15 Steps to a Stunning Image Award Entry

| Written by: Zoe Linafelt, APR

Local Image Awards season will be here before you know it, so why wait? Get your ideas down before crunch time. Need some inspiration? Read last year’s winning entries here (this link is only accessible to FPRA members).

FPRA has a full rubric PDF on their website, but here’s an informal cheat sheet for writing a stunning entry.

Remember: Be clear. Bold words or phrases. It’s OK if it feels redundant. Punt pretty transitions and forget flowery words. Kick all nuances to the curb. The goal is to be overly obvious!

If you do every step without skipping a thing, you’re GOLDEN!

1) Define the problem: State the problem or opportunity for why the project needed to happen. Use simple words. Keep it brief and to the point. Literally bold the words “The Problem” so no judge misses this.

2) Share a little background: Include 2-3 sentences about the situation, the history of the issue, the factors/players affecting the situation, and who is involved/impacted (within and/or outside your organization).

3) Prove you did your research. Clearly state if you used primary research, secondary research, or both, and what exactly you did (phone survey, expert interview, focus group, etc.). Then, state why each research finding was helpful to your campaign. Overdo it. Make it extra clear.

  • Remember: Primary research means your staff collected new data or you paid a contractor to collect data for you. You wrote the survey questions, for example. Secondary research means you’re using findings from data collection someone else did. You Googled and found a statistic that helped your planning. If you’re not sure, odds are it’s secondary.

4) Write the goal or goals for your campaign. Choose one or two that relate to outcomes. This should go without saying, but make sure the goals align with your client’s or organization’s mission and goals.

5) Clearly state all communications objectives — and yes, each of these has to directly support the larger goal you just stated. Remember, an objective isn’t the same as what you wrote or produced (that’s an output). An outcome/objective means an earned media story, newsletter subscriptions, donations, etc. — things done by other people because of your strategic work. For each objective in your entry, you’ve got to prove why your answer is “yes” to every single one of these babies:

  • Is this objective a specific outcome?
  • Can you measure this objective?
    • How will you measure it?
  • Is this objective realistically attainable as a result of your communications efforts?
  • AND last but not least: Is this a time-bound objective?
    • State the timeframe for each objective. Literally write it out like: “Our objective was to receive 50 online petition signatures from Monday, June 6, through Friday, June 10, 2022.”

6) Demonstrate that you used strategies to choose your tactics — and prove that you know the difference between the two. Write out each strategy and its accompanying tactics and state how that cluster will affect an objective. Use the words “strategy” and “tactics.”

  • Remember: A strategy is an approach or general plan for the program designed to achieve an objective. Tactics are the actual events, media, and/or methods used to do the strategy thing. (Objective: “From Monday, June 6, through Friday, June 10, 2022,  secure three earned media stories that include client interviews/quotes. Strategy: “Pitch local media about the event.” Tactics that support the strategy: “Email the Tallahassee Democrat community events reporter, call WCTV-TV and WTXL-TV news desks, call WFSU community reporter.”)

7) List your target audiences/publics. Be super specific. For each target audience, list 1-3 points about their opinions, beliefs, attitudes, or values that make them fit in a singular group and label that line “Psychographics.” Then for that same target audience, list 1-3 points about their gender, age, or income that make them fit in a singular group and label that line “Demographics.” Then (don’t forget this part!), write out which channels of communication you are using to reach them and clearly state why those are the right ways to reach these people.

8) List out who did what, and in what order. Use job titles instead of names. To save space, keep the formatting really simple here. (“First, Communications Director met with General Counsel to decide the hearing’s date and time. Then, Communications Director and Social Media Manager wrote the draft caption. Then, Designer created the Facebook graphic…”)

9) Show off your genius messaging skills. Write out the main catchphrase(s) or lines you used to communicate to each audience. Be clear and say what messaging you used to target which people. Then, prove that the message was carried by a channel that the audience uses. Finally, show how the message made the audience respond or act like you intended. Holding the reader’s hand the whole way will be 100% worth it, trust me.

10) Check the “creativity” box. Using your plain language chops, clearly state that you have done one of the things below and explain how you did it. If you’re feeling extra groovy, you can go with more than one. But prove it so hard they have to give you the points.

  • Program/project messaging is original and adaptive, new and functional
  • Demonstration of originality and effectiveness
  • Innovative ways of sending messages whose content is unconventional yet adaptable
  • Sensitivity to problems (recognizing that several problems exist where it may appear to some that only one problem exits)
  • Succeeded in earning trust, adding value, changing the attitude, behavior and/or beliefs of the company’s/organization’s publics
  • Use of visual storytelling vehicles
  • Use of unexpected and unconventional strategies, tactics and/or tools
  • Making everyday life more meaningful, simple, joyful and/or easier
  • Conceptual blending – a campaign that aims to create a new space where the target group is very much aware of the fact that the campaign is for the good of the company/organization, but still aims to create a difference for the target group as well.

11) Brag about your impressive outcomes. Literally copy and paste each objective you listed earlier and update the verbs to be past tense. Then, change the numbers for each from what you hoped to get to what you actually got. If you hoped to get 10 donations and you got 15, that’s awesome! You exceeded your objective. If you hoped to get 15 and only got 10, maybe reevaluate whether this campaign is worth entering. You always want your actual outcomes to match or be better than your original objectives. Restate how the objectives/outcomes worked to support the campaign goal, and then reiterate that your goal was achieved.

12) Confirm that your project cost less than you expected (or at least that costs were exactly as expected). List all hard costs and communications staff hours. You may use actual dollar figures or just ratios/percentages. If you are not permitted to share an element of the budget, state clearly what it is and why you are leaving it out. If your project cost way more than you anticipated, this may not be the best campaign to enter.

13) Check the “very impressive ROI” box. Prove that your project had a very impressive return on investment of money/time by clearly explaining that at least one of these was achieved:

  • Increased sales or usage of service achieved
  • Comparing baseline analytics (web and social media) with analytics following program/project completion
  • Increase in social media engagement and following increase
  • Sentiment analysis of media mentions before, during, and after program/project completion
  • Survey result comparisons (benchmark data vs. follow-up survey data)
  • Donated services quantified (if applicable)
  • Costs comparisons to industry standards were made (if able and appropriate)
  • Higher ranking for keywords achieved through comparison of benchmark data
  • Increased website traffic using baseline data for comparison
  • Increase in subscriptions (newsletters, email signups, etc.)
  • Industry or local award given to business or professional associated with project

Ok, #1-13 had to do with the words in your two-page summary. #14 is about your Support Materials PDF.

14) Wow them with your Support Materials PDF! Check every single one of these boxes:

  • The entire Support Materials PDF looks very professional and polished. Designed/nice template is best.
  • An easy-to-understand table of contents is included at the beginning of the PDF.
  • The findings from all the research you mentioned in the entry are displayed on a page labeled “Research Findings.” (This doesn’t need to be scanned pages of an article; just include the statistics and cite the sources. Graphs and charts are nice.)
  • The materials show what strategies you used. Labeling the strategies elements is a good idea.
  • The materials show what tactics you did. Labeling the tactics elements is a good idea.
  • The PDF includes the designed pieces and digital content used for the project. (No need to include every social media post for the year or every photo from an event; just give the judges an idea of the types of things you did.)
  • The designed pieces you include have the catchphrases or messaging you mention in your entry.
  • The designed pieces or campaign tools prove that your ideas were creative and/or innovative. (Label some photos, designs, or screenshots as “Creative” and explain why.)
  • There is a “Budget” page listing all the costs and staff hours mentioned in the entry. (You don’t need to include timesheets or receipts; it can just be a simple table.)

15) Review your two-page entry for grammar, spelling, and clarity. Check that you’ve met all the font, spacing, and file naming rules listed on FPRA’s website. Ask a coworker to review it, too; if they’re confused, the judges will be confused. It’s a great idea to bold words or phrases you want the judges to see, and many people number their objectives. Make sure you get the all points you deserve.

Those are the 15 steps! Cramming all this in right before the deadline isn’t a great idea. Instead, I find it’s easier to start a campaign already hoping to write an Image Award entry about it, so that I add research findings, the project plan, a timeline, budget information, and other materials to a folder along the way.

FPRA has a PDF list of all the divisions and categories. When it comes time to submit your entry, you will visit the Capital Chapter Image Awards portal and log in, or create an account if you don’t have a username and password. You’ll be asked to enter the title of the award entry and you’ll select the division and category for the entry. Then, you will upload the following documents:

  1. Two-page summary PDF
  2. Support Materials PDF
  3. 50-Word summary about your entry (PDF)
  4. A brief overview about your organization (PDF)
  5. Graphic, logo, or image that represents your entry (JPG or PNG)
  6. Note: If you’d like to upload additional video or audio files, you can.

Then, you will enter your contact information. You’ll be asked to add “Awardee Names” (organization name or staff names you’d like to be written on the award, if the entry wins). The next screen will prompt you to check out or add another entry. When you’re ready to submit, you’ll pay with a card online and then you’re done. You’ll be emailed a receipt. This is a video tutorial for how to do each step.

Good luck! If you have questions or need guidance, feel free to email me or our Director of Awards & Recognition Valencia Scott. We usually begin accepting entries in the winter. We plan to hold a couple fall/winter workshops to help members prepare their entries before the late winter/early spring deadline.

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