How to write an awards submission -- Microsoft's top tips and tricks
Microsoft advises nominees to get PROFESSIONAL (their capitals, not ours) help with writing their awards submissions. That's just one reason we admire their Microsoft Partner Network Awards guidelines.
It turns out Microsoft knows a thing or two about writing an awards submission that judges will read all the way through...
"Sometimes, the difference between a winner and just another award entry isn’t the quality of the project, but the quality of the entry itself." — Microsoft Partner Network (MPN)
A Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) award gives the winner a higher profile and more business opportunities. That's not marketing spin, that's the story according to past winners. It's why the awards get thousands of submissions and how Microsoft comes to know so much about how to write an awards submission.
We've taken Microsoft's submission-writing advice and added our own tips for writing an award-winning submission. (You can see their advice, rules and FAQs in full here.)
How to write an awards submission that judges will actually read
1. Look at your awards submission from the awards judges' point of view
“Some judges will be reading hundreds of submissions. [So] during the first read through, the judges are looking for a reason to throw out your entry.” — Gail Mercer-MacKay, veteran MPN awards submission writer
It's a common misconception that the awards judges will read all of your submission. This is plain wrong. They're busy just like you, and they're not obliged to read every word. If you don't grab them immediately, it's on to the next one.
“You want to make sure the judge wants to read further. If you save the best for last, he or she might never get there.” — Microsoft
2. Make your awards submission a story
No one wants to read the business case for your project. They want a story. You might not expect this kind of writing from a tech company, but here's what Microsoft has to say about that. They want “a gallant hero”, “a villain” and a “damsel in distress”.
Your awards submission is much more likely to be read (and remembered) if you write it as a story. You don't need heroes and villains literally, but you do need them figuratively: you do need a narrative.
Just because the awards you're entering don't spell it out like the MPN does, doesn't mean their judges don't want it. (Here's how Microsoft puts it in the official guide to writing a 2017 Microsoft Partner Network award.)
3. Put your customers in the story
If you're worthy of an award, your business is about helping customers. Who better to talk about how you do that than your customers, themselves?
Interviewing customers for a nomination gives you quotations you can use and colour. It will help you stand out from the nominees who could have used Excel for their entry.
4. Don't rush your entry
Microsoft goes so far as to spell it out for its partners: “Plan to spend 15-20 hours on your submission.”
A lot is riding on winning a prestigious award. Marshalling the arguments, gathering the facts, interviewing the right people and bringing it together succinctly takes time.
It's much harder to write 1,000 words that someone will read than it is to dash off 3,000 words that won't get read beyond the first paragraph. Give yourself time to distill your entry to its strongest elements.
5. “Get PROFESSIONAL help” with writing an awards nomination
Maybe we broke Microsoft's rule #1 for how to write an awards submission and left the best to last. Those capitals—“PROFESSIONAL”—are Microsoft’s not ours, but we could hardly help but agree.
If you run a business that deserves an award for something other than the quality of your writing, you should think about getting help with your submission writing. Storytelling is an art; it takes practice.
Partnering your expertise with a writer expert in crafting compelling stories could be the winning combination you're looking for.
Looking for an awards submission writer?
If you want to enter an award and give your nomination the best possible chance of winning, talk to us. We tell stories for a living and as journalists, we're experts in interviewing our clients and their customers to get those stories.