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Monday, 28 September 2009

Award-Winning Impact

This is the second of 30 low cost PR Techniques re-visited some 10 years after our MD's best selling DIY PR book was published.

Business Awards

Win an award and you are forever "an award-winning business".

Awards may not be the sole determining factor in getting a sale, but all things being equal, holding an award can tip the balance.

  • Well respected awards are external recognition of your business.
  • A relevant award could well increase your score in a formal procurement assessment or tendering process.
  • It sounds impressive to be able to put 'an award-winning business" up on your website, and in your marketing and communications materials.
  • Joining an award winning business will seem more attractive to potential recruit.
  • Winning an award gives you an edge in the eyes of your advisers and investors, your peers, your neighbours, family and friends.
  • But most of all, awards used well can make you and your staff feel more confident, and that shows through in everything you do.

Winning an award stacks up lots of positive benefits provided that you use the accolade well, and make sure everyone hears about it. That means publicising it in:

  • newsletters,
  • e-mailshots,
  • on email and forum signatures,
  • the relevant local and trade press, and any relevant membership magazines for trade or professional associations
  • marketing & stationery materials, point of sale etc.


Great awards have great benefits, but they do take up time, so do take care to pick your awards carefully.

Some awards are much more respected than others, and some have very specific purposes. They broadly fall into the following groups:

  1. General Business Awards - in the UK this includes the Queens Awards for Enterprise and the National Business Awards (with regional feeder awards).
  2. Specific awards for industry sectors, often involving trade associations or specialists trade media
  3. Environmental and CSR awards
  4. Marketing awards and customer contact awards
  5. Training awards

At PHPR we have an associate who specialises in winning awards for clients and gets great results. When offering this service, we always stress that half the battle is choosing the right awards to enter. That is echoed by the specialist BOOST award writing agency. They suggest that you look for awards that offer expert judge's feedback. That way, no matter what outcome, you have won expert external consultancy. We totally agree.

Using awards strategically is not a quick fix. It means choosing ones that will benefit your business most. Awards that you genuinely can address with cutting edge flair. Awards that will send out key messages that you know are important to deliver to the key target audiences you need to reach. Then implementing measures that will produce award-winning outstanding results for your business and its audiences.

For example: we have translated various scientific aspects of environmental technology into everyday English to publicise the benefits for clients' end users. Some of our clients are in property-related fields, where environmental standards increasingly matter. We think the environment is a key growth area and we determined that winning an environmental award would underline our abilities in this field. We intend to use it to spearhead a campaign to win more of this type of business. It also helps that we have a genuine interest in being a low carbon company and have, for example, reduced, re-used and recycled since 1986.

We targeted the VIBES awards, Scotland's premier environmental awards, run by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency - SEPA.

When we entered VIBES last year I knew we didn't have enough specialist environmental expertise to pull together a really good environmental plan. But I had seen the application form and understood that the VIBES application process effectively corals you into producing a rounded environmental plan if you address the questions. We didn't expect to win anything last year, nor did we. It was a learning experience, but we did get expert feedback. We also went on the Winning a VIBES award course where we met some of the judges and found out what they are looking for. We found that not only helpful, but inspiring.

The efforts are starting to pay off. This year we have been short-listed, which we are absolutely delighted about. We await the judges' visit next month. We're not a dedicated environmental specialist company so I don't know how we'll do, but we will do our best. But just being short-listed for VIBES should improve our credibility when it comes to convincing prospective clients that we can get their eco messages across.

Whatever award you decide to go for, and there are thousands out there to choose from, you won't be the only one that has seen the value in awards. Your application needs to stand out with good evaluation and impact measurement to prove the business case.

And going through an external judges visit really rams the importance of the award subject matter into your teams. But that process starts long before the judges visit.

Adding awards-winning goals into a business involves everyone from top to bottom and can be used to drive the business forward in a specific direction. It is a year-long process to embed the ideas and collect the evidence to support your award application. All with the added frisson of competition to drive you on to create a winning entry that shows real innovation and quantifiable business benefits in addition to ticking all the award criteria boxes. The really top award evaluations will assess the impact of the changes on all the key target audiences and it must prove to be beneficial to these audiences, and not just boost the business and produce a ROI (return on investment).

If you are a niche company, do search out the specialised awards for your area. They can be excellent if you are aiming at a highly-targeted group and will bring your business name to the attention of professional or trade organisations, relevant trade media, plus potential recruits and customers.

And good luck!

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at

 

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