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More Tips for Entering the EXCEL Awards - 2/10/2015 -

More Tips for Entering the EXCEL Awards

Hereís some great advice from a panel of former EXCEL Award judges and winners on how to strengthen your EXCEL Award entry this year. Donít postpone reading this article ó the EXCEL Awards entry deadline is fast-approaching on February 16, 2015.

By Prasana William

Every year, the EXCEL Awards recognizes excellence in nonprofit association media, publishing, marketing, and communications. From web publishing to newsletters and magazine innovation, the awards program offers more than 100 categories to enter. That can be daunting to a first time entrant, but on January 29, Association Media & Publishing gathered a panel of experienced judges and winners to unlock the secrets of compiling a winning entry during a Lunch & Learn event in Washington, DC.

The panel of experts included Debra Bates-Schrott, president, Bates Creative Group; Brendan Hurley, senior vice president, marketing & communications, Goodwill of Greater Washington; Kim Mills, deputy executive director, public & member communications, American Psychological Association; and Leon Rubis, vice president, editorial, Society for Human Resource Management. With different disciplines and areas of expertise, the panel addressed innovation, selecting strong candidates for submission, creating compelling entry materials, and the judging process.

"Itís not just about that membership piece you put out there last year. Itís about that membership piece you put out that broke down boundaries, the successes that stood out in the pile of mail to your members,Ē says Debra Bates-Schrott, who has won multiple times in design categories and has served as a judge.

Winning an EXCEL Award begins with creating projects that push the envelope, but relies on understanding the correct way to submit an entry. "None of us design creative strategies around winning an award. You design strategies to have impact and mileage,Ē says Brendan Hurley. "All of us in our careers have created something award worthy, but if you didnít submit appropriately, you may have lost that award to someone whose entry may not have been the strongest.Ē

Experienced judge Leon Rubis shed light on the judging process, advising participants to pay close attention to the entry requirements. Judges weed out poorly designed and wrongly categorized entries immediately ó so save yourself time and double check that your entry follows the rules for your category. He also encouraged entrants to include as much hard data as possible to show the impact of a project.

Even if an entry doesnít make it past the judgeís table, the EXCEL Awards is an opportunity for growth. Bates-Schrott urged entrants to examine their losses. Talk about what won and how that project is different from yours. Youíd be surprised at what you see when comparing your project to those of your peers.

"Itís all about storytelling and keeping eyes engaged today,Ē she continues. "How is that playing into what you do? Always consider how youíre engaging deeply. Those are the kinds of entries that youíd want to share.Ē

Here are just a few of their tips on entering the EXCEL Awards:

  1. Do your research. Observe the current competitive climate and study past winners, then focus on     what makes your project stand out from the pack. Focus on what you know about your project, and       not just how you think about it ó if there is measurable positive impact, itís a strong project. Also,         avoid competing against yourself ó enter categories you havenít considered before.
  2. Make it a team effort. It takes a team to get your product out everyday; make selecting which projects to enter a team process too, allowing input from all who worked on it. When crafting the write-up that accompanies each issue, focus on the teamís contribution rather than writing from a first-person voice. This places recognition where itís due and avoids putting off the judges due to perceived arrogance.
  3. Keep it brief. Speaking of the write-up, keep it short and focus on how your entry broke barriers or charted new territory.
  4. Read directions. Donít make it easy for the judges to disqualify you. Read the entry instructions one more time before submitting.
  5. Consider the whole picture. Which of your projects really pushed the envelope this year? Submit the entries that tell a story of engagement.

And now, itís time to get moving: The deadline for entering the 2015 EXCEL Awards is February 16, 2015.

Prasana William is associate editor of Funworld, the official magazine of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Association Media & Publishing sincerely thanks her for posting these EXCEL Award tips for our members who were unable to attend last weekís Lunch & Learn.


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