Award Writing Tips & Tricks

Australia Partner Conference is around the corner and the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards is always one of the highlights. Are you interested in winning an award this year? Think it’s impossible to win? That only the “big guys” have a real shot at it? Every partner has an opportunity to win, raise their profile, and be recognised for their innovation and their hard work.

It’s time to have your hard work recognised as the best in the industry by self-nominating your organisation for the Microsoft Australia Partner Awards 2013 presented at the APC from 20-22 August 2013.

Sometimes, the difference between a winner and just another award entry isn’t the quality of the project, but the quality of the entry itself. The entry you submit is all the judges will have to work with to learn about your success. We’ve prepared this guide to help you create your very best entry– one that shows off your solution and the results you’ve achieved.

No matter which category (or categories) you enter, make it count. We wish you the best of luck!

GETTING STARTED

Start early.

Don’t wait until the last minute. An awards preview document is available at this link before the Award Submission Tool opens, so you can give yourself a big head start and increase your chances of success.

Plan to spend 10 to 15 hours on your submission. You can reuse the content to enter other awards and/or for your own case study.

Draft your entry offline.

Uploading your entry to the Award Submission Tool is the LAST step in the process. You will want everything polished in Microsoft Word before you start inputting your answers into the tool on the website. Remember there is a 5,000 character limit for each award question.

Brainstorm with others.

Get in a room with the go-to people on the project(s) in your organisation. Two heads are better than one, and 6 heads… well, you get the idea. You will learn unique angles and creative stories that can make a memorable difference in your entry.

Gather your facts.

In the words of one judge, "The best entries are those that include the most detail." Metrics, numbers, and statistics are all vital. You need the facts so you can describe the challenge specifically, and tout your solution strongly. How many people did your solution serve? What was the bottom line impact? Did productivity increase? By how much? Did the solution save the customer money? How much? Did you beat a Microsoft competitor? Use solid stats to show what you achieved. All this factual information is crucial.

Talk to your customer(s).

Some of the strongest evidence of your success is the satisfaction of your customer. Talk to them. Gather testimonials. Draw on case studies if you have them. Ask their permission to be quoted. Let them help you tell the story and quantify your success.

Choose your award category (or categories).

You probably already have an award category in mind, but after you’ve done the groundwork, read and choose your categories carefully. By selecting the most appropriate category, you can ensure your entry is as relevant as possible.

ALWAYS consider more than one category. Yes, writing more than one entry will take more time, but it will also give you a better chance of being a winner or finalist. Don’t go overboard though. Spend your time submitting your best one or two stories, rather than trying multiple categories with less compelling entries.

WRITE YOUR ENTRY

1. Answer every question. Each submission is carefully reviewed by several judges, and each question is scored independently. Be sure to completely answer the questions asked, and avoid any one-word answers.

2. Put your best points up front. Start with a compelling opening statement that is relevant to the award category. Draw the reader in with the "who, what, why," and most importantly the "why care" of your story. You want to make sure the judge wants to read further. If you save the best for last, he or she might never get there.

3. Create a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end. Define the challenge vividly using specific details. Make your story human. Your technology solution is ultimately for people.

4. Showcase your solution. Position your solutions value in terms of business innovation, technology innovation, and customer ROI. And remember, your solution must actually have been deployed.

A few other pointers:

  • Highlight your solution’s creativity.
  • Show the depth of the Microsoft stack used.
  • Describe how it helped you win against the competition from a technical and a business perspective.
  • Include information about how you went above and beyond in answering your customer’s needs.
  • Where possible, show how your solution was tailored to target an untapped market.
  • Include how your solution is different and better than your competition.
  • If your solution can be replicated, say so, and mention any other customer deployments.
  • Highlight any Microsoft Partner Network resources that helped, including other partners.

5. Prove your success. Here’s where all those numbers come in. Include your metrics. Have a measured return on investment. Show exactly what you achieved, with the stats to back it up.

6. Include customer evidence. The best way of ensuring your entry gets noticed is to include direct evidence of your customer’s satisfaction and success with your solution. Include customer testimonials in your answers. And include links to supporting materials such as case studies, white papers, other awards, videos, or anything else that helps document you and your customer’s success. Don’t forget to ask your customer’s approval to use any of their content, although entries will not be disclosed without your consent

7. End where you began. Remember that compelling opening statement? You want that same message to resonate throughout. So be sure to tie your ending back to the beginning.

EDITING AND FINAL REVIEW

1. Don’t upload until it’s final! This bears repeating. Wait until your entry is 100% complete and final before uploading it to the Award Submission Tool on the website. You do not want to have to make edits in the tool.

2. Get professional help. Enlist the help of a writing professional with technical and marketing experience. If you don’t have access to one, get a marketing writer and work with them to make sure the technical details are correct. A communications professional can help you polish your entry, ensuring that it tells your story well and is a good read.

Questions? Please send an email to the MAPA 2013 Team and allow 48 hours for a response.

Good Luck!