Before Preparing Your Entry Binder:
- Take the time to determine if your entry is truly award-winning. Did you make an impact on the organization’s bottom-line? Was there a reason for doing the program in the first place? If you can’t come up with a good reason for doing the award entry (besides “my boss wants me to do it”), you will have a hard time putting it together.
- Know the entry criteria. Many award entries are submitted without measurable objectives or outcomes, budget or timelines. If you leave out information that is requested in the entry form, you will lose points. If you can follow the four-step strategic planning process for program entries (Research, Planning, Execution and Evaluation), you are more likely to have a good entry.
- Think long and hard about your objectives. They should outline what you’re trying to accomplish as a result of your entry. Remember, the objective is not the entry itself.
- Objectives should be SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
Research/Evaluation (these tend to be the weakest areas of entries):
- You might have done informal research without even realizing it. Look back at your records; did you talk with personal contacts, key informants, advisory committees and boards, and field employees about the issue? That’s informal research. (But don’t push it.)
- Your evaluation should iterate your objectives verbatim and then show how you achieved them specifically.
- Even though qualitative data can work for evaluation purposes and explaining results, it’s always good to build in quantitative data as well.
- Identify ways you can evaluate a program and build evaluation in at the beginning. Even if you don’t have a huge budget, you can still plan some measurement capability.
- Provide back-up materials to your summary. If you talk about something in your one- or two-page summary, please include the documentation for it within the tabs of your binder or in your folder. The judges want to see evidence of your hard work, so be sure to show it off!
Before Sending Your Binder to the Awards Committee:
- Don’t worry if one of your sections isn’t as strong as another. As long as the section is addressed, it should be okay.
- When in doubt, submit. Forces beyond your control – such as the number of entrants in a category, judges’ prerogatives, etc. – have a lot to do with winning. Besides, the exercise you go through in assessing your work and putting it together according to PRSA qualifications is worth the exercise, because it sets you up to evaluate your own work. You can often make use of this in making a case for continuing a program, launching a new one, or increasing the budget to do more.
- Proof your entry carefully! If you have a typo in the summary (or even on the cover, which we’ve seen happen!), the judges are very likely to take your entry less seriously than they would that of a well-written summary.
Click here for more information on Best In Maryland Awards.