Capital Awards submission - easier than you think

Phoebe Dey | March 13, 2018

Do you know what you get when you google, “submitting your communications and marketing award submission?” I do. Why? Because I research everything before I start anything, including a blog post. In case you were wondering, there are a lot of results and a bunch of awards. Yet many of the answers were the same-- choose your category wisely, be clear and concise, demonstrate your uniqueness.

Despite a variety of organizations looking for submissions, I have a strong affinity to the IABC awards, both on an international level and at the local level with the Capital Awards. And while there is a bit of an art to the submission process, it boils down to something simple: tell the judges what you did, why and how you did it and what you got out of it. Of course there is more to it than that, but when we approach any award submissions at the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we follow the same mindset we do for any of our other work—tell a compelling story.

We’re grateful to have had success so far. In 2015, we won five Gold Quill awards and as a result earned their Non Profit Communications Department of the Year. Closer to home in that same year, we were honoured to receive two Capital Awards of Excellence. We’ve taken a break for a few years, but have recognized the value an awards submission—win or lose—can bring.

Since that time and even with those accolades (it’s amazing how much internal credibility you build with the rest of your organization, your executive and your board of trustees when an external audience says you’re doing good work), the awards submission process taught us a few things along the way. We had clear goals and objectives with every project we took on, but we didn’t capture it in a succinct way that the submissions force you to do. So our submission process now starts the moment the project begins.

That’s not to say we go into every project with the idea of an applying for an award in mind. For a philanthropic cancer organization, our donors frankly don’t care if the marketing and communications team has won awards. They care about what we are doing to make life better for Albertans facing cancer.

But awards carry a spin-off value. One of the best ways communicators can up their game is to demonstrate value through metrics. A well-defined, measurable, strategic project plan-- which is what an IABC submission really is-- will guide you through that process. Then when it comes time to submitting an award, it should be a simple matter of cut and paste. You should be capturing and setting clear objectives, tactics, defining your audience, setting goals or metrics from the beginning.

One of my team members mentioned how answering the criteria questions allow usto look back at our objectives and results and, in turn, refine what we do next year. And as she said, if nothing else, preparing an award is a good team buildingopportunity as it allows you to celebrate the results of a project everyone workedon together.

So when you sit down and start telling your story:

  • Imagine the evaluators know nothing about you, what you’re trying to accomplish or how you went about doing it.
  • Set the scene, demonstrate the need and tie your communication objectives back to that need.
  • Go back to your creative brief or outline and see which of the four categories your work fits into: communications, management, communication skills, communication research, communications training
  • Make it memorable, make it stand out.

And if all else fails, google advice on how to submit an award. There are some really good resources that will point you in the direct direction.

Just in case you were wondering, there are some really cool award names out there: Golden Penguins, Polly Bond Awards, Killer Content Awards.


Written by: Phoebe Dey

Phoebe Dey is VP Communications and Marketing for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, where she has the privilege of working with an outstanding marketing and communications team in Edmonton and Calgary that shares the stories of Albertans facing cancer. She is a new IABC member and is looking forward to becoming more involved in the organization. When she isn’t googling random things on the Internet, she can likely be shepherding her kids to a hockey rink, basketball gym or in a barre studio.

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