With your program planning done, judges lined up, sponsors taken care of and your program configured to start, it’s time to get those entries pouring in.
A good call-for-entry is one of the most important parts of any program process. This is the point where you motivate people to turn into entrants / applicants or at the very least, forward the call-for-entry on to potential entrants.
Here we’ve collated a list of best practices to ensure that your call-for-entry informs potential entrants exactly what your program is about, why they should enter and how.
Gather all your information
Collate all of your program information and ensure you have answers for each of these questions:
What is your program about?
When did it start, what does it stand for and why do you do it? Answering these types of questions gives your program credibility.
What categories are available and what are the conditions of entry?
Give potential entrants the strongest indications of whether or not your program is right for them by laying out any conditions you might have, upfront.
By displaying your available categories to the potential entrant they will be able to tell if they should enter. You don’t want to run an advert calling on all photographers to submit entries when you are trying to find the best photographs in extreme sports.
What is the judging criteria like per category?
By giving entrants an upfront explanation of the judging criteria, you will help them ensure their submission is best-suited to the category they enter, and presented appropriately.
What kind of entries will be accepted?
Will entrants need to prepare in advance and collate or produce special materials? Perhaps you require a detailed description of the submission— it would be good to set that expectation up front.
Who are your judges?
Detailed information on judges adds credibility to your program. Try to detail their backgrounds, why you chose them to be a judge and what categories they’ll be judging.
Judges are also a great source of promotion, especially if they are well-known or high-profile.
What are your program dates?
Potential entrants want to know how much time they will have to enter your program and when they have done so, when the winner will be announced!
Will entries be paid or free?
If paid, how much will they cost? Don’t surprise users with a paid submission after they have filled in their submission/application or entry. Do it upfront and save yourself and the potential entrants from any misunderstanding.
Where do entrants need to go in order to enter?
This is an often-overlooked item for many calls-for-entry. Make sure every single piece of material you put out has a clear indication of where entrants need to go in order to start an entry.
Is there someone entrants can contact if they have questions?
Pretty easy one but critical. Always give potential entrants the ability to ask questions if they run into trouble; have questions about categories or entry criteria; or are trying to figure out if they should or should not enter.
Choose channels for promotion
The best approach is always to promote your program where your entrants are. If you are running an award program recognising great writing, you may want to promote your program on writing forums, at writing classes or in Facebook groups dedicated to writing.
With that in mind, you generally can’t go wrong with the following call-for-entry set up:
A marketing website
Which has all of your program details laid out in a clear and concise manner. Websites are fairly inexpensive (especially if you build your own marketing website) and are a great place to have your entrants funneled into your award entry process. All marketing material and calls-for-entries should point here.
Appropriate social media channels
This is totally up to you but we advise you to concentrate your efforts on two or three core social media channels only. Trying to promote your program on every social media channel out there is going to take a lot of your time. Facebook is always a good choice but the rest depend on your program. For example, try LinkedIn if you run a business type award or Instagram for photographic submissions.
Don’t forget offline marketing!
If it makes sense and you have budget for it, make calls-for-entry offline too! Print brochures, pamphlets or even stickers and disseminate them in the areas your entrants would be. Public places like shopping malls and sporting events are good choices here as you get plenty of traffic. Be sure to ask permission from management before you start.
This is an especially good approach if you run a local award for local entrants.
Package your information according to the channel
Now that you have all your information and you have an idea of what channels you will use to promote your call-for-entry, you should be working towards building the style and format of your message.
Don’t create your message and packaging before you understand the channel format.
Most channels have a specific format that they will accept your advertising in and if you create a graphic before knowing what the limitations will be— you might have to start over. For example, if you have a graphic with core program details like name of your program, dates and prizes, Facebook might not allow you to promote your advert/post. They don't like too much text in image graphics, whereas this type of graphic may make a lot of sense if you were advertising in a newspaper.
Always familiarise yourself with the accepted channel formats before you create something.
Calls-for-entry and Award Force
We have seen some great approaches from Award Force clients that we’d like to recommend you try next time you put out your call-for-entry:
Take advantage of your homepage
Did you know you can embed video on your platform homepage using Markdown? This is a great place to put a video generating interest and excitement about your program, and to orientate your entrants at the same time. Start with a little welcome and then take it from there!
Discounts for paid programs
Discounts are always a great way to encourage support for your program but there is no reason why you can’t use it as a call to enter early on.
In Award Force, you can encourage submissions by applying an early-bird discount for entrants or drum up support for your program by offering discount codes to special entrants.
Will entrants get feedback?
If your program intends to give feedback to entrants from judges, make it known to the potential entrant. Award Force has loads of functionality that allows users to log in and see feedback from judges on their entry/submission. For more on providing feedback see this support article.
Broadcast to existing entrants
Broadcasts are a great way to communicate with participants. If you have an email database of past entrants or/& managed your program through Award Force last season, you can simply send a broadcast to those users to let them know that entries are opening soon or are now open.
Encourage more people to enter by making it clear they can simply register by using their social media accounts. You can set it so entrants can register with any of Facebook, Google, Twitter or Wordpress.
By activating social sharing (under Settings > General > Social) you can also encourage entrants to share your program with others via social media.
Don’t forget to set a social sharing image and description!
Calls-for-entry should be a reflection of your program and should give potential entrants all the information they need to decide whether your program is attractive to submit to. Remember to focus calls-for-entry in the places that your potential entrants frequent and create a message and message format that is appropriate for both audience and channel.