First, on behalf of all the fellow jury members from Asia-Pacific Association of Communications Directors (APACD), let me share a big shout to all the teams recognised this year as Reputation Today’s 30 Top Corporate Communication Teams.
They say thinking is difficult; that’s why we judge! 😊
APACD jury members share what we look for in your submissions
So, when I was requested to provide a jury’s view of what made for winning submissions, I immediately asked my fellow jury members to share their thinking on what they were looking for when reviewing the submissions. Here’s their verdict:
Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications Director, Middle East and Africa, Schnieder Electric and APACD Gulf Co-Chapter Lead shares, “For me, the best entries reinforced why communication was fundamental to keeping people safe, whilst also supporting business continuity in extreme circumstances. Comms teamed pivoted as quickly as possible to focus on new priorities and channels; they quickly understood how best to engage with employees, customers and other stakeholders. And, importantly, the best comms leaders also took care of their people. We’re also human, and to be at our best, we also need support and development. The work was outstanding, and it shows to me how India is a leader in the communications industry.”
Arpana Kumar Ahuja, Head of Corporate Communications and Brand, Shell India and APACD India Co-Chapter Lead, highlights, “Business partnership to earn you the seat on the table. If you truly help solve the challenges and show return on investment, you get allocated the resources and budget. Equally, the use of evidence-based data, creativity and ingenuity; throwing out the established playbooks and pushing the industry forward.”
Bianca Ghose, Chief Storyteller and Head of CEO Communications, Wipro and APACD India Co-Chapter Lead, says she looks for ‘the bigger picture’ when evaluating award submissions. “Real decisions are based on much more than just a business case. So I look for contextual intelligence in submissions – the ability of a comms team to articulate how their campaigns factored for – or connect with – the business context, as well as non-business factors, such as your company’s purpose, or the human condition. I also evaluate your storytelling, i.e., how you have presented your teams’ evolution, resilience, relevance, and impact. Typos and bad sentence construction are a no-no. Put your best foot forward in your submissions, but with humility and integrity.”
Crafting award submissions that stand out
Each of the above perspectives provides that even as judges, we have nuanced views of what we were hoping you could bring to the table to get our attention. Yet, hopefully, it provides clarity that as corporate communicators, we are already crushing this plurality of expectations every day at your workplace with our stakeholders and award submissions are no different. So, what do I mean by that? Here’re a few pointers for your consideration.
- Compliance – Award submissions have defined criteria for submissions to follow. Ensure to comply with all the requirements and not what suits you. If you have trouble interpreting the rules, ask for clarifications from the organisers. Choose the category that best represents your work or team. Being intentional and purposeful with your submission and the category you choose says you genuinely know the worth of your work. Following rules not only prevents you from being disqualified – it makes reviewing your work easier for the jury.
- Creativity – Creativity captures our emotions and creates engagement. We are all building more technical competence that influences how we approach creative ideas. Showcase the creativity of your campaign, programme or team by applying the power of the programmatic, the virality of the social media and the data-driven decisions. Yet, remember to nurture your creativity with a good dose of humanity, one that every jury member is craving for – to be surprised at a visceral level.
- Connect – Create a compelling story to accompany your submission that helps connect the jury with the ‘visceral’ I mentioned in the previous point. Remember, judges are reviewing a lot of submissions; how can you make yours memorable for them. The stories you tell will affect the jury’s understanding of, and emotional response to, your work. In turn, this will affect how they review and remember as they go through all the other contenders. Even if your submission is data-driven or evidence-based, bring out the humanity in your story. And, please, please cut out the fluff.
- Challenge – In our constant, always-on culture, it’s easy to forget what the brand or business goal is. Campaigns or programmes is not just about reach, engagement, or the shiny new metric, but about how the campaign or programme affects your brand’s business goals. Far too often, we look for the tried and tested routine – the best practice – unwilling to take a risk on a new way of thinking. Yet, the risk in a best practice is that we stop questioning, become no longer curious about what’s imperfect and where we could improve. So, go ahead and challenge the best practices, the long-held beliefs (remember #LikeAGirl or #RealBeauty or #TouchofCare) – be a pioneer, be a pathbreaker and never settle. Juries are always intrigued by the new and the unexpected.
- Clarity – Quarter-on-quarter, day-to-day, our stakeholders at our workplace look for tangible measures that show the success of our campaigns or programmes. Jury members are no different. They are most engaged when they can see real proof of how your work contributes directly to your brand or business’s success. Move away from the AVEs to show real value. Measure what matters and not what’s convenient. As you force yourself to deliver value for your stakeholders in ways meaningful to them, you also make the jury believers in the strength of your submission. More importantly, doing so not only allows you to crush it at the awards but also your workplace.
- Community & Continuous Learning – I will add one more thing beyond the awards, make continuous learning a core focus for you and your teams. Invest in your people. Be part of communities that allow you to network, share, discover and learn from the fantastic work you and your peers are doing. Nothing great is ever achieved working alone.
The future is wow only if you act with intent now. Apply this thinking when crafting your next submission to stand out.
If you have read this far, thank you and good luck!
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