Entering awards – what’s the deal with deadlines?

Anyone who’s ever been responsible for submitting a business award entry is all too aware of the pressure to deliver by the awards deadline – but how set in stone are deadlines, and is there any wiggle room available if you’re running late?

Writing a captivating and compelling award entry is one thing, but as with any project with a set timescale, there are lots of things that can hold up the process. After all, you’re almost certainly going to be reliant on colleagues and clients to help you collate the information you need, so it’s not just your schedule to consider.

Ask questions about awards deadline extensions

Generally speaking, professional awards run seasonally, with submission deadlines falling in the season prior to selection and the ceremony. So as a rough guide, deadlines for summer awards are usually in January/February, for autumn awards you’ll need to submit by the summer, and for spring awards, in the winter.

While you’ll already know the official deadline date of any award you’re entering, it can pay to do your homework. Many annual awards submissions regularly overrun, so don’t be afraid to ask. Make a call to the awards organisers to see if they’ve ever extended the deadline, and if so, by how long. Check if there’s generally any flexibility, and ask if any extensions tend to be the norm, or are only granted in specific or extenuating circumstances.

We tend to make a phonecall to talk deadlines at the start of any entry process to understand what’s usual for that set of awards, and then another one around two weeks before the deadline as that’s often when decisions are being taken about extensions. And the more people who call to enquire about an extension, the more chance there will be one!

Unrealistic awards deadlines

Because submission dates fall throughout the year, we sometimes come across some pretty unrealistic deadlines for entries. We recently had an enquiry regarding an award that had a deadline of 31st December, and there are some public sector awards who always request submissions for the very beginning of September.

The problem is that the weeks and days running up to these deadlines are usually busy times for holidays. People like to extend their Christmas breaks and take time off during the summer to be with their kids – and people without children (or without school-age children) often book holidays in early September once the kids are back. This makes the information gathering, production and sign-off process of your award submission pretty tricky to navigate, so these unrealistic deadlines nearly always end up being extended to accommodate for this.

That is why it’s important to ask if there’s any leeway for your award submission – at least then you’ll know if you have a little extra time to play with, or if you need to bring the deadline forward internally to ensure you can work around any potential issues.

The thing to remember about deadlines is that every set of awards is different. Some routinely add a fortnight to their deadline, others never ever extend it. What’s important is that you know the rules of the game you’re playing when you start.

If you want expert advice about entering awards, whether that’s about deadlines or the detail of the submission itself, give our friendly team a call on 0208 720 7307.