How to Host a Essay Writing Contest

papers image by Dmitry Nikolaev from

An essay contest can be an effective marketing technique. While hosting an essay contest may seem like a difficult strategy, it really is not as complicated as it seems. With a few simple steps, you can run an essay contest to market your company, organization or idea to the masses. The most time-consuming part is going to be reading all the submissions you receive from those who chose to enter.

Decide on your topic. Your entrants need to know specifically what topic they should be writing on. Topics are directly related to the organization running the contest. For example, The Ayn Rand Institute sponsors several annual contests for essays about her novels.

Budget your time. Essays take time to write, read, and evaluate; therefore, you have to make sure you leave enough time to cover those three stages. The Anthem essay contest runs yearly with a submission deadline in March and a notification of winners in July. This means those participating can have up to a year to write their essay, but the judges have three months to read and evaluate the entries. Keeping in mind this is a well-publicized contest, you may not need as much time, but it is better to have more time rather than less.

Set the rules. The rules set the expectations for your entrants. First and foremost, you want to ensure you have set minimum and maximum word counts for the submitted essay. This is also where you decide if you will take multiple submissions from entrants, what the manuscripts should look like, who can or cannot participate. Most contests will not allow anyone directly affiliated with the organization running the contest to participate. Also determine if you are going to keep all submissions or return them.

Select the judges and request their participation.

Choose your submission method. Unless you wish to get a lot of mail, it is simpler these days to have essays turned in by email. However, you must keep in mind using a solely electronic method may limit your pool of entrants. Therefore, most essay contests have both an electronic submission method and a physical mailing method available.

Consider prizes. There is no bigger draw for a contest than getting something out of it. If you are not a very large organization, you may wish to offer exposure as an incentive instead of a monetary prize. Some contests make money to offer cash prizes through requiring entry fees. Entry fees can be a good or bad thing in that there will be a number of people who do not enter because of them, though it can bring in capital for those hosting the contest.

Advertise your contest. Consider using message board related to your topic or organization for advertising. If you have a mailing list, utilize it to get the word out for your contest.

Notify your winners on time and make sure you come through with your prizes. One quick way to ruin your reputation as a contest is not to follow through on your promises.