Are you an Award winner? Here’s how to leverage Awards for PR

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Awards can be a tremendous way of building a brand and getting publicity, and there are 10 different ways to use awards. These are all free tips and ways for businesspeople to enter awards to build both brand awareness and confidence inside the organisation for staff, partners, and clients.

Summer tends to be the quiet time when it comes to awards, as awards ceremonies are normally held towards the end of the year. There are awards by industry, and every industry tends to have its own awards organised by the industry association. Being a member of the industry association is obviously a key prerequisite. Secondly, there may be national, regional, or local awards. Those will be a function maybe of local government or a local business council. The next category would be run by the media. For them, awards create a highlight. It’s an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the readers and subscribers, and also from a commercial point of view, it’s a lucrative part of the publisher’s franchise. Because whilst online has taken a lot of the advertising revenue, the desire to sit in a large room with one’s peers and to be celebrated for your winnings is something that can’t be replaced by being online. 

Where to find awards and how to join them

To enter awards, there is a website called Awards List that claims to be the world’s first and largest award entry consultancy, and they’ve helped clients win over 1,400 awards. They have a team of dedicated writers and “application scribes,” since entering an award can take up some time. Naturally, the harder an award is to win, the more prestigious it is. On this website, they count over 4,000 awards, both in the UK and internationally. While that might seem like a lot, that’s just a fraction of the awards that there are out there to be entered and to be won. If you don’t want to contract a specialist agency, public relations agencies can also help craft an application, since there’s a fair amount of writing involved, gathering of case studies, submitting photographs, interviews, and more.

If you look at the kind of award that you’re entering, the more complex the award is in terms of the the groups that are in the judging panel and the stature of the awards, then the more power that award is going to have when it comes to winning and putting that out in a press release. Many awards are free to enter, because the money isn’t in the awards entry. It’s in the gala dinners and the profiles. Moreover, there are some that charge a nominal fee to enter just to remove those people that enter without any real commitment to the process.

You can find awards through your trade association, publisher, or local government. Look for at least one in the local, regional, or national category, one in an industry category, and one in a media category. It would be great to have a minimum of one, but ideally, two to three awards per category that you could enter would be better. Try setting a goal of entering 10 awards per year, because they don’t all happen at the same time of the year either. Many happen towards the tail end of the year with submissions in September and October, but they’re happening throughout the year, and it’s a really great way of identifying what your company’s doing and starting the process of promoting it.

Using awards to gain publicity 

Once you’ve entered, especially if your company is a finalist, then it’s an awesome opportunity to share that. Normally, you’re allowed to use the logo of the award. It could be a physical award or an award taking place through online entries. Either way, it would be good to announce the fact that you’re entering and competing. Assuming that you do actually win, the next step would be to have third party endorsement of the business. Being able to say that you are an award winner is a great differentiator amongst the competition.

Another thing to do is to connect the award to a broader story. There can often be an award won inside a vertical niche or an industry. If that in itself is struggling to get publicity in the broader media, then that award indicates that the industry is important. For instance, if you are working in clean tech and you were to win an award for, say, a best solar or water product, to then attach that to the growth story of sustainability and being an award-winning company in that sustainable industry sector could carry enough to get a journalist in a mainstream publication interested. If you win an award, promote it within your circles, to your staff, to customers, and partners, in your stores, your literature, on the back of business cards, on email signatures, and most certainly on the website. 

Another thing to do would be to issue a press release. Getting the news out that you’ve won is tremendous in a press release, but don’t be disappointed if it’s an industry magazine that’s given an award, and that therefore, the other publications will not cover it. If you win a Forbes award, then it probably won’t be covered in Fortune. So, bear in mind that if it’s an industry vertical media, that may not get picked up by the other media in the same industry. Apart from that, winning gives you a reason to create a discount which may entire more customers to purchase your product or service. 

You can also start to affiliate yourself with the other judges, the organisation, and the winners. That’s useful in itself, because you’re mixing by definition with “winners.” When posting on social media, always tag the judges, the organisation, and the winners. That way, you are increasing the chances of connecting with them on social media, and you get some uplift if everyone starts to promote one another.

We can also, of course, start to see ourselves as authorities, either as an individual or as a company if we’ve won an award. That endorsement that I mentioned at the beginning gives an opportunity to create some leverage during speaking engagements when we are then able to say, “As an award-winning entrepreneur,” “As an award-winning scientist, “As an award-winning author,” whatever it is. It’s a great line, because that authority means that other people will want to listen maybe more than if you’re just someone who has been doing that for a number of years. 

Awards entries are things that can absolutely create opportunities for publicity. They’re in themselves a good exercise, because they force you to practice writing down what you’re doing and what you’re doing well. Both winning awards and organising awards are a great way to connect with members of the industry. It’s one thing to enter; it’s also just as great to take part, because you learn from the process, and you might just meet someone who may be a great employee, investor, partner, or customer as a result of taking part.

Ultimately, business is a competition, and we have our own internal metrics. But if we can win awards and be seen to be winning awards, then that is the best endorsement that we can possibly get for our business. I’d encourage you to look for two to three awards from your local, regional, or national category, look for industry, and look for local media or vertical media awards. That should give you a nice round number of 10 to enter. If you are winning 10% of that, then at least you’ve got one big award that you’ve won, and you can reward your staff and team as well for all of their hard work. Let’s not forget then the the benefits of winning an award for morale. Even if we don’t win, it’s to at least show people that we’re there, and we’re competing, and that we are potential award winners, and even in competing, that we are actually very much a vibrant and alive business.

With that, I encourage you to look at the events that you could enter. Think of the awards that you would like to take part in, and maybe even sponsor an award if you feel like you would like to do that and get the benefits from sponsorship, or if one doesn’t exist already, as I did in China in 2008, take on the mantle and create an awards for your industry, your town, your city, your industry, because we all need recognition and awards, and it coming from our peer group is the greatest recognition of all.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

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