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Thu 8th Dec 2011

And the winner is...

There are currently over 3,000 awards in the UK. A significant number of these celebrate dedication, innovation and success in training, learning and development. Awards give you the recognition you deserve and can be a low cost way of positioning your organisation as an expert in the sector. Here is a quick guide to entering and winning awards.

Why include awards in your marketing and PR strategy?

In today's competitive market most companies or individual learners will want to use a training provider with good credentials. Training and development awards establish your credibility. Even entering an award can improve your profile.

Winning an award is an effective way to spark new ideas for PR stories and can generate free advertising and marketing. You will be able to send out press releases, which may be picked up by the media. And you can write to customers with details of your win and post a story on your website and social media pages. Most award organisers will also generate their own PR and will help you make the most of your win.

How do I find the right awards?

The training and development sector is brimming over with awards, with both local and national awards to choose from. Look for awards that address your priorities as an organisation. Your search may involve a process of research, discussion and self-reflection - what are your key priorities and in what areas are you strong? There are awards for adult learners, eLearning, marketing, widening participation and many more. They also exist in associated areas such as sustainability, customer service and IT.

Writing winning entries

Submitting poor entries is likely to damage your reputation. Plan what awards to enter over the year and you'll have more time for research and writing. Forward planning is especially important as the production of submissions ought to be a collaborative activity that draws on the expertise and knowledge of staff in order to produce authoritative entries. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to gather material.

5 tips to hook the judges

1.       Understand the award you are entering. All credible awards will have clear guidelines about eligibility, criteria, word counts, deadlines and so on. Some awards produce booklets and offer training days to help you prepare your submissions. Find out what you can about the judges and previous winners. It can be a big help to know your audience and what they are looking for.

2.       Tell a good story . Entries need to be persuasive so choose someone close to the project who is passionate and can inspire the judges with a good narrative.

3.       Stick to the facts. Make sure your claims about how you are the best are backed up by hard evidence. By including quantitative and qualitative data you will have a better chance of winning over an experienced judge.

4.       Keep it simple. Don't bore the judges. Be succinct and keep to the point. Judges are most likely to be impressed by an entry that is straightforward and clear. Avoid or explain technical jargon and try not to get bogged down in detail.

5.       Check your entry. Have you given the judges everything they asked for? Try and persuade a 'critical friend' to read the entry. Coming to it fresh, they may well spot an error or glaring omission.

If you are successful you'll have the award ceremony to look forward, which is great for boosting staff morale. However, entering awards is a valuable process, whether you are successful or not. By entering awards you will improve your understanding of your organisation and build better staff relationships.

You'll also learn how you measure up against the competition. Feedback from expert judges can provide priceless insights into how to improve your business and the service you offer. This can only be good news for you - and your clients.