Awards contests are the term paper/finals of the publishing industry. As a custom media company, Hammock enters a number of contests each year, and we’ve done well. Entering a competition is a true team effort – at the minimum you involve at least one editor, a writer, and a designer, More often, you have to pull everyone in and engage in serious discussions about your product and about strategy.

That takes a lot of time – and the fact that competition sponsors often extend the deadlines testifies that most companies go down to the wire to get the job done. If you’ve done it, you know. If not, I’m here to help you through the process.

Over more than 21 years with custom media firms, I have somehow regularly drawn the award entry wrangling duty. So I feel that I can speak as an expert when it comes to making it to the FedEx collection center just before closing.

Here are my tips for my fellow competition wranglers:

  • Start early. Appoint someone to own the project, hereinafter referred to as “you.” Ideally, you should also be given a cloak, hood and scythe like the Grim Reaper, since you may need to threaten your colleagues with death in order to get their entries done on time.
  • Delegate tasks such as selecting entries and categories to the appropriate persons, such as editors and art directors.
  • Always mention the pending deadline at every opportunity, such as at weekly company meetings. Wear the cloak and hood, and swing the scythe menacingly at all such gatherings, and in the lunchroom, too. (Keeps people from messing with your snacks, which you will need for energy as the deadline approaches.)
  • If your boss or supervisor is supposed to handle an assignment, be particularly hard on him or her to show that you are an effective manager.
  • As the deadline draws down to the final couple of weeks with no response from your colleagues, ask the bookkeeper for petty cash to buy bribery material such as chocolate, beer, Scotch or Wiis.
  • After the bookkeeper refuses, buy them anyway on a company credit card, and ask forgiveness later.
  • With about a week left, start planning what you think should be entered and how to fill out the forms and write the essays, since you will wind up doing most of that anyway. Especially if your boss is supposed to do an entry — that person is an even more effective manager than you are and will delegate the job back to you about an hour before the entries have to ship.
  • Keep in mind, once you have been assigned to handle contest entries, you will always do them. Even if someone takes over from you – when they leave, the duty will come back to you, like a persistent case of malaria.