a way that is compelling. However, the irony is, sometimes it’s the very same PR firms that struggle to tell their own stories in compelling ways, even when they have worked on some amazing projects.

As a judge of this year’s PRCA SEA Awards, I’ve read through hundreds of award entries to select the ones that stand out.

While I saw many thought-provoking entries, it occurred to me that many projects, even those with impressive results, seem to lose their power through the presentation of the story.

What a stark reminder of the power of storytelling, even when you are writing within the confines of an awards entry. It’s not an easy process but it is essential to capture the hearts and minds of those that are judging you – literally in this sense but often figuratively when we think about corporate storytelling.

Here are some learnings from my own judging experience that hopefully will help your stories to stand out:

Always consider the context of the story

Good projects share some similar traits. However, judges will see things differently based on the category they are judging. I have come across the same submission form, edited only slightly for brands entering multiple award categories. Not only does this defeat the purpose of multiple categories, it just doesn’t make for a compelling entry. Many projects are multifaceted. Different aspects of the work that went into making them a success should be highlighted in different entries.

For example, if you are entering an award for best media engagement, judges want to understand why you targeted the media you did, how you were able to develop a compelling hook for them and what the result was.

Give the full story – tell the “why”

As PR professionals, we have multiple specialisations that we employ in support of meeting business objectives for our clients. However, whether we are running a social media campaign, driving change communications, or profiling senior leaders, unless we know what needs to be fixed and why we have chosen this approach, our efforts will be for nothing. So, before impressing the judges with results, tell us what the challenge is, why you undertook the campaign, what trends you were trying to hijack and what customer needs you were trying to meet.

Show your workings – explain the how

Entries are supposed to bring judges on a journey so that they can almost visualise how you formed your strategy. While some decisions are based on gut feelings, more often a strategy that works is based on solid research, sound analysis, and sharp judgement. We want to see your reasoning – this is almost a watershed moment that makes a great project (or PR team) stand out.

Be succinct and clear

Many judges often lead PR functions themselves. They know almost immediately when entries are copied and pasted from the original client pitch without updates. In this case, it usually takes us more time to dig out the information we’re looking for – if it’s there at all. Keeping your copy succinct, clear, and to the point makes it easier for judges to spot a great entry. It demonstrates that you know exactly why your project should stand out. And most probably, the judges will think the same too.

Read and re-read your entry

Finally, let’s go back to the basics. We all know it’s Communications 101 to search for typos in any work we produce. Yet, it is surprising how many people forget this golden rule when submitting awards entries. Read and re-read your entry. Have at least one other person proof it for you to make sure your copy is error-free. On more than one occasion, typos dampened my spirits in reading entries.

In summary, awards entries should be a celebration of some of your greatest work. The key to making them successful is treating them with the same focus and attention that you gave to the work that the entry refers to.

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