And the Winner Is . . . A Better Awards Strategy


From Olympics to Oscars, it felt like this winter was about waiting breathlessly to see WHO WON.

If you're an AEC firm that submitted for a design award recently with AIA, ASLA, ICAA or one of a myriad other design awards programs, you know the feeling: a busy effort gathering and presenting your project (much of it last minute!), nervously waiting, and then, happy face/sad face.

In the past few months I’ve helped 3 firms win. How did we do it? Here are three key strategies to help you work smarter and reduce the amount of time you spend on the stuff that doesn’t matter so much.

1. It’s not the project, it’s the story about the project that wins.  

Jurors look at many projects.  Many of them are very good, just like yours. When a juror sees your project and loves it, but doesn’t have a clear message or story they can use to convince others, then they have to make up a reason themselves, on the spot, while looking at dozens of other submissions.

DO THIS: Give your jury everything they need to be an advocate for your project. Start with a super-clear explanation of why your project is award-worthy.

2. Assume nobody will read anything.  

At least not in the first round. With so many submissions to review, jurors often do what we all do: look at the pretty pictures first.  Because of sheer volume, their first pass will likely be images only. One pile will receive a second look (and a read). The other pile will get put aside.

DO THIS: Strategize for getting to round 2. See if you can create a story using only images, without the descriptions.  And if you’re submitting for a design award, you must have professional photography. Must. Have.

3. Outside reviewers are worth their weight in gold.

They see what you can’t, because you’re just too close to it. They will tell you if your main message is obvious or buried. They will catch that embarrassing typo and you will love them forever.

DO THIS: Find an outsider who will see your project from the juror’s viewpoint and give you unbiased insights. 

Need help with your award submissions?

I can help in a few ways:

  1. How Can We Win Next Time? I analyze your prior submission and recommend specific tips on what to change for the next one.
  2. Is This Worth Submitting? I review all existing information on the project, interview one team member, and run your content through my go/no-go checklist. I look at including your firm’s marketing goals, available materials, and projected effort to proceed. Then, we have a follow-up conversation about my recommendation.
  3. Can You Take Care of It for Us? I do it all. From interviews for information to securing photography to proofreading the very last edit and uploading materials, I manage the entire award submittal process for your firm, ensuring it meets requirements and tells your story.
  4. The Grand Plan. I examine which awards programs match your marketing goals, which projects are most relevant, and set out a strategy for pursuits for one calendar year. You'll have a calendar that identifies when you need to take action, from photography to storyboards to announcements. 

Contact me about these services. Then, get ready for the red carpet!