Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast
Chris Robinson is the Managing Director of Boost Awards, and whenever he asks people why they think it would be worthwhile for their company to enter an awards show, three answers come up every single time. The most important reason is it helps them win more work. From Boost Awards’ own study, they found that when buying business services, 82.4% of respondents said an award substantially influenced their buying decision when presented with two comparable quotes. This proves that awards are an inexpensive way of making an significant impact on consumers. The second reason is morale. There’s no doubt that if you’re part of a company that’s won a prestigious award, it’s a boost for the team’s morale. The third one is it gets investors or buyers, and different types of awards would work on this agenda.
Boost Awards began in 2006, when Chris made the decision to leave the company he worked for. He felt that no one out there was helping people enter awards, which was something that he enjoyed. He discovered that there was a hole in the otherwise saturated marketing industry for this possible service. Boost Awards is out here to disprove the misconception that winning an award is hard work and that companies are not likely to win. He believes wards are winnable, and anyone can win an award. The question is which award, and that’s got two elements to it. First is, which award is suitable for the business? Since there’s no point entering nonsense awards. There are pay-to-win awards, but Chris doesn’t recommend them. The second element is, which awards are suitable for the business’ story? A business could gain value from an award about offering great customer service or being the best in the industry, but the story has to match that narrative in order to win. Those two sides of the equation have to be aligned, and part of what Boost Awards does is that matchmaking exercise.
Everyone wants to be officially the "best" according to their main trade publication, but there are so many categories to be the best in. Boost Awards has over 4,000 awards in their database. Picking awards carefully means choosing those that are credible and winnable and can add a lot of value to the business. A lot of companies first opt to try their local award schemes, but Chris says it might actually be easier to win international awards. There are many awards out there that will look fantastic on the marketing material that a company or its audience might have never heard of yet, so it becomes a great opportunity to showcase that award.
The Boost Awards process
When people approach Chris and his team, the first thing they do is check that they’re not going to miss a crucial deadline by taking a strategic approach, and then they can take their time. The key is asking the right questions, because it helps clients think about their objectives, why they’re entering an award, what they’re trying to say, and who they’re trying to say it to. From that, they come up with keywords that they can do a keyword search on. If a company wants to say that they offer great customer service, the keywords could be customer experience, customer satisfaction, or customer contact. Boost Awards helps them understand the words that they want, because chances are whichever word they enter, the client or their employees might not have heard of it before, and there are only a handful of awards that people really recognise a brand for, so the trick is finding an award that says the right things.
After determining the appropriate keywords, they produce a list of awards for the client who will then log into their cloud-based platform. There may be 30-40 awards that meet their brief with the right words, the right phrasing, and it says the right thing about their business. Once they’ve whittled it down to around 5-10 awards, every photograph, diagram, infographic, testimonial, survey, report, every piece of evidence is gathered and prepared. The process can be planned for 12 months in advance to work out which stories are going to which categories of which awards.
The first step is to get the necessary information. Some people start award entries with writing, but Chris would not advocate doing that. It’s necessary from time to time, but in an ideal world, one should start by gathering evidence and making sure the objectives and outcomes marry up. Chris’ team will then do surveys, market research, competitor analysis, take photographs, and gather all the information. If case studies are needed, they will interview employees to get testimonials.
Once there is a strong evidence base, the next part is telling the story with a clever narrative rather than a classic journalistic approach, which is interviewing someone and telling the story with unsubstantiated assertions from start to finish. Narrating it in a linear way like that often doesn’t marry the beginning with the end, and it has to be symmetrical in terms of objectives and outcomes. Planning doesn’t just involve the awards; the story needs to be planned as well. The assets are gathered first, and then the story is written, which will definitely pay off in the end.
Deciding whether to join multiple categories is based on the original objective, which is what the goal of the business is when joining an award. From a PR perspective, Chris says to identify the core messages. Most B2B companies have their hero service offering, and they want one project that is their flagship project or something about the brand story that others can learn from. That creates the basis of a winning story. First find the hero projects and then go for project awards, which are mostly what B2B companies will enter. The other hero story is the company story that, when read by a judge, they can immediately understand the narrative and justify why that company deserves an award for it.
Telling the perfect story could be the key to winning an award
SMEs tend to have two hero stories: a project story and a company story, and answering the question, "What is that story?," isn’t at all easy. What makes a project story a potential winner has a number of components. It has to be innovative, it has to have clear results, and it has to be well-written. Also, the client would need to be cooperative, because trying to drag a client kicking and screaming through an awards process is not going to improve the customer relationship or produce a good outcome.
Not everyone is a winner, so joining an award is still worth it even if the company comes out as a finalist or semi-finalist, because a company does get something out of the simple act of entering an award. For instance, when bidding for B2B projects and mentioning in the proposal that you believe your project will be so effective and so groundbreaking that you will enter awards, even if the project hasn’t even started, that will increase the likelihood of winning by showing the energy and passion towards not just settling for delivering the brief, but doing something extraordinary. That simple articulation of a vision of winning awards has value.
When people enter awards, it raises their game and improves the evaluation practice. Only by putting the stories under a microscope does the company realise they could be better and find aspects to improve upon, and this highlights the usefulness of surveys. It’s beneficial on many levels, not just for findings. Asking employees how they’re doing and then showing that you listened to their survey responses and promise to do things differently adds value to the business. This goes for customers as well. Showing that you’re listening to customers, not just by surveying them but by doing follow-up communication too, encourages better practice, not just best practice. Even people who are already the best get better by allowing themselves and exposing themselves to being judged. It feels painful, but it makes people better. The act of entering awards will deliver value in its own right.
Some awards are easy to enter. It could just require 500 words and a logo, and so the burden of proof is quite light, and this could cost around £1,500. The easiest one to do is an individual award, like entering a person and have them do a few interviews and maybe a survey. For large corporate enterprises that want to enter the entire company into Bank of the Year or something similar, that would require days of planning and a couple thousand pounds.
If the plan is to just go for one story or one award and stop there, it’s going to feel expensive because of all that research that has to be done. If you have a plan and two hero stories, but you repurpose it, a company could go for a few categories. Each award gives you two or three chances of winning, and it’s very rare to come away without shortlisting. Boost Awards’ win rates are nearly 40%, so if you enter two or three categories, chances are you’re going to walk away with something. It’s highly recommended to choose awards where you have a good chance of winning and and awards which have multiple categories you can enter. At the end, when you add up how much it cost to enter each award, the figure plummets because rewriting and repurposing content equates to much less being spent per entry. In summary, joining awards will definitely be good for business, and if you’re interested in finding out more about Boost Awards, you could check out their website or connect with Chris on LinkedIn.
Photos from Boost Awards