Awards, Professional Articles

How to Write a Good Award Entry

In past years, I had the fortune of being a judge for the John Cotton Dana Awards. I also won two John Cotton Dana awards when I worked at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

The John Cotton Dana Award, provided in conjunction with the H.W. Wilson Foundation, the American Library Association and EBSCO, honors outstanding library public relations, whether a summer reading program, a year-long centennial celebration, fundraising for a new college library, an awareness campaign or an innovative partnership in the community.

I wrote these tips in 2018, when I was in Chicago with the committee in the process of selecting the 2018 winners. During that time, I noticed many strengths and weaknesses in the entries. So while it was fresh in my mind, I wrote these tips for entering the John Cotton Dana – or any PR and marketing award.

  1. Consider the reader. As you’re compiling your narrative, make it visually appealing and easy to read. Use paragraph breaks, headings that match the entry criteria, bullets (just not too many!) and white space.
  2. Call out your goals and objectives. Use bullets, boxes or some other form of emphasis to call attention to your goals and objectives. The easier they are to find, the easier for your judge to evaluate them.
  3. Write a measurable objective. Here’s a simple formula: “To [what you want to do] by [goal] among [audience] by [date], as measured by [measurement].” Ex: “To increase awareness of Library databases by 10% among library cardholders by June 30, 2018 as measured by database usage statistics.”
  4. Package your supporting materials. From a judge’s perspective, it’s much easier to look at a variety of materials when they are neatly presented and packaged in a pdf, as opposed to multiple uploaded images and files in different formats. Packaging your materials also allows you to have more control over the way they are consumed – in what order, in what context, etc.
  5. Clearly tie your results to your goals. We can tell when you made up your goals after the fact. If you write a measurable objective (tip #3), this will be easy to do. Simply restate the goals and provide your results.

One thing I want to make clear is that it’s not all about budget. You don’t have to be a big organization to win. It’s about strategy, knowledge and an understanding of how effective campaigns work. If you would like to build up your skills in these areas, check out my On Demand Training offerings!

Submit your application to the 2023 John Cotton Dana Awards

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