The decision of whose proposal would win the day was down to two companies: mine and one other. And we came in second.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, it was a tough decision,” they began. “But they had awards, and you… didn’t.”
That brought me up short. Our work was certainly award worthy, but I had never bothered entering an awards contest. Being part of a marketing agency, winning awards didn’t matter to me. What was more important was simply this: was the marketing plan a success? Awards simply validated that your marketing materials were well designed and well conceived, not if they had been effective.
We also produced technical materials. Again, I didn’t pursue awards for a similar reason. After all, a “pretty” user guide that was ineffective at guiding was useless.
But I listened. And we entered award contents. And we won. And we added them to our portfolio. But to me they were essentially meaningless. Until, that is, I discovered STC’s award competition.
When submitting work to an “award factory,” you get two answers: you won or you didn’t. When submitting work to an STC competition, you get two answers—you won or you didn’t—and you get something much more valuable: why!
It’s that “why” that makes an STC competition so valuable. STC award judges not only look at the “pretty” part, but also the effectiveness part.
So I just submitted some of my work into the New England STC award competition. Why? Because I knew their three award judges would give me thoughtful commentary that I simply cannot get anywhere else. And that’s exactly what I received. Even though I’ve been a practitioner for over twenty years, I always learn something new, or am reminded of something that I shouldn’t have forgotten. Did I say this was invaluable yet? If I didn’t, be assured that it was.
So for you, dear reader: Not sure if your work is worthy of awards? Do you want to improve the quality of your work? Want to read professional commentary about your work? Then enter. It’s as simple as that. If at first you don’t succeed, listen, apply, and re-enter.
And if you ever have to submit a proposal (or ask for a promotion, or ask for a raise—it’s all the same), you won’t get dinged because you are lacking awards.
About Rich Maggiani
Rich Maggiani, an STC Fellow and former Director at Large, is a communication consultant at Solari Communication in Essex, VT. Rich’s entry, Smart Grid Roadmap & Business Case, won an Award of Excellence in the Instructional Materials category in the 2014 Competitions.