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Seven Do’s and Don’ts When Preparing Written Awards Submissions

Preparing for awards submissions can be a tedious task in the timelines set, if preliminary preparation is not done sooner rather than later. So with major submission season starting up and entries opening by the week, we’re here to give you a bit of a guide.

To help you, we’ve brought in submission consultant and awards judge Leanne Cutler of Siren Marketing who utilises her ten years in business to offer tips and tricks on how to stay on top of the task to make your submission the best it can possibly be, in the most organised way possible. Follow these steps to simplify the process and find success.

Image by AHFA Australian Hairdresser of the Year 2018 Damien Rinaldo

1. Do Be Prepared Early

Get a copy of last year’s questions and make a plan.  Set up folders for each question, then save information and images as activities and achievements occur.

Don’t wait until you’ve been named a finalist

The time allocated to get your submission just right varies between competitions.  This year, Hair Expo allowed three and a half weeks and others allow a couple of months. If all of your information and images are collated early, the preparation time can be used for crafting the submission, not chasing up essential material.  In the Hair Expo case, if you are not named finalist, you still have an excellent summary of business activity in the past 12 months to analyse.

2. Do Assess Your Needs

Can you do the writing and editing yourself?  Or should you get help with the task?   If writing is not your thing, then look for the right person to help you now.  Ask someone who works in the field of writing to help.  It could be a teacher, a journalist, a student or a PR professional.

Image by Hair Expo New Zealand Hairdresser of the Year 2018 Danny Pato

Don’t Decide That You Need Help When It’s Too Late

Your plan needs to include who is going to be part of your team and have them ready from the start.  For instance, who is going to screen snap relevant social media posts? Who is going to tally achievements such as the number of publications your collection has received across how many countries or how many people attended your seminars or how many clients gave you positive feedback etc? Who is going to write?  Who is going to proof read?  Who will layout any visuals required? Who is going to edit the copy to the word count?  Who is going to post and format the submission online?

3. Do put time aside to get the job done

If you get in professional help, you must fully commit to be part of the process for information, passion and to give the work your inimitable touch.

Don’t think that hiring a submission professional means that they can jump inside your head, wave a magic wand and do it all for you.

You must be involved to give the submission guts and integrity.  It’s amazing that many think that ‘paying someone else to do it’ will remove the need for involvement.  This is absolutely incorrect.   The entrant must to be involved ‘boots and all’ to make the submission unique, meaty with facts and have personality.

An organised entrant with full information at their fingertips can have their submission created in about 10 hours.  Those who need guidance on how to answer questions and where to find evidence can have a consultant spend up to 30 hours on the task.

Image by Hair Expo Australian Hairdresser of the Year 2018 Joey Scandizzo

4. Do back up all claims with evidence

Use statistics, images, social media posts, survey results or other endorsements to back up what you have achieved.  This should show that you work from a solid business plan and that you have a complete handle on your business and photo shoots.

Don’t be vague

The more specific your answers, the better.  Add substantial facts, express your business’s uniqueness and provide interest and entertainment.

5. Do make the written words sound like you.

One way of doing this is to speak your answers and record it, then write it down.

If you are engaging a submission consultant, spend time talking so that your speech style can be understood.  You might have particular turns of phrase and way of expressing yourself, so use it.

Image by Hair Expo New Zealand Hairdresser of the Year 2018 Danny Pato

Don’t make the submission sound copy-written like a brochure, prospectus or some other corporate document

This may seem inauthentic, despite being clever. You need to sound like the unique personality that you are talking to the judges.  The judges don’t want to be ‘sold’ to, they want it to be more like one side of a conversation.

6. Do watch your word count

This is where it gets tricky. Once it sounds like you, the answers have to fit the word count (if the submission is online).  Editing and keeping personality and professionalism takes skill.  Engaging an experienced editor often helps to keep the answers genuine but concise.

Image by AHFA Australian Hairdresser of the Year 2018 Damien Rinaldo

Don’t write too much.

The online submission forms usually cut the text off at the exact word count.

Use dot points to hit the judges between the eyes with your achievements and facts.

7. Do use all formatting tools allowed by the rules.

If it’s an online form, make sure you space out the lines of text.

Make each sentence a new paragraph.

Bold key words.  Use headings and sub-headings to highlight important sections and to break up blocks of text.

Don’t only cut and paste text into an online submission form.

Dumping cut and pasted text into an online awards form is a big ‘no-no’. This will appear as a large block of greyness to the judges.  After hours of reading submissions, their eyes will physically tire if all they are doing is reading big blocks of grey.

The trick is to format, format, format. It’s so much better for the judges to work with and it appears professional too.  If you don’t know how to format the online submission form, ask a friend for help.  Someone who knows how to do this will probably only take about an hour to get it right.

All in all, the way to present a strong submission is to load it with facts in dot point format.   Leadership in business and innovation in creativity play a big part in selecting the winners.

If you’ve done a solid amount of work in your salon, industry and community, and communicate this really well, you are in with a chance.

Good luck with the 2019 round of submissions!

Leanne Cutler is a Business Communications professional specialising in award and grant submissions, integrated marketing in hairdressing and education and international hairdressing PR through the Hair Shots 2 The World brand.  She is regularly asked to judge.

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