When I talk to people about public relations (PR), many business owners in particular only seem to focus on sending press releases and seeking publicity from the mainstream media or other less traditional media outlets.
And that is part of it. But let me ask a couple of questions: Who likes to win something? Who likes to be recognized for their good work? Those are rhetorical questions for sure, but I suspect most people would answer yes to both without hesitation.
Now what if I told you that another good public relations strategy is to seek and win business awards in your industry or your community?
Yes, that is something PR firms and publicists do on a regular basis. This model helps clients get recognition through award programs, not only within their industry ranks but by connecting the award announcement to a press release, social media campaign or even advertising.
Some are probably asking the “why” question right now. Let’s be clear – winning an award is mostly about validating the efforts of your team or company or even leadership. But when it comes to telling your story or sharing your brand, awards offer a number of important benefits.
Awards reward in many different ways
Winning an award gives you and your business credibility. Company reputations can be a fragile thing in this day and age so anything that shows off the quality of your work, the dedication of your team or the leadership skills of your managers can boost what potential customers think of you and your business.
Awards frequently come with media coverage, since many award programs are either sponsored by a media outlet or partner with them. Some media also find press releases about awards enticing, especially if it’s prestigious, unique or points out something special about both the honoree and the award sponsor.
Awards have the potential to give you and your company something your competitor doesn’t have. Simply put, awards reflect on your reputation and having one when a competitor doesn’t can give you an edge with a potential customer.
At the same time, many awards give you an opportunity to qualify for the same award annually. This creates a pattern of ongoing recognition, helping you to showcase a consistent approach to how you do business and create success.
Lastly, awards provide you a different way to promote your business through social media and your website by posting award badges and content. This is where press releases and media attention can come into play as well. There’s also advertising and other means, which I will mention in a few moments.
What kind of awards are out there?
- Workplace awards like the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For or the Inc. Best Workplaces program
- Awards based on financial performance and growth like the Inc. 500/5000
- Awards based on personal business excellence like Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year or Crain’s 40 under 40
- Awards from your local chamber
- Awards from industry groups like trade associations
- Awards from business publications
- Awards focused on leadership and individuals (such as top bankers in a market)
These are just a few. National awards obviously will have a lot more competition than regional or local awards, so that’s something to keep in mind when deciding whether you want to apply for an award. The national spotlight often equates with prestige but those awards are also obviously hard to come by.
There are also award programs that require that you get people to vote for you or your business. These programs usually leverage social media channels and basically you’re asking your followers to vote for your business. There’s nothing wrong this kind of award, but sometimes it can feel like a popularity contest and the winner is the business with the biggest following on social media. Other times, there are what we called “peer awards” – awards you win based on scoring or voting by your peers. You see those kind of awards in the legal field for example.
What’s involved in applying for these awards?
Applying for awards usually involves a nomination form – almost always completed online. The amount of information that is required varies but careful prep and review of the nomination requirements can be done ahead of time.
A key thing to keep in mind up front is whether or not you and your company meet the eligibility requirements, which sometimes includes things like years in business, revenue level, or number of employees for example.
Sometimes you will need a nominator, which can be a PR firm like Logos Communications, or someone else, but often you can also self-nominate.
This sounds simple but sometimes isn’t a priority: you have to apply by a deadline.
One thing to remember is that all award programs have costs – either those are collected through a fee paid at the time of nomination, or it’s paid later by those who won the award. That can be in ticket costs to attend the award event, advertising in the program book, sponsorship of an exhibit booth and so forth. Some costs are optional – just because you won a media award does not force you to advertise in their next issue.
What about those unsolicited emails saying you have won an award?
These are what we call a vanity award, a program where you basically pay for a plaque that you can display in your business and an award logo you can put on your website. Usually that’s not something most people are interested in, and media does not care, but if you’re a new business it may make sense to buy one of those awards to make your business look more credible.
In the end, seeking awards that validate what you are doing as a business makes sense and these allow you to further your public relations effort giving you credibility and a reason to reach out to media or others who might be interested in learning that you or your company has achieved recognition, sometimes really important recognition.
Here is a link to a YouTube video on the topic https://youtu.be/MKm5XfhP-Mw that features a conversation with me and our strategic partner, Valorous Circle (valorouscircle.com).