How to Win at the SPA Awards 2024
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SPANC24: Get your award entry fit to submit
There's not long to go to get your award nominations submitted for the SPA National Awards 2024, so we've collated all the top tips to help you get shortlisted and in with a better chance of winning at #SPANC24.
We have three new awards this year: Best Investigation, Best Culture Publication or Section(s) and Best Culture Writer (both voted for by our members at last year's AGM).
This is alongside categories for news, sport, features, and of course our publication awards including Best Newcomer and the sought after Best Publication.
Here you'll get the lowdown on what our trustees panel look for when shortlisting, plus some simple tweaks and tricks that can make your entry stand out from the crowd when it gets in front of our judges.
First up, it's worth clicking through and giving our national awards guide a full and thorough read. Every category has different requirements for entry, from word count to the amount of supporting pieces you can submit. Download it, keep it close, and if you've got any questions email firstname.lastname@example.org
Break up your text with subheadings
For publication submissions the maximum word count is much higher so improve the readability with subheadings. The Economic Tribune who won Best Specialist Publication last year used the criteria as their subheadings, for example: "Our Place Within the Student Community”, “The Quality of our Content”, “Our Dedication to Innovation”.
This clearly shows judges how they fulfil the criteria - and they went on to win!
"The main thing is to make your entry clear and easy to read. Put the most important bits first, think of it like a news story - sharp and to the point, avoid essay-style writing. This also goes into design — a nice design can work well, but not at the expense of being easy to read. We’re looking at your work ultimately, so don’t be put off if design isn’t your thing."
Show progress and include stats
An easy way to show impact is with stats. The Beaver (HC Best Overall Digital Media, 2023) included screenshots from their Instagram analytics to show reach. Palatinate (winners Best Sports Section) created a graphic with their impressive stats! You can also show us progress in terms of new members involved, or screenshot how your publication's design or website has developed over the course of the year.
The Mancunion (winner Best Newspaper Design, 2023) showed the development of their print design.
Palatinate Sport's stats to show their impressive range of coverage!
"I'm often looking for impact and evidence. I want people to show or tell me what happened as a result of an article they wrote - whether through social engagement/views of the piece, or changes in university policy. Tangible ways in which you've helped improve the lives of your readers are a big tick for me."
Make it visual
As well as your links, include screenshots of your publication or website. You can even show us what your socials look like on phones using Canva frames. Your links are limited but pictures are not!
Best Newspaper Design, HC
Best Magazine Design, Winner
Best Overall Digital Media, Winner
"Generally we reward highly student focused or localised stories! Judges are more likely to reward entries that show a good understanding of what audiences want from your publication and areas you’re able to speak about knowledgeably. We’d rather read a match report of your university team than a Premier League match from the other side of the country!"
Include specific articles even in publication submissions
Highlight the best articles your publication has produced this year and tell us why. Did they change policy on campus? Was there a difficult media law issue to navigate? Did it get the student body talking? Our judges can't see what you've submitted for other categories so show them the brilliant range of reporting within your publication.
“I love a submission that shows an understanding of / ability to hold power to account - does the SU lead on the issue? Is it a university issue? Local council? I also look for collaboration with other groups, societies or the local community. That’s a great way of showing impact and understanding of your audience.”
Watch our online session from Jem Collins as she shares her top tips! Packed with extra insights, and answering questions from members, Jem runs through the things that should be top of your mind as you're finishing off that nomination. Stick it on and get ahead of the competition. Remember, nominations close on 19th February!