You’ve probably heard that you can’t win the lottery if you don’t enter.
Well, the same is true for the National Federation of Press Women communications contest. However, your odds of winning in the NFPW contest are a whole lot better.
But does figuring out what to enter seem overwhelming? Do you hesitate to enter anything but what you think is your very best work?
“My best advice is to keep a running list of possible contest entries, and enter a lot,” says Tammy Keith, the 2017 NFPW sweepstakes winner.
“Some of the articles I enter aren’t my favorites, but I know they fill a gap and could put me over the edge in the contest,” adds the Arkansas Press Women member.
She knows what she’s talking about. This is the second time she has been named the national sweepstakes winner, and she has been a runner-up at least once.
Don’t wait until the last minute to enter, 2016 NFPW sweepstakes winner Pam Knudson recommends.
“Give yourself adequate time – say, at least a couple of weeks ahead of deadline – to look over your work and consider what you want to enter,” the North Dakota Professional Communicators member says. “This will give you a chance, in a more relaxed way, to mull over and select your best work.”
Don’t forget: The early bird deadline for the 2018 contest is Jan. 23. You can save $25 if you enter by then. The final deadline for entries is Feb. 6. Visit the contest page for rules and categories.
The contest is a two-tiered competition. First, you compete at the state level. First-place winners at the state level are eligible to move on to the NFPW contest.
Here are some more tips from the two national sweepstakes winners:
· Not only keep a list of possible entries, but also note the publication or broadcast dates so they’re easy to find when you’re ready to enter the contest. Use an asterisk or other cue to highlight the pieces that make you the most proud. That will make spotting the “contest-worthy” entries and matching them to the correct categories easier to do.
· Interpret the writing categories somewhat broadly. You may have a story you think has a lot of potential, but you’re not sure which category it should be submitted in, or if the contest has a category for it. If you take the broad view of the category, you may find you have more stories that are more appropriate for submission than you thought.
· In the writing for print categories, submit a pdf of the story, rather than the online version. Generally, if the publication employs talented graphic designers, the print version likely will be much more appealing and have greater impact than the online version.
“Most of all, I just love what I do, and it’s a challenge to find unique stories or an angle no one else has,” Keith notes. “Be fearless!”
For Knudson, remembering why she enters the contest is a great motivator.
“Winning the sweepstakes award in the NFPW communications contest is a tangible validation of the quality of my work,” she says. “It is a great honor to be recognized by others who strive to create articles that will give readers enjoyment and/or increase their understanding of an issue.”
Other NFPW contest winners offer this advice:
· Don’t be cheap! The more you enter, the better your chances of winning.
· If your state allows more than one entry in a category, take advantage of it.
· Ask a friend or colleague to help you think of something you should submit or decide which items to enter.
· Be versatile. Don’t automatically enter something in the obvious category. For example, an article about a teacher who developed an entrepreneurship class could be entered in education, business or maybe personality features.
· Don’t stop looking. Sometimes when looking for an entry, you will see something else worth entering.
· Think like a judge. Look for problems or issues that would cause a judge to disqualify an entry.
· Take time with your explanation statement (if it’s required for your category) so you cover each element the judges will consider. Follow the instructions, and do not exceed the stated length.
· Don’t forget to define your role in your entry, and make sure you relate your role correctly.
· Double-check your entries. Make sure you’ve met all the requirements and have no typos.
· Have fun and think about the contest as an opportunity to improve your craft.