News article

Time to think differently about awards? Plus 3 top tips to writing a winning entry

Many advisers and planners embrace awards. Unfortunately, some others believe a long-standing myth and consequently miss out on the undoubted benefits.

Over the next few months, many high-profile awards will be opening their doors for entries. So, now is the perfect time to deal once again with the ‘awards myth’ and reveal our top three tips for creating the perfect entry.

First, the myth…

I was talking to the owner of a large financial planning firm a couple of weeks ago about social proof. They had client videos, case studies, VouchedFor ratings and Google reviews, but no awards. Despite being a hugely impressive firm.

Their reason? Awards are corrupt and you must buy a table to win.

I’m not sure why this myth still exists when it’s both untrue (at least in my experience) and illogical.

I’ve sat on judging panels and I’ve never had anyone try to influence the decision based on who will, or won’t, buy a table. I’ve asked the same of other judges and they all echo my experience.

I attended the Money Marketing Awards a few years ago when I worked at Sense Network. I was there, on my own, while another network had bought four tables of 10 people. That’s a bill of at least £12,000 before you add on the cost of drinks, accommodation, travel etc. Who won the award that night? You’ve guessed it, Sense.

I’ve also seen firms win awards and not even attend the event.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any awards influenced by commercial pressures. We’ve all had emails saying that we’ve won an award which we didn’t enter, and all we need to do is part with a few grand for a certificate and a trophy. But, in my experience and that of others, the high-profile awards in our profession are different.

We asked Heather Hopkins, Vice-Chair of  Schroders UK Platform awards for her views: “I have judged awards for a number of years. I echo Phil’s comments – as a judge, I have never even been told who has bought tables or sponsored awards. The idea that the number of tables bought could influence the outcome is bonkers (or worse — sour grapes). I manage the judging of Schroders UK Platform awards and have never told any judge who has bought a table. Keith Richards chairs the judging. He too is unaware of the commercials. That said, commercial interests of the award are met by ensuring all awards are sponsored. If we can’t get a sponsor for an award it forces us to challenge whether the award is worth having.”

Next, how do you win awards?

Over the years we’ve helped many firms write winning entries and promote their success. I’ve also sat on judging panels and read countless entries. Our experience has helped us develop our three top tips for writing winning entries:

1. Answer the questions

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But too many entries don’t answer the question or address the entry criteria.

Telling the judges what you want them to hear won’t impress them if it doesn’t answer the question. And, cutting and pasting answers from a previous entry isn’t a shortcut to success. It’s lazy and all too obvious.

Instead, read the questions/criteria and carefully write a response which deals specifically with what you are being asked.

2. Make the judges’ life easy

Many awards require a lengthy written submission. Some are over 2,000 words long. That’s a lot for you to write in a single entry. Spare a thought for the judges who have multiple entries to wade through.

So, give them a break and make their life easy.

The judges won’t go searching for your best bits, so make sure your killer points stand out. If you can, use bullet points or other formatting. Avoid long sentences. And edit ruthlessly. Avoid waffle and unnecessary words.

3. Highlight achievements, not promises

Judges want to see what you have achieved, usually in the previous year. They are generally less interested in promises of what you will do in the future. It’s far better to talk about what you have already achieved than what you might do.

They want evidence too.

List relevant achievements, explain how they benefited your business, your team and your clients, and then show evidence. Testimonials from those who have benefited are the perfect way to do this. If there’s space, include a specific testimonial for every achievement.

Free resources to help you

We’ve produced a series of resources to help you choose the right award to enter, create the perfect entry and then capitalise on your success.

Adviser Award Index: A comprehensive list of awards to help you decide which you should enter.

How to prepare an effective award entry: A checklist to help you write a winning entry.

Eight ways to capitalise on your success: Another checklist to help you make the most of a successful entry.

All three resources are free to use and download. Click here to find them.

Where should you start?

We suggest you consider two awards which are closing soon.

Firstly, the PFS’s Personal Finance Awards has options for Chartered planners and firms, specialist planners, and paraplanners. They close for entries on 1st July 2020 – click here to learn more.

Secondly, the Schroders UK Platform Awards has categories for large and small planning firms as well as those who embrace technology. Their closing date is 30th July 2020 – click here to learn more.

And finally…

If you decide that entering awards is for you, please remember our three top tips; answer the question, make the judges’ life easy and showcase your achievements.

We’re here to help too. If you would like us to write entries or help you capitalise on your success please get in touch by emailing [email protected] or calling 0115 8965 300.

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