National Capital Chapter

How to Create a Winning Award Entry

By Vickie Gogo, APR

Communicators work to make their clients happy, develop and deliver impactful campaigns, and tell stories that affect change. But too often communicators don’t make enough time to enter award competitions and receive recognition for their hard work. Let’s face it, it takes time and lots of thought and energy to develop a winning entry. That often means capturing a year’s worth of work in a concise, two-page overview. Here are some tips to help you craft a winning entry for PRSA NCC’s National Capital Excellence in Communication Awards.

  1. Start early. It happens to all of us. You see the call for entries, and you note the date. Plenty of time, you think. And then two weeks pass. You see the reminder email, and you still think you have plenty of time. A major client event comes up, a new client is onboarded, a stretch of warm weather has you strategizing how you can get outside more and work a little less. And then you look up and the deadline is fast approaching. Now you have less than a week to craft your entries. Don’t let this be you! Start early and create an entry that tells the story you want to tell.
  2. Focus on research. Every campaign builds on formative research. And every entry does, too. Be sure that your entry clearly articulates the insights you gathered to develop your campaign or initiative. Did you use primary or secondary research? Did you conduct new research for this effort, or pull from other relevant research you or others conducted that you applied for this project? Be sure to detail how the research was applied to your objectives and strategy development.
  3. Outline your objectives. Your entry must include measurable objectives. Say it with me again, your entry must include measurable objectives. PRSA focuses on objectives that (1) define WHAT opinion, attitude or behavior you want to achieve from specific audiences, (2) specify how much change you want to achieve from each group, and (3) tell by when you want to achieve that change. Objectives should be SMART: Specific (both action to be taken and audience involved); Measurable; Attainable; Results (outcome) oriented (or relevant); and Time-specific. Winning entries succinctly and accurately lay out their objectives properly.
  4. Include relevant tactics. Many projects are multi-faceted. For your entry, focus on one clear facet of it — the part that relates directly to your objectives and demonstrates how you have helped to achieve the goals. Be sure to provide support materials to showcase your creativity in executing your campaign.
  5. Choose the right category for your campaign. Read the entry category descriptions, and don’t limit yourself. Reflect on your audiences, your organization/agency, your approach (including timeline) and goals, and then determine the best category for your entry. To maximize your opportunities, enter more than one category. Manipulate your original entry to meet the criteria and highlight different aspects of your work to make sense in multiple categories. Don’t just submit the exact same entry in more than one category.
  6. Remember, outputs are not outcomes. Map your evaluation metrics to your measurable objectives. Focus on outcomes and not just outputs. And if your campaign set out to change behavior, showcase exactly how that was measured and how that can be attributed to your effort. Winning entries show a clear connection to the objectives and demonstrate impact.
  7. Pay attention to the details. Grammar, spelling and writing style matters. A great campaign that can’t be explained clearly will fall flat when it’s being reviewed for an award. When drafting your entry, allow time for others to read it and provide feedback. If your test readers don’t follow your narrative, the judges won’t either.

And let’s say it together one last time: make sure you have measurable objectives.

The National Capital Excellence in Communications Awards call for entries is open with an early bird deadline of Friday, July 30 and a final deadline of Friday, August 13. Awards are given for the best campaigns and top accomplishments in PR tactics, as well as for the best PR research and top agencies and communication teams. Award categories include:

Vickie Gogo, APR, is an award-winning communications professional who has been on teams that have won two Best in Show awards from the PRSA NCC competitions — once in 2012 and again in 2020. She is a Partner at ICF Next, where she is focused on multicultural communications. Vickie also serves as Vice President for PRSA NCC.