5 Tips to Enter a Communications Contest

This past weekend I attended a conference where communications awards were handed out. I was fortunate to receive several.

Contests can validate your work, and the judge's comments can help you improve your work. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Contests can validate your work, and the judge’s comments can help you improve your work. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

I enter contests to validate my work. Often communications is an overlooked area within an organization. Earning an award for your work lets the company know that you do good work and that others respect it. I find judge’s comments hugely helpful in improving my work.

So how do you go about entering a contest? The first thing to know it that you don’t have to have it all figured out up front. You can start the process and edit as you go.

Here are a few tips:

Keep a folder or list throughout the year of work of which you are proud. With so much work available online now (and most contests are electronic, too) it’s helpful to keep a list of the possible entries with the URL. Save PDFs of your work into a folder that you’ve labeled, “Contest Entries.”

Check categories and identify the ones in which you think your entry would fit. If you aren’t sure, ask the contest coordinator. Help is almost always available – by phone or email – and it will prevent you from entering your work in the wrong category, which could disqualify the entry.

Print the rules – and more importantly, read them. You want to be sure that you are entering the correct category and providing the necessary supporting documentation. You may have implemented the best public relations campaign, but if you can’t find the research you did, you won’t be successful in entering the category. You should note the deadline and build in plenty of time to complete your entries.

Spend time on the summaries. Many contests require a short summary addressing key areas on which the entry will be judged. You want to address each of those areas, providing the required supporting material.

Start early in your submission preparations. Doing so gives you additional time to think about other metrics to support your work. This is crucial for public relations entries. If you are entering in writing categories, you may remember that you wrote several articles throughout the year on one topic. Now instead of a single entry, you could enter in a theme category.

For the contest I entered this year, I set aside an afternoon to compile my entries, including the supporting material. I then made a master list with the category name and the title of my entry.

A week later, I officially entered the contest. That extra week provided me with time to find additional supporting material and to be sure I had everything I needed before I started uploading my documents to the electronic contest.

Once you have double-checked your entries, it’s time to submit them. Good luck!


6 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Reading good writing -- in any form -- will make you a better writer. (Photo illustration by Cynthia Price)

Reading good writing — in any form — will make you a better writer. (Photo illustration by Cynthia Price)

Writing a book is easy.

The hard part is sitting down to write it. Or sitting down to write the article that is due in two hours… or the speech that is due on Monday.

Whenever I hear bestselling novelist Adriana Trigiani speak, she always tells would-be writers, “Just write.”

It’s great advice.

Here are a few tips for writing or improving your writing:

  1. Write every day. You can write in a journal. You can write a letter to a loved one. You can write one page of your novel. At the end of the year you would have 365 pages.
  2. Don’t write to impress. As a college student, I knew how to turn a short sentence into a longer one so I could hit my word count. I liked using large words – the better to show off my vocabulary. Readers don’t care about that. They want a good story.
  3. Read good writing. Some of the best writing I know comes from writers for Sports Illustrated. Think about it. There are two teams or two players. One wins, one loses. This happens over and over. How do you make it exciting? Read Sports Illustrated and you will find out. Read the classics. Read anything and identify what you don’t like and why. Then don’t do that. If you find something you like, strive to be that good.
  4. Shorten what you wrote. After I finish writing an article, I check the word count and then attempt to delete 10 percent of it. Almost always, the writing becomes stronger and more powerful.
  5. Check the verbs. Passive voice is quite dull to read. If you aren’t good at this, take a highlighter and identify every very. Then you can change the passive verbs to active. You’ll see a difference in your writing.
  6. Read for inspiration. I aspire to publish a mystery. I read lots of mysteries and now know the specific type of mystery I want to write. I know the setting of the book, too, and so I read travel books from that location.

Now stop reading this and go write. And yes, I know I need to take my own advice and finish the novel!

4 Tips to Avoid Distractions

The other morning I experienced the luxury of sitting in the lounge of the service department where I bought my car, which was due for an oil change.

I say luxury because I was told the service would take 45 minutes to an hour. I deliberately did not turn on the Wi-Fi and no one knew where I was. During that time I opened my computer and began writing an article I absolutely had to turn in at day’s end.

The past few weeks I had been busy with other deadlines and constant interruptions. Sometimes, I simply spent time responding to emails or chatting with colleagues, avoiding writing the article.

By the time the technician approached me and told me my car was ready, I had completed my story.

Posting a sign on your cube wall that you have a deadline may help cut down on distractions. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Posting a sign on your cube wall that you have a deadline may help cut down on distractions. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Why was I successful? I followed a few basic rules to keep myself focused.

Turn off notifications. Because I had no Internet, I wasn’t receiving emails, which kept me from responding each time a new one arrived in my inbox. In the office, you can simply turn off the sound. Even better, you can close the application until you have met your deadline.

Avoid distractions. At the car dealership, no one knew me so no one came over to where I was working to chat. That’s not always so easy at the office. If you have a door, close it. If you work in a cube put up a sign that lets everyone know you have a deadline.

Make a list. Sometimes I get distracted because I’m thinking about all of the other things I still have to do. To avoid this, take a few minutes and make a list. This way you won’t worry about forgetting something that is critical and you can focus on the thing you need to do at the moment.

Set a timer. The technician told me I had no more than an hour before my car would be ready. I opened a blank Word document, reviewed my notes and began writing the story. Tick tock… the clock was ticking so I kept writing and didn’t worry about typos or transitions. I put the story down and discovered I still had some time left so I went back and did a quick edit. By the time the technician approached, the story was finished.

Spring Is in the Air — Time to Clean

The winter weather seems to linger, but I still know spring is in the air. How? I’m deeply into spring cleaning – or should I say clearing – at my office.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Purging digitally: I’m always complaining about all the emails I receive. Many of them are lists to which I subscribed years ago. I find I never read them. Instead of simply hitting delete I now hit unsubscribe. My inbox is shrinking as a result. So is my stress.

Adjusting my clock: It’s easy for me to work later in the winter because it’s dark outside. With daylight savings time, though, it doesn’t get dark until later. Fortunately, one of my colleagues reminded me of this. I’m leaving earlier now so I can take advantage of the extra daylight. It’s nice to be home at a reasonable hour and still have time to walk the neighborhood or go to the gym. Soon, I’ll be in the garden.

20140331_185905Purging: I did something in my spring cleaning that was so liberating. I emptied all my pens and pencils into a pile and then only kept about a dozen. What did I do with the rest? I tossed them! Yes, it was wasteful, but most of them had been picked up at conferences or given to me. No one else was going to want them. And now I can use the pens I truly like.

Cleaning files: I limit myself to two file drawers. If they start to get tight, it means it’s time to toss some files. However, many of my files are now kept on my hard drive. I take the time to clean those out, too. I have a rule that every document must fit within a folder. And no folders can be labeled “Miscellaneous.”

Switching up: It’s been a year since my last spring cleaning so it was time to change the artwork and move the items on my desk. Not only did it make the office feel fresh and inviting, it stirred up some new energy.

What’s on your spring cleaning list?