Using awards as a PR tool

It is definitely that time of year.

Invitations to enter awards, or to attend awards dinners, are dropping into my inbox like leaves falling off trees. That rustling sound you can hear is the sound of cocktail dresses and dinner jackets being shaken out.

Awards are not just for the big established companies. Companies big and small have an equal chance of winning and some awards are definitely worth considering. Apart from the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get, being shortlisted for a coveted industry award can be a great source of PR for the business. If you win, the glow can last all year.

Most industry awards are free to enter and a list of business awards for the year can be found at sites like Awards List. Make sure that the awards that you’re considering are recognised by your industry and/or customers. There’s not much point in entering an award that no one has heard of – unless it’s a new award set up by a respected industry body – after all they have to start somewhere. The point is to do your homework and make sure that it’s the right award for your business and that you have as good a chance as anyone else of winning.

If you’re still not sure, have a look at the previous winners, in your chosen category. What kind of business are they? What was their winning entry like? Why did they win? How would your business, product or process stand up against them?

Some award-winning tips

So you’ve found the award that has your name written on it, how do you go about giving your business the best chance of getting your hands on that all important trophy on the night…?

Give the judges what they want

Take time to read the criteria for your category and understand what the judges are looking for. Do your utmost to answer the questions as clearly and concisely as possible. Judges are busy people who have given up their free time to look at your application – and many others. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for. Lay everything out properly with headings to signpost which bit of the criteria or question you’re dealing with and give them exactly what they want.

As a judge on an awards’ panel I can tell you that there is nothing more annoying than a beautifully presented application that doesn’t answer the question.

Be concise

Resist the temptation to throw everything you have at the application just because you have it (did I mention that judges are busy people?). Provide the details that you’re asked for and if there’s a word count stick to it. That said if the application allows for it, include evidence, back up claims and maybe use your customers to tell the story if it’s appropriate.

Meet the deadline

Make sure you get your application in on time. Better still get it in early and there’ll be no last-minute panic to ruin your work. If you think you might need more time, contact the organisers – before the deadline – to see if it’s likely to be extended. It happens more often than you might think. If there is an extension make sure you get everything in.

Entering awards takes time so if you are going to do it be meticulous, don’t rush it, just do it properly.

As you go through the process don’t forget to make the most of the PR opportunities along the way. Let customers and staff know if the company or a project has been shortlisted. If you get to the awards dinner and win make sure you use social media to keep your audience posted on the night and back it up with the good news next day and beyond.

Deborah Rowe
Deborah Rowe

Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things.

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