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How to write an awards

Lodging a submission for these awards offers you the opportunity to highlight your achievements and successes during the assessment period and reflect on your initiatives, processes, and outcomes.

It is also an opportunity to apply critical thinking, review your systems and processes, articulate how your work distinguishes you from your peers and competitors in your industry, and perhaps consider how you could improve your approach to your work.

Submissions take time and effort so allot sufficient time to reflect on your achievements, collect supporting documents (including references and testimonials), write an effective submission, and edit and proofread it before submitting.

Tips for compiling an effective submission

Writing an award-winning submission is about narrating your story in a compelling and authentic way that captures the judges’ attention. It is critical that you tell your personal story in the first person and include evidence such as case studies and statistics to back your story.

Here are some top tips for writing an impressive submission.

Stick to the awards criteria

The cardinal rule for compiling submissions is ensuring that your answers strictly align with the awards criteria. While this might sound obvious, judges have reported that many past applicants have provided responses that were irrelevant to them.

The criteria have been created for a reason and they are the guidelines the judges will be using to assess your applications. Answer the questions with as much accuracy and clarity as possible to ensure you don’t hurt your chances of winning awards.

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Answer the questions

Following on from the previous rule, it is essential that you follow the ground rules set by the awards program and answer the questions.
This enables judges to compare and contrast you with other award entrants in your category.
Judges want your responses to knock their socks off! Use the narrative style (with a beginning, middle, and an end) to tell your story.

Make sure you structure your answers succinctly and coherently (avoid going off on a tangent).

Present your answers in an easily digestible format to leave an impact. Provide evidence such as data, statistics, quantifiable input (such as revenue increase, profit growth, or efficiencies gained through improved systems and processes), and testimonials and recommendations from your peers and clients.

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Use first person

No one can tell your personal story better than you. Take the time to write your own submission in the first person using your own words to ensure it is authentic and genuine.

While some award entrants delegate writing award submissions to marketing and PR professionals (who are masters of the written word), judges can distinguish between first person narrative and “marketing spiel” written in the third person.

Moreover, if more than one award entrant uses the same marketing or PR professional, the risk of them using a cut-and-paste approach increases, which could significantly diminish your chances of winning the award.

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Use facts to back your claims

Make data and figures your friends. They make your success measurable and back your claims about your achievements. Showcase any increases you have seen in financial metrics, clientele, staff size, or efficiencies as a result of your initiatives.

This information makes it easier for the judges to gauge the scale of your achievements. Independent attachments can go a long way in swaying the judges on the merits of your entry.

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Use the word limit

Sticking to the word limit for each question can lead to powerful and compelling answers. Judges will struggle to mark you well if your answer says very little, is repetitive, or uses strategies like “see above”. Conversely, responding with “see attached” and annexing a lengthy document will disengage the judges. You are allowed to use a limited number of words. Use the word count wisely!

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Provide adequate references

Providing references from established and well-respected sources is critical to impressing the judges. Choose your referees wisely!

Judges could mark you down if you don’t attach references. They will also not look favourably upon entrants who supply the name and phone number of the referee and instruct the judges to contact them directly for a reference. This approach not only threatens the anonymity of which criteria judges are reviewing, it could also be off-putting for them.

In addition, attaching references from an independent “third-party” will build your credibility, compared to first-party or second-party references from your supervisor or colleague.

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Proofread your submission

Don’t let spelling and grammar errors or other minor mistakes blemish your otherwise stellar submission. Starting your submission early will leave you with plenty of time to walk away from it for a few days and come back with a fresh perspective. You can then proofread and polish it.

Moreover, just because we encourage you to compile your own submission does not mean you cannot ask somebody else to read it. Ask your colleagues, friends, or even a writer to review and proofread it.

Once you are sure that your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and tone are perfect, you can then press send.

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What not to do

Assumed knowledge

Don’t assume the judges are familiar with your field of expertise. To ensure impartiality, judges are often assigned categories outside of their fields. Avoid using acronyms. Don’t embellish your story, bend the truth, or exaggerate your role in a deal or transaction. While judges may not be experts in your field, they can conduct research or have prior knowledge, or access media reports and other resources. Remember, industries and professions are small, and everyone talks!


It is critical to detail your personal achievements and provide specific examples of how you as an individual have contributed to your organisation’s success. However, equally important is to steer clear of arrogance and narcissism. Judges look favourably upon applicants who are guided by their values and beliefs, speak from the heart, and are humble in their responses.

Requesting confidentiality

Judges declare that they have no conflicts of interest and will follow strict confidentiality guidelines in respect of the entrants’ submission materials. However, if you are not comfortable with the professionalism of the process and are compelled to instruct the judges to keep the material and information confidential, avoid providing that information.

Paint your canvas

Above all, your award submission is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd in your profession or industry. Attention to detail will ensure that your submission appears professional and polished.

Make your submission visually appealing by incorporating a professional video, and well-designed supporting imagery or reports. You could even develop a design theme to ensure consistency in your choice of colours, fonts, and graphics.

Don’t be beige

Remember that judges are humans who love a good news story. Make sure your submission takes them on a journey that has them cheering and wanting more. Add colour and tone to your submission. Humour, if used correctly, could also make your submission sparkle.

These are the finalists that stand out from the crowd!

Good luck!