Speak to a lot of business owners and they’ll tell you that corporate awards are just a vanity exercise. They’re nothing more than an excuse to backslap and stroke egos; a distraction from the day-to-day business. It’s a noble approach and one that shows a dedication to growing the business but it’s also potentially an opportunity missed. To be blunt, however honourable your objection may be, it gives your competitors a platform to get one step ahead of you as an established, credible brand.
When we have this conversation with clients, it always comes down to the same question: are awards actually a worthwhile use of time for a business? There’s no denying that they require effort but in short, the answer is very often yes, absolutely. The trick is in identifying the awards that actually add value to your business, whether that’s in the credibility it provides, the networking opportunities it generates or the platform it gives you to market yourself.
So, what value can an award have? What does it actually mean? When we are trying to explain the benefits of award entries to clients, we refer back to ‘the 3 Cs’ – credibility, conversation and community. Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail…
An award is a stamp of authority for your business – a formal recognition of the values and skills that you talk about. Third-party endorsement is a huge element of public relations and it doesn’t come much higher than an industry or consumer award. We all like to talk about how great we are but an award is definitive proof that you are capable of backing up your claims.
Awards also create conversations across all walks of business. It’s a pretty significant talking point. You can update your website and distribute a press release celebrating your nomination or win, but you’ll also get people commenting on it unsolicited. You’d be surprised at how far award news reaches. Consumers and businesses alike take notice of awards. Remember that people are like magpies; we’re drawn towards shiny things!
Finally, being involved with award entries is evidence of an active participation in the community. It implies that you are a dynamic, evolving and engaged business, plugged into the heart of your industry. A connected business is far superior to a disconnected one, which could give you the edge the next time someone is deciding between you and a competitor.
The most difficult part is identifying the right awards and leveraging their value to ensure you get the most out of them. You also need to use your time efficiently – writing an awards entry every month can be time consuming if you aren’t familiar with the key points. That’s where a PR agency can offer effective support; we know what awarding bodies look for and as objective outsiders we can offer an impartial view of what is truly outstanding and award-worthy within your business.
That’s all well and good, but where’s the proof?
Sometimes, it’s as simple as identifying the right award to enter. We advised one of our longstanding clients, Buckfast Abbey, to enter for The Royal Horticultural Society and South West in Bloom and Britain in Bloom Awards. The gardens at Buckfast Abbey are key to their marketing message, so an award that recognises organisations who cultivate beautiful, peaceful gardens made perfect sense. Of course, they won the Gold Award (which was no surprise to us) and now have an excellent platform to talk about the amazing work they do, with added credibility to take into their marketing and promote the gardens.
Occasionally, your award entry may need a little bit extra to wow the judges. Maybe you need something creative that will really grab their attention. Scomis are a provider of ICT solutions for the education sector and in 2015 they asked us to help edit and repurpose a video for an award. They needed this for their entry in the ICT Service and Support category at the BETT Awards 2016, one of the most prestigious awards in their industry.
Scomis went on to win the award in 2015 and 2016 and are now aiming for another win in 2017 with an entirely new video creative, produced this year by Chalk & Ward. The awards have propelled Scomis and added to their already impressive set of credentials, helping them stand out amongst their competitors when seeking new business. It’s unheard of for anyone regional to win this industry award, so it has really put Scomis on the map and they’ve gone from strength-to-strength and deservedly so!
You also need to make sure you get as much leverage from your award entry as possible. In 2016, we wrote two award entries for Van Guard Accessories and helped them scoop the Innovation Award and the prestigious overall Business of the Year title at the Exeter Express and Echo Business Awards 2016.
Not only did this generate good feeling amongst the staff, giving them an opportunity to celebrate the team’s success over recent years, but also provided them with a springboard to engage with the region’s business community. Van Guard are developing their presence by sponsoring a brand new manufacturing category at the awards and becoming a champion for manufacturers in the South West – all off the back of their original awards.
Awards don’t have to be a vanity exercise, nor are they just a necessary evil. They can be so much more than that. If you use them to their full potential they can become an effective additional marketing tool… except they usually come with a three-course dinner too, and who could argue with that?