Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Earning recognition with an award from your professional association is a fantastic way to celebrate the efforts of your team and garner publicity for your firm.
I truly enjoyed the process of being an SMPS Seattle Reign Awards judge this year and left the experience with a renewed perspective on award submissions and what elements can help (or harm) your chances of success. Whether you’re submitting for a SMPS Seattle Reign Award, a SMPS Marketing Communications Award, NAIOP Washington Night of the Stars, AIA Seattle Honor Award, or another award program in the AEC industry, these tips will help your submission to get noticed and wow the judging panel.
Start with the end in mind – Did your firm just win an esteemed project or are you contemplating your 2022 marketing campaigns? In either case, NOW is the best time to begin strategizing your award submission. Pull the application from the previous year and review the criteria. This will help you assess content needs and pave your way to your next win.
Make it a team effort – Most projects are not completed by a single firm, so don’t feel like you have to tackle the awards program on your own. Partnering with your marketing cohorts or project team members will lighten the load in preparing the submittal, while also yielding opportunities for a varied perspective and enhanced storytelling. Plus, if an interview is part of the selection process, your collaboration puts you a step ahead.
Follow the directions – It may sound simple, but many submissions do not follow the “letter of the law” and neglect to provide everything requested in the application. Triple check that every criterion is fully addressed and all requested data is provided. If the information is not in your submission, the judges can’t consider it in their review.
Don't forget those facts and figures – In addition to storytelling and strong visuals, the most compelling awards submittals include data highlighting the project’s results. This might be the return on investment, the impact on the community, or planned vs. actual measures. Facts and figures go a long way in reinforcing the project’s value.
Consider the judging panel – Keep in mind that many juries include people outside of the AEC industry or end user groups, so craft a story that will resonate with a wide range of audiences, even those less familiar with the industry. Avoid jargon and spell out acronyms (even despite that tight word count!).
Plan your photography – If you’re submitting a building or landscape architecture project, before and after photos can be very powerful to demonstrate the changes, upgrades, and improvements your project has delivered. Consult with the design team to determine which angles and locations will be the most compelling and capture those images before groundbreaking. Marketing deliverables are also great candidates for professional photography, so be sure you’ve accounted for shooting dates and production time.
Don’t get surprised by video – We’re seeing more requests for video, some optional, some required. Don’t get caught by surprise and check with your professional association to see what they’re planning for 2022 and beyond. You’ll want to engage with a videographer early to craft a storyboard and production schedule to capture your project in the best possible light.
Consider the visuals – With electronic submissions, remember that the supporting visuals will be viewed on screens, so take proper resolution and visual impact into consideration. It may be tempting to include several pages from your new website on one page, but a cluttered visual with illegible type does not show well. These visuals will likely be included in an online public viewing gallery, so make sure they sell your project.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread – As with any other deliverable, typos and grammatical errors on award submissions are a distraction to the judging panel and reflect poorly on your firm. Engage another person (or two or three) to proofread the submission and clean up any errors prior to submitting. This provides yet another great benefit of working on submissions with a team.
An outside perspective – With an increasing volume of applications, most awards programs are limiting criterion to a set word count. Don’t lose the story in pursuit of that 250-word abstract. You know so much about your project that you may be inadvertently leaving out key aspects of why it merits an award. Don’t rely on the judges to connect the dots. Get an outside perspective on your submission to see if the story is landing as intended.
Keep these tips handy for your next award submission so you can craft exceptional content, submit on time, stand out, and win. If you need an outside perspective, referral, or simply need a hand in preparing your application, give us a call!
By Melissa English Principal Marketing Strategist