In the past couple of years, I’ve written awards entries for clients in several different sectors. Every one of them has won or been shortlisted.

Successful entries have included the Scottish Business Awards, Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, and the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards. Based on my experience, here are six tips for writing awards entries.

1 Tell a story. Businesses frequently write a list of achievements in their entries, but neglect to craft them into a coherent, memorable story. This is understandable – the task of writing award entries is often allocated randomly to staff about 10 hours before the final deadline.

But if you want your entry to stick in the judges’ minds (for positive reasons), enlist a copywriter with the time and experience to craft it well.

2 Balance words and numbers. Too many figures will drown your story, and risk it becoming forgettable. Too few and it will sound unconvincing and unsubstantiated.

Make each stat count, and weave it into your story, rather than add it as a disconnected thread.

3 Read the rules. Look at wordcounts, criteria and what the questions are looking for. This sounds stupidly obvious, but people don’t do it.

If the judges want to know how your skills programme helped your business performance, don’t tell them how it helped a group of school leavers to find careers. This may be admirable, but it’s not what the judges want to know.

4 Be smart about entering. Some companies want to enter everything, everywhere. But it’s not worth it.

Only enter the categories where you really do excel, and think carefully about timing. If you’re waiting on the results of a trial or new programme, postponement may be your wisest course. Your entry may be more compelling next year once the results have come in.

And, realistically, if you won the award last year, you’re unlikely to win it again, however good you are.

5 Consider the competition

Think about other businesses likely to enter the award, and what they are likely to say. When deciding on your  story, choose one that sets you apart from (and above) them.

6 Make a plan

There are lots of reasons to enter awards – for media coverage, to make staff feel good, to raise your profile with funders, or simply to invite key clients to an awards dinner with George Clooney or Leonardo Di Caprio.

If you are clear on your goals, you can build a better comms and marketing programme around success.

Sometimes, it pays to be realistic, and plan for a shortlisting rather than outright success. This can still be highly effective, but timing is everything: you need to use the story before the award announcement.

So, there, I’ve given away plenty of my trade secrets. If you don’t have the time to apply these tips to your own winning awards entries, I’d be delighted to help. But please contact me more than 10 hours before the entry deadline …