It’s been that most wonderful time of the year over the past few months: awards season, in which financial advisers and planners compete to showcase themselves and their teams as the best in the business.
Writing award entries can be a tough task. It’s notoriously difficult to self-promote without feeling overly arrogant, let alone to find the time to dedicate to creating them.
That’s why at Yardstick, our content team are always busy during this period, jumping on the phone with clients to pull out the reasons that make them the best in their chosen categories, and then writing award entries that put them on the shortlist.
It’s something we’re good at, too – in fact, a chunk of the Professional Adviser awards shortlist were written at least in part by a member of the Yardstick team.
In one recent local award entry that I helped one of our clients with, the judges created a presentation where they stated exactly what they were looking for. Interestingly, one of the specific elements they wanted to see in the entries was the points made illustrated by human stories.
Storytelling is certainly a powerful tool, making basic facts seem more evocative and tangible to a reader.
So, to illustrate my point, I’m sharing a story based on true events. Pray silence please for the legend of the spider versus the wasp.
The spider versus the wasp; or, A Sunday Sting Operation
It was the kind of naturally occurring phenomenon that Hollywood executives dream of. Just an ordinary Sunday afternoon, spiked by drama of the highest order in a scene that, personally, I will never forget.
Picture this. It’s finally above 10 degrees Celsius in the UK, which means we’re in shorts and T-shirts with the patio doors wide open. We’re enjoying a lazy cup of tea in our conservatory, because late April to early May is the only time period when this stupid glass prison isn’t Baltic cold or devastatingly hot.
Thus enters our villain, the inciting moment, desperate to ruin this most tranquil setting. A wasp, dressed in head to toe (do wasps have toes??) in yellow and black, buzzing with the anger of 1,000 Tottenham fans after an away day at Newcastle. There you have it. Panic ensues. Fear. Tension.
He swoops, swarms, soars upwards, reaching a dusty old ceiling fan that we’re yet to use – our ownership of a ceiling fan in this climate is, frankly, absurd.
But this is where things get real interesting. This is the moment that brings the collective drawing of breath in the Marvel staff writers’ room. The unlikeliest hero emerges. Make sure you’ve plugged in that second controller, because player two has entered the game.
A spider, around the size of a fifty pence piece, descends from a crevice in the conservatory ceiling to face the aggressor.
As a lifelong arachnophobe, I can barely read the word spider without feeling somewhat sick, as if writing it will somehow bring my eponymous hero to life in front of me. Yet what happens next must be recounted, because it is a classic story of good versus evil, small versus big, David and Goliath. If David were a tiny spider and Goliath were a massive wasp.
The wasp is clearly threatened by the presence of this arachnid, and goes on the offensive. A jab here, a poke there, drops the shoulder (do wasps have shoulders??) and looks to put a sting in this tale.
But the spider is not shaken, by Jove, no. Instead, he wriggles around in an unpredictable, confusing pattern, bamboozling his opponent. It seems entirely random. But before our antagonist can realise what’s happened, the spider has spun a web of lies (and also a web of web) around the wasp’s annoying, buzzy wings.
The wasp struggles, but it’s too late. He’s fully ensnared. It was over as quickly as it had begun. I’d have looked on and perhaps applauded the spider’s bravery for saving our afternoon, had I not been dry heaving in the garden.
He’s certainly the hero we deserve, but just not the one we need right now. Not at least until I’ve been and had sufficient exposure therapy for my phobia.
Want to win awards? Stories like these are where to start
Obviously, not every story you read is as high octane (or ridiculous) as this one. No doubt you had to take a quick breather when it was finally over. But believe it or not, I do actually have a fundamental point here.
I easily could have told you that storytelling is an effective way to illustrate your argument. It would have taken a couple of sentences, and we all could have gone on our merry way.
But it would have been dry and boring. While the story itself might be clearly entirely pointless, you (hopefully) have a clear image of what I’m trying to depict.
So, when you’re writing award entries, think about how you can use real human stories to make your points. If you want to show how your firm takes its ethical or environmental objectives seriously, take me through the process of how you’ve managed it.
Perhaps you need to demonstrate how the advice you offer changes your clients’ lives? Give me an example of a time when you helped a client to truly achieve their life goals.
Or maybe you’re answering a question about how you support workplace development in your firm? Paint me a picture of one of your team’s career path to show you’ve aided them in professionally bettering themselves.
That isn’t to say you need to use stories on every occasion. Sometimes the questions won’t lend themselves to it, and for others there simply isn’t space in the word count.
But if it feels like it fits, and especially if it’s in the award criteria, personal, real stories can be a powerful way to show your firm’s worth.
So, next time you find yourself trying to express your point in an award entry without a story, stop and think of the wasp. Don’t think about the spider, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel sick and itchy for an hour.
Get in touch
If you’d like help writing an award entry that shines a spotlight on your business and gives you the best chance of being on the shortlist, we can help.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300 to speak to us today.