How to craft a winning Award nomination and why you (yes you) should be nominating.
One way to stand out in a crowd is to win, or be nominated for, an Award.
"Easier said than done" you say.
And you could be right some of the time - but not others.
For the uninitiated you might imagine you need to wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. It simply doesn’t work that way!
In fact, you need to do much of the work yourself including putting your hand up to be in it to win it, getting out of your own way and talking up your own wins and achievements in delivering turnaround results or programs that make a bigger difference.
Why is this challenging?
We know from research that many women struggle with self promotion, self advocating and expressing their expertise. We have a tendency to downplay our part in the wins and achievements of our departments. While we willingly and enthusiastically write nominations for our junior staff members, we hesitate to do the same for ourselves. And worse? We're far more likely to 'not want to waste anyone's time' (including our own) not necessarily seeing the big picture about the value and benefit of nominating in the longer term for both ourselves and the business.
In a nutshell, nominating yourself for an Award will require you to knock a bunch of stereotypical and socialised tendencies on the head and to:
- back yourself,
- sell yourself, and
- articulate your 'special sauce' in a very public way.
Why is this important?
Because organisations with more women in the leadership team not only perform better overall with larger returns to shareholders, increases in performance, productivity and better risk management – but the men and women who work there are frequently better off as well.
"research with the Peterson Institute for International Economics recently found that companies with at least 30% female leaders can add as much as 6% to their net margins." Mark Weinberger,
Global Chairman & CEO, EY
But why Awards?
One of the issues that gets in the way for women applying for senior leadership opportunities is not being seen. Not being seen as ideal (traditional) leadership potential, as fitting in, or as having what it takes to make tough decisions. Women are also frequently in enablement type functions that are not perceived as essential to performance, nor as visible.
Forward thinking, progressive organisations are beginning to acknowledge this hidden talent issue and to bring in programs that help uncover and tap into non traditional talent as we saw in MckInsey's January 2017 article Finding Hidden Leaders.
Winning an Award (or even making the finalists list) helps your leadership potential to be seen - to get you (the difference you make, the problems you solve and the value you add) out of the wings and onto centre stage.
And even if your bid is unsuccessful, the process of nominating helps you;
- build a great support network around your leadership aspirations,
- to craft winning arguments that will boost your credibility and confidence,
- highlight the amazing results you deliver that are sometimes taken for granted.
Most importantly the process of gathering the evidence of wins and achievements can be re-purposed easily and skilfully for your next tilt at the C-suite.
'How to' advice for women from four experts on writing winning Award nominations
So to help you with your next nomination I've asked four experts to come to contribute with their #1 advice for women nominating for Awards. Thanks to Janita, Kate, Kimberly and Michelle!
Meet Janita a Corporate Communications Strategist and Consultant. As you might imagine, Janita has a bunch of experience writing Awards nominations and has generously offered 5 tips for women writing award nominations
Spend quality time reading and considering all the questions so you can give the best and most relevant answers. Give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to do several drafts to get it right – understanding what the award criteria are is a crucial element of the process.
Speak to a person close to you – a partner or colleague/manager - about your career highlights. If possible, ask someone to interview you to draw out some of your finest moments.
Don’t be shy – this is about promoting yourself, your talents and results – be bold and aim to hit them with the dazzling highlights up front. Make it simple for the judges to read through and identify you as a contender.
Ensure you use the criteria outlined and use key words that relate (sound familiar?)
A good story gains attention. Include any interesting parts of your personal life journey which may show adversity you may have had to overcome to gain your results. For example, being a single mother, a widow, dyslexic etc. – although you may not wish to draw attention tothese things, they will provide a richer story which may give you the edge over other candidates.
Want to know more about Janita? Check out her website
Kimberly is a Marketing Expert with her own company, Brazen Productions. Kimberly has helped craft winning award entries for clients for Telstra Business Womens Award and also used to run the Business Award programs for the City of Port Phillip and City of Moonee Valley.
She’s even been successful with achieving funding via winning a Churchill Fellowship for herself so is well qualified in understanding the challenges you might experience when it comes to self promotion.
Her #1 Tip is Quantify your achievements - with personality
Your first aim to grab the judges attention. Most judges are usually volunteers and reviewing award entries in very limited time. So don't take too long to get to the point!
Open your entry with what's special about your achievements - relative to your own journey but also relative to others in the space. Then remember, don't make it too dry, or too full of jargon. You want to get across your enthusiasm, personality - and even why you'd make a good ambassador for the awards program should you be a winner.”
She also says - spend time getting it right. Don't leave it till deadline day - or worse, after deadline day! Your first draft will be just that. If you're being judged on this work, give it the time and effort it deserves.
And finally - try to have more than one person proof read it - there's nothing worse than poor spelling or grammar, it's distracting from what you're really trying to say.
Kate is Marketing Manager at Buzinga; An Award Winning Mobile Design and Development Company. Her claim to fame when it comes to writing award nominations is that she has constructed and written multiple award winning nominations for Buzinga to be acknowledged for excellence in company culture, product design and innovation, resulting in a streak of 7 wins out of 8 nominations (!) including:
Top 100 Australian Fast Starter, BRW 2015
9th Coolest Tech Company, Job Advisor, 2016
4th Coolest Tech Company - Job Advisor 2015
Top 100 Cool Companies, Anthill 2016.
Coolest Mobile Business, Anthill 2015
Best Australian Startup, Top 5, Startup Smart 2015.
Best App Design, 2 Apps, App Design Awards 2016. (Buzinga, 2016)
Kate's #1 Tip: Write with creative flair and engaging copy... Like you would a website or a blog post.
"People have an enormous emotional or impulse appeal that transcends logic and basic needs" - Dan S. Kennedy.
Individuals who are vetoing your award applications are humans, with a job that you can imagine is a lengthy, repetitive and snoozy.
In my applications, I write with the intent to ignite emotion, whether it's a laugh, a smile or an engaging story they can relate to.
And please, don't be vanilla... Leave that to the profit and loss section! (Go Kate!)
Connect with Kate on LinkedIn
Michelle is the Communications Manager at Kiandra IT and has been involved and/or written many award nominations for both individuals and companies.
Michelle's #1 tip? Answer the question using evidence (where appropriate …. which is most of the time!) and allocate the appropriate amount of time and effort to your submission.
Awards are an incredible marketing tool which can build reputation, validate capability and make you (and those that work for you) feel nice and fuzzy but participating in reputable awards programs usually involve a fairly in-depth process. Do not underestimate the time taken to articulate who you are, and what you’re about. If you’ve decided to enter an awards program do yourself/your business justice, and be prepared to do it properly. You don’t want to be skipping corners, rushing to meet the 5pm Friday deadline when everyone else is scrambling to get their submission in, which crashes the awards site!
Most importantly make sure you actually answer the question. The judges read a lot of submissions and they can tell the difference between marketing guff and substance, so where possible you should back up your answers with evidence. Independent evidence is invaluable — whether it is press mentions, customer testimonials or social media mentions — use real examples wherever possible.
Why not connect with Michelle on LinkedIn?
My advice? After running, hosting or being part of various award processes over 8+ years I notice that sometimes nominees choose the hard row to hoe, doing it all for themselves. Instead, why not get some help from the experts? Ask the comms, PR or marketing department in your organisation to get involved and help you with crafting your nomination.
It's a little known secret, but some organisations even have entire teams dedicated to helping other staff become recognised through external Awards processes. They may simply not know that you have an Award you are eligible to nominate for. So get out of your own way and get expert advice from someone in your business with a third person expert perspective. After all, it's not just great for you if you win, it's a business win as well!
You've got to be in it to win it and sometimes more than once. I heard on the grapevine that one of the 2016 Telstra Business Women of the Year Award winners announced she had nominated each year for seven years and finally won after seven attempts. And if that story doesn't give you the kcik up the butt you need to nominate yourself for an Award, then I don't know what will.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition
#success #career #visibility #standout #leadership#executivewomen #careerfutureproofing
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