That said, there are definitely credible and worthwhile business awards out there that will benefit you and your organisation. But applying for an award takes time and effort, so it’s important to be prepared. Read on for tips and advice to help you do your best:
The first thing is to have a clear understanding of why you want to win the award: what are you hoping to achieve? (Fun though the awards dinner and celebrations may be, they are not a sufficient reason!)
There are lots of possible benefits – and some downsides – to be aware of:
This is one of the first things that comes to mind when you mention awards, and it’s the desire to be recognised as an “award-winner” that makes all those spam award emails so plausible. Do bear in mind, though, that not every badge of approval has credibility, and that even genuine honours are of little value if you don’t leverage the acclaim.
If you put some effort into the PR side of things, winning an award can definitely bring increased visibility. But remember, like social media “follows” and “likes”, this visibility probably doesn’t equate automatically to either increased sales or higher profits.
If a prospective client sees the results of your award-centred PR, or notices that your website sports a badge for a credible award, they may well feel that your business is to be trusted and that they should consider working with you. But other kinds of social proof, including testimonials and case studies, may be equally effective in inspiring confidence in your stakeholders.
One less frequently cited reason for applying for an award is that it can raise your company profile for potential associates, employees or investors. Again, whether this works or not is down to the success of your visibility activity. It may also depend heavily on which award you put in for and on who the organisers are.
Perhaps you want to recognise your team’s recent efforts and so you decide to nominate them for an award. They will no doubt be proud that you have noticed what they are doing, but there is no guarantee that they will win their category. Paying for everyone in the team to attend the awards dinner is a nice gesture, but some of the staff would probably prefer to be thanked in other ways.
If you have a new product or service, or have completed a project that you’re particularly proud of, submitting it for an award can be a good way to get it noticed. Again, of course, there’s no guarantee of winning and the real visibility will only happen if you are prepared to put the effort into PR.
Submitting award applications takes time. Some larger companies have incorporated it into their formal marketing plan and have full-time staff dedicated to the task. But for most organisations it’s a “nice to have” not an essential. Whatever your position, it’s clear that a strategic approach is needed.
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you should look closely at the organisation behind the awards, which business sector the awards are aimed at, what geographical limits there are on entrants etc. And finally, of course, you need to consider which category is most appropriate. Often there may be a dozen possible categories but you can only be able to enter one or two, so choose carefully.
Beware of scams. Check the organisation behind the awards to see if it’s credible. Also see if you can find information on past winners. While there are a few genuine awards that charge an entrance fee, in general, you won’t want to enter awards that require payment, or that insist on you buying a table – or even a seat – at the celebratory dinner.
Some people are surprised to realise that you can self-nominate for business awards. At first sight, it might seem to cheapen the achievement. But, while it would be lovely to think that someone else is going to put your name forward, this isn’t usually the case. Anyway, you know your business better than anyone else, so who is better informed than you to know which award you should win and to present your case effectively?
While you’re checking things out, it’s very important to beware of awards that are judged by social media votes. If winning comes down to how many people click a like button, there will always be companies that have the resources to game the system. Try and find out who the judges will be, as this will give you a better idea of what they are looking for and whether your organisation is likely to make the grade.
However appropriate an award is for your business, remember that there is a deadline to be met. If you don’t have time to do the application well, it’s probably not worth entering this year. Most awards are annual events, so make sure you get on the reminder list and put the date in the diary to do a full-on submission next year.
There are definitely credible and worthwhile business awards out there that will benefit you and your organisation.
There are plenty of businesses out there who will complete your application for you – at a price. Think hard before signing up with one of them: you and your staff know more about your business than anyone else, and if the judging process includes an interview, you’re the one who’s going to have to face the judges.
Once you’ve completed one award application, you will have a skeleton mapped out for others. But each set of judges will be looking for something different, so it isn’t just a question of cut and paste. This is especially true if you are applying for two categories in the same awards, as the same judges may read all the entries and they are unlikely to be impressed by a cookie-cutter approach.
If you aren’t sure what to include in your application, you may find it useful to talk to the people who work with your business: suppliers, clients, collaborators and, of course, staff may all have useful insights into what makes your organisation unique.
Remember that every award is different, so you need to READ THE RULES. Then:
The work isn’t over when you’ve sent off the entry form: whatever your reason for entering, this is the time to start your PR campaign.
Perhaps the simple fact that you have entered for an award isn’t very newsworthy, but you may be able to find a topical spin and get lucky with the story. Anyway, you can start to talk about the awards and leverage social media; contact others who are in the same boat; connect with fellow entrants and see where the conversation goes.
Being short-listed is newsworthy. And it’s a further opportunity to be seen to be talking about the awards, the other short-listers, and whatever you put in your application about your business. At this stage, you may get a logo or badge to use on your website or social media feeds.
And, of course, the announcement of the finalists is yet another opportunity to engage with all and sundry. If by any chance you haven’t got through to the final selection, you can still join in the conversation – and if you’ve already made connections and taken part in the conversation, this will be so much easier.
On the other hand, if you don’t make the cut, always remember to be generous to those who have moved forward without you: they can be powerful allies and there will be other opportunities for you.
You may be wondering why you need to go through all the rigmarole of submitting an application for an award when you could just buy a ticket to attend the awards evening. But while it is marvellous to be present and mix and mingle, there is a clear advantage to being in the room as a finalist rather than as a looker-on. Even as a finalist, you may not get your moment on stage, but you’ll almost certainly feature in photos of the event and your name will be in front of everyone who attends.
Think seriously about who you are going to invite to join you at the event. If your business is in the running for an award, you may initially want to invite the whole team. Depending on what the award is, and your reasons for entering, it may be more strategic to only have a few key players there, alongside clients, prospects or other stakeholders.
The awards ceremony will be even more effective if you do your homework beforehand. Which other finalists, sponsors or judges would be useful connections for you? Don’t be shy: if you’re there as a finalist, you have a right to be seen and can ask the organisers for introductions.
Of course, if you’ve really done your homework, you have probably already made those connections on LinkedIn and you may have arranged to meet in person as the precursor for a longer conversation. But don’t expect to have detailed business conversations at an awards event: however much you’d like this to happen, there are likely to be far too many interruptions!
The awards event is often seen as the climax of the awards process. But, whether or not you are a winner, you can continue the conversation far beyond that one evening. There should now be high quality official photos, as well as the candid shots you and your guests may have taken, so this is the time to send off press releases and make social media posts. If you have these prepared in advance, it will save having to scrabble to get them written the day after the celebrations, but do make sure the information tallies with the final announcements at the event.
Make sure you have the awards logo or badge in the right format to accompany those press releases, and also get it added to your website and social media feeds. You may want to incorporate it in your email signature, too, even if only temporarily.
There is still work to be done on leveraging connections and continuing conversations with others involved in the event. If the awards organiser doesn’t plan any further get-togethers, you may want to make strategic introductions or host an informal event yourself to draw together some of the connections you have made. You don’t need to be a winner yourself to do this and facilitating conversations between others will raise your profile.
We’ve already mentioned that you could avoid the whole rigmarole of applying for an award and just attend the celebrations. You don’t usually even need to pay for an entire table. If you and a few guests end up sharing a table with another business, that’s a good opportunity to make new connections.
However many guests you are hosting, think strategically about who you invite. It should be a fun night out, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to introduce clients and other stakeholders who wouldn’t normally ever meet. Don’t expect them to have very meaningful conversations, but do try to find a mix of personalities and shared interests that may form the basis of an on-going conversation. Remember that if you have invited a group of guests, you will have certain responsibilities as host to see that everyone is engaged and gets something positive from the evening: be prepared to ask people to move seats between courses to maintain a comfortable dynamic.
While inviting guests or hosting a table without entering the awards will offer you some opportunities to enter the conversation, it provides a lot less engagement and involvement. Another role to consider is that of sponsor. Most awards offer headline sponsorship, as well as other, smaller packages, that come with different levels of perks.
While it avoids the effort involved in entering the awards, being a sponsor still requires taking a strategic approach. It’s important to choose an award that corresponds to your business interests and that will raise your profile in the space in which you want to be seen, whether by clients, investors or other stakeholders. And as a potential sponsor, you need to carry out the same due diligence regarding the credibility of the awards as those who enter. Similarly, you also need to consider when, where and how you leverage your association with the award on social media and in the press, and do the same strategic planning regarding hosting guests at the awards ceremony.
But sponsorship can be a highly effective marketing activity. Committing early on ensures that you are part of the conversation from the beginning, you should get invited to any pre- or post-awards events and your name can be every bit as visible as the actual winners.
Whatever your role, getting involved in business awards can be beneficial for your organisation. So why not give it a go?