Top tips on making your award entry stand out from the crowd.

This article was taken from our special awards edition of Engaged Investor. To hear about the winners and find more hints on writing an award-winning entry, read the full issue here.

At EI, we want to throw open the doors on our judging process. From top pension schemes to industry veterans, our judging panel boasts some of the most well-respected names in pensions. We take our judging responsibilities very seriously.

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But one thing we have never done before is publish details of what catches our eye when we deliberate as a judging panel. We want you all to have an equal shot at an award and we know that not everybody has endless experience of writing award entries. So here are some pointers from me (I chair the judging panel) and some of our judges.

We hope they will help you to pick up a trophy next year.

1. Tell a story

We often find an entry works well when you tell a story. Tell the judges what you did, from beginning to end. If you’re a pension scheme which decided to embark upon a buy-out, tell us where you started from, the options you considered, and how you came to that decision. Why a buy-out in particular?

If you’re a scheme which has revamped its communication strategy, tell us what you did before and why you decided to change it. Did you speak to your members in the process? Did you enlist some great advice? Tell us about it.

Try to avoid clichés. Simon Chinnery, head of UK DC at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and an Engaged Investor  awards judge cautions: “Don’t do marketing spiel – it just annoys.”

2. Prove it

We often receive entries with statements like, “We are an industry leader in X.” Or “Our team is extremely supportive of our clients.” What elevates these statements from meaningless platitudes into supporting evidence are cold, hard facts – or even a client testimonial.

Client testimonials are brilliant. They tell the judges that you are practising what you preach.

If you’re a pension scheme, do you have any statistics on member satisfaction, or an e-mail or two from satisfied members?

If you’re a provider, do you have a client who might give you some written feedback – or be willing to share some existing feedback?

If you are an asset manager, look at what the criteria asks for in terms of supporting evidence – and don’t be afraid to drop in some supporting statistics about your own performance.

As Engaged Investor awards judge Kim Gubler, director of KG Associates, says: “I want [entrants] to articulate how they can deliver performance and a high quality service, how they actually prove this, and how they know where they stand compared to their peers.

“To be honest those that just say they’re good, don’t stick to the brief and quote capabilities developed or delivered in the past are never going to excel at these awards.”

Chris Hogg, CEO of the Royal Mail pension trustees and an Engaged Investor awards judge adds: “Clear success measures are great, and often you can tell straight away if a submission is good by looking for numbers and then checking if the sentence around it adds to a powerful statement.”

3. Think of who this really helps

Ultimately, what does your innovation achieve? If you’re a trustee board, then hopefully better results for members.

If you’re a provider of services, then we’re sure your latest innovation is designed to help your pension scheme clients – and ultimately, their members, too.

Think of who you are really benefitting – and tell us how you are doing that. Again, testimonials can really help bring your work to life.

4. Stick to the criteria

If you’re an asset manager and you the criteria asks you to demonstrate investment performance over a particular timeframe, make sure you adhere to that.

If you’re a trustee board, make sure you take each of the criteria points in turn and make sure they are addressed in your submission.

Kim Gubler says: “What works for me as a judge is that the firm has looked at the brief and framed their response around these. I’m not looking for a standard answer; I want to see the firm has thought about how they can excel at this award.”

One particular irritation for judges is entrants who have ignored a stipulated word count. Simon Chinnery advises: “Read the instructions; stick to the instructions. If it says 800 words then stick to 800!”

5. Don’t be afraid to show off a bit

If you’ve done something fantastic, shout about it. Modesty and understatement be damned; this is your chance to shine!

One asset manager mentioned it had commissioned some fantastic research before launching its flagship post-Budget investment strategy. But the research was only brief ly mentioned in the awards submission. The judges would have loved to hear more about the research and how it informed the manager’s investment strategy.

The level of detail and consideration that went into the investment strategy as a result of that research was probably terrific – but unless you tell the judges exactly what you did, we can’t judge it!

This article was taken from our special awards edition of Engaged Investor. To hear about the winners and find more hints on writing an award-winning entry, read the full issue here.