Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling and Casey Affleck might make the business of award winning look easy, but as the marketers amongst us know too well, the media machines behind the big studios they work for have been beavering away for months to make sure it’s their talent treading the red carpet at this weekend’s Oscars.

The rules in Hollywood are exactly the same as the rules in business, so as the movie world’s rich and famous get their game face re-collagened for Sunday’s big night, we’re taking a behind the scenes look at how to play the recognition game in your industry.

You’ve got to be in it to win it: most companies don’t win business awards because most companies don’t enter them

Andrew Garfield didn’t get nominated for best actor by being coy and anyone who’s actually seen Hacksaw Ridge (right to the end) is unlikely to need any convincing that some kind of marketing magic must be going on in the background when it comes to getting shortlisted for the Oscars.

In business, just like in the movies, it pays to airbrush out the negatives and accentuate the positives.

Truth is, most companies don’t win business awards because most companies don’t enter. And even if they do, most entries fall flat because they’ve been put together too hastily by insiders with too little commitment. After all, even the most exceptional business achievements look a little ragged round the edges when you’re working on them 9 to 5 day after day.

Playing to win at the awards game

Long applications offering every tiny detail of a company’s achievement without actually panning out to show the big picture. That’s the most frequently voiced gripe of the judges we talk to about the businesses they evaluate. Rather than being crisp and to the point, business award entries are overly complex and difficult to read. These applications quickly force judges to adopt tight elimination processes before actually getting down to the real work of evaluation.

Applications so “innovative” that the allotted space on the form needs to be supplemented with reams of additional (un-requested) support material are unlikely to dazzle. Similarly submissions littered with footnotes promising that supplementary case studies, product examples or customer endorsements can be “mailed on request” will find their way to the shredder in minutes.

Here’s our top tips list for getting on the business awards shortlist

See yourself on the podium: Rule number one is easy. Before you even start your application, use the sports psychology tactics that got Mo Farah two Olympic golds in Rio last summer. If you visualise your company as a business awards winner before you pick up the pen, your application will be streets ahead of most of the competition.

Get a bid team together: The best applications take time and effort. To treat the task with the respect it deserves you’ll need a crack team of committed colleagues. Allocate key aspects of the application process to key players, making sure that all the bases are covered.

If case studies are to support the bid, make sure you submit the freshest examples available. If sales statistics or business growth evidence is required make sure you’re delivering exactly what was asked for by the award organisers. And put one of your best administrators on the case too. You won’t believe how may awards are lost because the application is lost under in the CEO’s “to do” tray!

Track your progress: Completing your paperwork and getting it in the mail is the beginning, not the end, of an award winning application strategy. Calling the organisers to see how your bid is progressing will make you look keen rather pushy and, if you’re not short listed you’ll at least deserve some personal help and advice that’s likely to become invaluable next time round.

Play the numbers game: Ever noticed how companies either win lots of awards all the time or never win any? Putting together winning bids is a major resource outlay and putting all your eggs in one basket just doesn’t justify the effort.

A good bid team will pull together a hot list of awards they want on to see in the corporate trophy cabinet and re-purpose materials to suit multiple applications. As Helen Mirren will testify, having an Oscar on the living room mantelpiece might be the holy grail of movie making achievement, but a BAFTA still makes a pretty respectable table feature.

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