Writing a winning entry

The first time I was part of a jury to judge award winning communications/PR entries, I was elated. This completely resonated with my profession and my passion for reaching out and sharing stories with each other. Surely, this would be interesting and exciting.

However, as I continued in this journey of mine, I realised to my dismay and horror that we still need to go a long way before we can learn to communicate effectively the good work that each one of us here do, day in and day out. There were so many entries that had flawless ideation but failed miserably when it came to execution. There were multiple submissions where neither consultancies nor corporates stayed true to the spirit of the rules and guidelines. And then there were those who simply didn’t get it right.

This does bother me. As a communicator or a consultancy whose key job is to collaborate and partner for communication, how do we not get the nuance of saying what we do the right way? Why do we fail in stirring up emotions and fall short of weaving a narrative that can enthrall the jury end-to-end? I think we all make attempts but somewhere, we fall short.

Creating that winner…

  • Read the guidelines and rules carefully. Re-read them again and again and again

There is a method to this madness out there. That is why we have rules and guidelines. They are made for a purpose. Read them carefully. Then read them again. And again. Till you know them like the back of your hand. Next, stay true to those guidelines. Just reading and memorising won’t work. You need to apply those principles while submitting your entry.

When we submitted our team entry for the Reputation Today 30 Top Corporate Communications Team – 2019, I was so nervous. We had to submit an award winning entry in less than 250 words! How do you encapsulate a year’s work in 250 words? If we as communicators cannot crack this one, I don’t know who else can!

  • Ideate on the best entry

Most of the awards have categories. Go through them carefully. Categorise your best work to see where it fits best. It is a humungous task to collate all the good work you have done and then to prioritise the one that tells the most compelling story. Sift out the one that resonates most closely with a particular category for which you can create a strong case for winning. Never forget that you are aiming to win.

  • Say your story well 

Need I even say this? Yet, you would be surprised at the number of entries that just fail to make past the first round because they are not narrated well, they have not been true to the subject and they lack the emotional appeal. Decide on how you want your narrative to unfold. Entries come accompanied with all kinds of documents and power-point templates. No harm in choosing your own medium (in absence of any rules) but please ensure your story can be read by the jury. I have scrolled pages upon pages of verbose documents and power points filled with words and long paragraphs and trust me when I say, these take away the joy of really paying attention to the key messages. We all understand the power of the visual medium. Yet not all entries have an AV that encapsulates the whole story and if not that, any visual aid that can support the narration. How can communicators get this one so wrong? I am baffled, honestly.

  • The O-S-E alignment

Let me tell you a secret – the jury is always looking for an alignment between your objectives, the strategy followed to achieve your goals and the final execution. I call it the O-S-E alignment. Get this one straight and right. Your entry should be able to connect all the dots and showcase the definitive outcome effectively. 

This post is an ode to all of you; the brave ones out there who take the courage to gather your thoughts, ideate on the good work you have done (surprise yourself with this one please!) and submit your entries. Continue to do so. The world needs to hear the good stuff.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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