Awards are not really a PR tool. They aren’t a PR strategy. So why are they appealing?
The right award that has impact and moves the needle with customers and clients could be worth the effort. Many awards are not. Unless it’s the Grammys, Oscars or Nobel Prize, don’t count on coverage from journalists. You might find winning an award useful as a marketing and sales tool, and it’s exciting news to your clients and employees, but business awards don’t make front-page news. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether or not to apply for an award.

Good Awards vs. Not-so-good Awards
You and your target audience should have heard of the award, or if it’s new, the outlet offering the prize. A strong award has structure and shares details about judging and the criteria. It provides contact info for the applicant to ask questions easily and get clarification quickly if needed. It may have a submission fee, and it may not. The cost to apply doesn’t make an award great or terrible, but it should always be considered. 

Not-so-good awards are often just cash grabs. They may charge a considerable entry fee. Some may be free to submit but then require payment to receive the award, often disguised as a ticket to an expensive award presentation event. Even worse, the presenters may ask your organization to attend the event before knowing if you’ve won. Some awards sound impressive with fancy names, but when researched, they often turn out to be scams to get money from unsuspecting applicants. Check for these red flags and proceed cautiously so your PR team doesn’t waste valuable time and resources applying.

Some rankings such as Gartner and Forrester, while not awards, offer strong recognition and credibility to high-ranking organizations, making them worth the effort to pursue.

Do your homework. Work with your PR team to evaluate carefully. Make those connections – reach out and find out all you can so there are no surprises at the end. 

Here are five questions to consider before you apply.

    1. Is the award from a reputable media outlet or organization?
      Have you heard of them? Have your clients heard of the award? 
    2. Who were some of the past winners? Are they your competitors? Are past winners about the same size as your organization, or are they much larger like Apple or Microsoft or smaller unknowns? 
    3. How much does it cost to submit? Is it within your budget? Is it a smart spend?
    4. Does your company fit the criteria? Is there a relevant category that relates to what your company does or what feat you’ve recently accomplished?
    5. Why does your organization want to win? Reminder – awards don’t generate PR coverage unless they are from a media outlet. And then only that specific outlet will mention your company winning the award. If you want to have some bragging rights for your sales team or a strong marketing announcement to your customers and stakeholders, then submitting to win an award may make sense.

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of the questions above, it’s time to think about the submission process.

What Makes a Successful Submission?
It may seem like an easy task to fill out an award questionnaire, but simply answering the questions may not get you a win. Here are our recommendations from years of helping our clients submit (and often win) awards.

  1. Reach out. Take time to ask the outlet presenting the award to get as much information as possible. Ask them what they’re looking for in a successful submission. Are they looking for stories, simple bulleted points, or perhaps a combination?
  2. Tailor your application responses carefully to match what the outlet is looking for.
  3. Back up your answers with data. 
  4. Avoid jargon and generalizations. Share success stories that illustrate what project was a game changer. Why is your company the best? What has it done for clients that backs up that claim?
  5. Keep your answers focused on the heart of the award, what your organization has done, and how it relates to the recognition you are trying to win. 
  6. Limit your answers to stories and data from 12 months before the award submission deadline. Old news won’t make the cut.
  7. Leave your marketing messages at the office. Don’t share your tagline or slogans. That’s a quick way to get your application tossed out.
  8. If the award requires you to share revenue specifically, you’ll need to open the books to win. If the award simply asks about growth, you can share growth percentages such as the number of new employees or customers, opening a new office, increases in product sales, or other illustrative data. 

Is there PR Value in Winning an Award?
While winning the right award can build credibility and give your sales and marketing teams some good news to share, we can’t stress enough that journalists rarely cover even the best awards. When the award comes from a media outlet – i.e., Wired, Fast Company, the outlet will cover your company in award announcements, but that’s usually the extent of coverage.

Your Company is a Winner! What’s Next?
It’s exciting, and you should be proud of your win. The next steps entirely depend on the company giving the award. Keep in mind that the award presenter is promoting themself and building their credibility, not just supporting the winners. Some have strict guidelines that must be followed to prevent getting blocked from future consideration.

If the guidelines allow, put out a press release. Add your win to your website home page, write a blog post and share it on your social media accounts. Use the win as a talking point and a marketing tool.

And maybe throw a party – masks optional!

Need Guidance for an Award Submission or to Build Credibility for Your Company?
Upright Position Communications is here to help! We’ve helped companies win respected awards and recognition for more than ten years. We also understand how to use public relations strategies (not awards) to build, enhance, or repair your organization’s reputation. Let’s have a conversation about your goals. Email us to get started.