BY ANDI GRAY
Dilemma: We just won an award! How do we use that to market ourselves, and how can we go about pursuing other awards that we can use to promote our business in the future?
Thoughts of the Day: Winning awards is all about picking your shots versus hoping to get lucky. Find out what awards fall into your space now and the ones you’d have to work to get qualified for. Campaign to get the awards you want. Have a plan for how to pitch your company both at the time of the award and after the winners have been named.
There are lots of awards out there, from local business organizations to industry associations, networking groups, philanthropies, and publications; the list of backers goes on and on. Rarely do award candidates end up on the radar of award organizations just by accident: They have already done something for which they deserve to be recognized or they have done something to make themselves more visible so that they’re now receiving more recognition.
When it comes to deciding which awards to pursue, think about who you ultimately want to notice you. In which industry segments do you want to make a splash? Which awards are likely to be most meaningful to your business, are good for boosting PR, or making you more attractive to potential suppliers and referral sources? Where do your potential customers turn for advice on go-to firms? Also look to those segments where you want to grow the business and attract more customers, such as weddings or group travel. That’s your target list for awards.
Once you have your list, do your homework to figure out how to win awards in each of those spaces. Build a multiyear plan. You don’t want to—and probably can’t—go after every award all at once.
Assign a point person to each desired award. Make a list of things that have to be done to qualify. Create a timeline to prepare for each competition, taking into account any filing deadlines. Always keep your eye on the cost-benefit ratio of filing for awards—some may be more work than they’re worth.
If you're not sure you can do a good job getting the message across, hire a PR firm.”
It takes time and effort to win an award. Understand that there is a real cost involved in submitting your award packet (especially through staff time), so weigh that against the PR value you hope to receive. Smaller or more obscure awards may be good for the team and morale boost, but may not offer a good ROI.
You’ll need people advocating for your company. Line up your influential sources now and start working them. Figure out how long it will take to get them to know enough about your company so that they’d be willing to recommend you. Talk to others who have won the award.
Not all awards have the same application cycle—some are one and done while others require repeat attempts before your company rises to the top. Some are highly politicized. For each competition, think through what makes your company important enough to be recognized by the judges and sponsors.
It’s ultimately about telling a story. Take a close look at the overall company: products, services, employees, customers, innovation, thought leadership, philanthropy—what makes your company stand out? If you’re not sure you can do a good job getting the message across, hire a PR firm. Let them craft and promote the messages you want out there—whether you win or not, the promotional efforts will probably boost your market presence.
Once you’ve been notified about winning, prepare for the announcement and post-announcement marketing campaign. Keep in mind that most awards’ organizers like the ripple effect that comes from your company’s self-promotion.
Ask lots of questions about promoting the award. Can you take video of the awards ceremony? If so, post it online and on social media platforms. Create a handout for the awards ceremony; ask the promoter how to get that into everyone’s hands. Ask how people can attend and if you’re expected to pay anything. Find out if speeches will be necessary. If so, carefully select a speaker and make sure they rehearse. Ask about press releases and how can you tie in with the sponsors.
Consider making a video telling how your company competed for the award or why your team delivers something exceptional. Make a plan to keep the award visible to customers and prospects, employees, and candidates long after the award ceremony is past. [CD1215]