Placing a piece of industry hardware on the company mantle can be a nice PR win for a B2B company at any stage. Along with earned media visibility and recognition for thought capital, awards are an exciting way to build credibility and authority. Most importantly, awards represent a third-party endorsement. That’s valuable currency for rising into a higher consideration set.
Here are some tips from Crenshaw’s own Conferences and Awards Manager for filling the trophy case.
Whether entering a customer case study, product, or an individual award, the judges are looking for quantifiable demonstration of success. Don’t bother with the “customers have been very pleased with the product” or “our reputation has been enhanced…” Anecdotal evidence won’t earn the award; you’ll need as many hard campaign ROI numbers as possible for the entry. When submitting for a customer service award, be prepared to supply some numbers on customer reviews and testimonials. It’s also a good idea to consider data visualizations as a supporting document for some awards to substantiate the numbers.
Industry awards exist for every vertical and niche, so choosing the right one is no simple task. Each awards competition will have multiple categories and/or subcategories, which naturally increases the chances of winning, but also adds complexity to the task. Your PR agency or team should have an existing database of awards from which they can compile a targeted list. More established companies may elect to focus on awards that have an editorial component; that is, awards produced or sponsored by media outlets.
For B2B technology companies, publications like The Drum, Digiday, Campaign, Forbes, and Ad Age all put on annual award programs. Major trade conferences and trade associations like IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) also dole out awards. Note that some of the high-profile business awards like Fortune Most Admired Companies, Glassdoor, and Forbes do not have a submission process. Instead, they evaluate companies based on their own metrics or on employee reviews, as is the case with Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work.
Industry competitions usually require entry reports of anywhere from 500 to 1500 words. Because the entries often explicitly list required elements, it might seem that a dry boilerplate document is called for. But like most any PR content, a quality awards entry should feature good storytelling. That’s not as challenging as one might assume. B2B campaign case studies have the same basic story structure. A customer has a problem, it enlists a solutions provider to help solve it, they form a strategy, execute the campaign, and solve the problem. Entry reports should read like simple stories, with rich, action-oriented language. No competition judge wants to be lulled to sleep reading dry, antiseptic entries.
Industry awards are usually annual, so businesses can and should plan an attack strategy well in advance. Consistent award wins can bolster a company’s reputation for product or service excellence. A PR team can even plan to enter its company’s new offerings into competitions many months down the line – basically targeting certain awards and categories for new products they anticipate to be successful. This type of planning helps prevent procrastination and can help shape the entry. Award entries can be costly, both in cash and staff time, so it helps to analyze all programs and prioritize the most prestigious, relevant, and promotable programs for the highest return-on-investment.
The whole point of winning awards is to brag about them. PR and marketing will amplify the win in owned media channels, collateral, and perhaps a press release or email. Place the official award logo on company webpages; write about the win in a blog post; feature it in the newsletter; include it in new business pitches; and don’t forget to celebrate the win within the company, especially if it showcases a star employee. Naturally, news of the win will be shared on all social channels, so make sure any customer permissions are in place well in advance. Many awards feature ceremonies or galas, which can offer further opportunities for industry exposure, customer networking, and even extra PR. See our earlier post for more on leveraging award wins. Now go and bring home the hardware!