So, here, as promised last week, is a handy checklist to help you not lose next time you enter. It’s not for creative awards – that’s a mystical process no-one understands – but for those media, strategy or marketing ones that require you to write some sort of paper. I can’t promise that you will win, but I can help you avoid getting dumped out in the first round for making a stupid mistake.
1. Make sure they will remember which one you are. Judges are always faced with an undifferentiated mass of entries. Usually, they look the same, 90 per cent of the words are the same and most of the ideas are variants of each other. The big challenge when judging is trying to remember which was which. (It’s the same problem as a pitch.) If the judges are going to argue for your paper, they need to be able to say, clearly and quickly, which one it was. The "X" One or The One About "Y". The One With An Unusual Day-Part Strategy or The One With Quite An Interesting Insight probably won’t do it
Saying you should win is a good idea, but don't assume that means you should ramp up the hyperbole
2. Make sure you say why you should win. You would be surprised how often you can read an award entry and not know why the authors felt they should win, or even why they have entered. Early on in your entry, prominently, write a short sentence that tells the judges why your entry is good. Not universally good, against all criteria ever, but according to the rules of the category you’re in. Spend the rest of the paper making that seem true.
3. Have you checked the spelling? Honestly. Every time. Spelling mistakes. Really.
4. Have you made it look good, or at least readable? I once had to decide between two papers packed full of meaty ideas – they were intellectually matched. One of the candidates, however, had decided to highlight multiple phrases in each paragraph in bold, in a different colour, underlined, in italics. Maybe I’m just shallow, but we are in the communications business. You should, and will, get marked down for that kind of thing. Graphic designers are cheap and easy to find – get some help.
5. Staggering? Really? Saying you should win is always a good idea, but don’t assume that means you should ramp up the hyperbole. Words such as staggering, amazing, astonishing and world-first are rarely convincing – they just make judges want to pick holes in the argument. Just give us the facts.
6. Have you mentioned the number of Facebook "likes" you got? Don’t, no one’s impressed.
Russell Davies is a creative director at Government Digital Service