As the red carpet gets rolled out for the Oscars I’ve been thinking about business awards.
Last year I collaborated with a couple of organisations to put together applications that brought them local and statewide accolades.
The businesses were from different industries (construction and health) but the common approach was to tell their story. So how do you put together a winning submission?
Humans respond to stories. They make sense to us. It’s how we understand and connect.
No matter how straight forward (or bureaucratically banal) an award application seems, you can boost your chances by nailing your narrative.
A good tale will weave in aspects of a journey - like where you came from and got to, challenges overcome, and what you’ve learned or achieved along the way, and now contribute.
Find a hook on which to hang the story. It should be authentic, resonate with people and show - with evidence - how you’ve achieved success.
This hook might be obvious or slowly become apparent as you scribble notes. It’s not your vision or strategy. Think of it as your hero’s journey in a sentence. For example, ‘from spare room to million dollar turnover’ was how we pitched one of our winners.
SPREAD THE WORD
Keep in mind that any organisation that puts on awards has its own agenda (and behind the scenes politicking). Check that its objectives fit with your business ethos.
An awards host wants to share winning stories to its stakeholders to showcase its own values and value.
So look carefully at the criteria and take a peek at the strategic intent of the organisation. Then make it easy for them to spruik you with an inspiring story that aligns with their purpose.
It can be helpful to mirror back language. It shows that you understand and meet the criteria. But to do this within word limits while you weave a tale is not always easy. Allow yourself thinking and editing time.
It can be helpful to get someone involved who is not emotionally attached or part of the daily business.
They can ask strategic questions or highlight gaps and things that don’t make sense. Having an objective person to pick your brain or get red pen ruthless is a great help to sharpen your story.
Remember to back up statements with specifics. With one client we suggested a quick customer survey. The results made credible their claims about excellent service, and it gave the business a baseline to measure future performance.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Awards are more than mere marketing hype. Excellence is worth celebrating.
Sometimes when we’re immersed in day-to-day business we become too busy to even recognise our own achievements and success.
Awards are a useful tool to reflect on and reinvigorate your business development. It can be a real boost to morale and reputation to be recognised – and you don’t have to win for the process itself to be valuable.
But winners are grinners. The kudos that comes from being judged by others as the best is highly marketable. You'll get access to platforms that can expose you or your business beyond the usual channels. There may also be prizes.
So as part of your business strategy, keep an eye out for awards in your region or industry, and get set to tell your story and tout your wares.