Custard’s top tips for winning awards

By Natalie Blachford


Winning awards may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about how a communications agency could help your business, but it’s something that can have enormous PR value as well as being a big morale boost for staff.

Here at Custard, we’re proud to say that we have a 100% success record of getting our clients shortlisted for a wide variety of awards, from industry-judged awards like The Cateys and the Event Awards to consumer-voted accolades such as regional food and drink awards and the Observer Food Monthly Awards.

We’ve also seen things from the other side having sat on judging panels and recently attended a breakfast briefing hosted by PR Week to find out what their judges think makes a winning entry.

So what is the elusive secret to awards success?

Through our experience, we’ve identified the key elements of a winning award entry and the top tactics for getting shortlisted.

Whether you want to be known as the best event venue in the country, be celebrated for your fantastic food and drink or have the star members of your team recognised for their outstanding contribution, our top tips will help put you on the pathway to success.

1. Make sure the award is right for you

To be in with the best chance of success, you should only enter awards that are the right fit for your business. Think first about your business goals, for example if you want to increase your presence in the wedding market then entering wedding industry awards makes a lot more sense than trying to win restaurant of the year.

Read the criteria thoroughly and make sure you can respond to every question and provide all of the required information. Look at past winners as this will give you an idea of what it takes to win, as well as if its attracting the right calibre of entrants that you want to be seen alongside. At Custard we have a very tactical approach to awards and only support our clients in entering those which we think are right for their business and which we think they have a genuine chance of winning. Award entries can take a lot of time and effort so you have to make sure it’s going to be worth it.

2. Measurement is everything

You could have the most brilliantly executed event or best new product of the century, but if you’ve got no way of measuring its success you’re not likely to win an award. Our motto at Custard is measure on outcomes, not output and this is vital when writing an award entry. The metrics for measurement will be dependent on the category of award you’re entering, but some of the things you may need to consider include:

• Financial information – turnover and profit, sales figures, spend per head, year on year increases

• Customer data – booking figures, booking trends, customer demographics, booking enquiries, satisfaction ratings

• Website data – visitor numbers, domain authority, online enquiries, online sales

• Anecdotal evidence – customer and colleague testimonials, reviews, guest feedback

3. Stand out from the crowd

Awards judges could be looking at anything from 10 to 100 entries per category so you really have to stand out from the crowd to be recognised. Imagine you’re a judge and you’ve already read 99 award entries – what would capture your interest when all you really want to do is get to the end of the pile?

Think about how your entry is presented. Some awards only allow basic text in an online form, but if you’re submitting a document that you’re able to format then make it easy on the eye. Large blocks of lengthy text can be off-putting whereas catchy titles and headline statistics are far more likely to stand out.

The old adage is true, a picture is worth a thousand words, so if you’re able to use images you definitely should. Video is also increasingly being used in award entries to help give judges a real taste of what you’re about. It could be a montage of video testimonials or footage filmed on your phone at an event, but include it and your entry will be a lot more memorable.

4. Tell a story

Think of your award entry like the plotline of a movie. Structure it with a beginning that sets the scene and creates intrigue for the judges, keep a clear narrative throughout and go out with a bang – end on the big wins or a closing statement that says exactly why you are better than all of the competition. Evoke feelings in the judges; try to make them smile with an entertaining anecdote or include a human interest success story that tugs at the heartstrings. Of course you need all the facts and figures in their too, but this approach will help your entry keep the attention of the reader all the way through

5. Stick to the rules!

It might sound obvious, but entry guidelines for awards are there for a reason. Look for what they say about word count, formatting such as font size, acceptable file types for supporting evidence and how they want it uploaded (some require one PDF with everything in, some want hyperlinks to websites, some want all files uploaded individually).

Read the entry criteria thoroughly too. If there are bullet points of ‘suggested things you might like to include’ this is a subtle way of saying ‘these are the exact things the judges are looking for’, so make sure all of them are covered somewhere in your entry.

If you want to gain recognition for your hard work in hospitality but aren’t sure how to go about it, give the awards aces at Custard a call on 01483 740747.