And the Winner Is…You!

We are happy to have Alicia Koledin, founding principal of AKcelerate—a bespoke business development, marketing, and communications consultancy—share her thoughts on entering design-awards programs.

Watching the Emmys over the weekend got me thinking about awards…and architecture. Just like directors, musicians, filmmakers, and actors, architects also desire recognition. And although architecture awards aren’t exactly like the Oscars or Grammys, they may sometimes seem just as elitist and elusive. Pritzker Prize aside, however, they’re actually more equitable and easier to enter than you might think.

With more programs and categories each year, chances of winning are measurably increased. But most architecture firms, especially small ones, still find awards daunting. I tell my clients it all comes down to being organized and remembering to capitalize! Don’t enter at the last minute. Take your time and do your homework. And if you win, make the most of it!

No matter what your services, markets, or resources, your firm can win awards. Let’s break it down.

Determine which programs fit your firm’s goals. Look at the criteria and determine which projects meet them. Pick the right categories. Create a budget. Solicit necessary approvals. Communicate and coordinate with other team members—your client, their real estate partners, and your consultants.

Build a calendar. Determine what needs to be done, by whom, and by when. Back into the deadline with interim deliverables, and appoint a project manager—just as you would with a proposal or a project.

Carefully read the submission criteria. Decide what to say and how to say it. Do your research on the jury. Consider your projects against past winners, as well as your contemporaries’ and competitors’ projects.

Create unique content. Tailor your message to your strategy and expand the ideas. Be detailed but not tedious. Thoroughly explain challenges and solutions. Share what’s most compelling. Many awards are published, so highlight project features that are editorially-friendly. And although it goes without saying, don’t miss the deadline!

Yay! You won an award. Now what? Do not, I repeat, do not assume people will automatically know that. And don’t be late to the party! Conversations, both in person and online, start early and fade quickly. Have your messages ready to go. Think about how to reach potential clients. Tie your announcement to current trends. Be consistent across platforms, but don’t be repetitive. Use it to demonstrate thought leadership.

As in every marketing effort, be authentic! Only the best projects win, so only submit winning projects. Always create original text; don’t rely on past project descriptions. Avoid “archispeak”. And finally, if you don’t have the capacity or capability in-house to produce awards entries, seek professional help!