PR Tips For Winning Business Awards

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.

Awards are all about the outcomes

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.

Choose awards wisely

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.

Award entries need not be dull

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.

Mark your calendar

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.

Leverage the win

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!

Awards Equal Rewards When PR Firms Score For The Client

In an earlier post we discussed the mechanics of entering a B2B PR or consumer public relations client in an awards competition. Here is a brief case study on how we “scored” meaningful recognition for a hard-to-categorize client.

Our agency recently entered a small business specializing in deluxe packaged travel for non-profits,started by two entrepreneurs, into an awards competition sponsored by SCORE. SCORE is the largest non-profit association dedicated to helping small businesses through education and mentoring.

The organization is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and has more than 11,000+ volunteers who offer their services free as mentors. With this client’s inherently small, niched audience of charity and philanthropic organizations, finding the right award to go after was the first challenge.

SCORE’S national awards program has become the gold standard of small business honors. Their annual awards dinner attracts nearly 500 people ranging from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to senators, congressmen and SCORE mentors from across the nation. Many of the attendees, while not directly making charity fundraiser decisions, were certainly influencers on boards and likely maintained longstanding philanthropic ties. Selecting this competition proved strategically sound for this B2B PR client’s goal of increasing exposure to nonprofit decision-makers.

Although PR agencies want to win accolades for their clients wherever they can, an award that can be leveraged into a real business result makes the win all the sweeter.

In this case, the SCORE team recognized the importance of winners leveraging the honor to help secure leads and provided collateral and other support to do so. Here is how our team was able to merchandise the SCORE win.

Direct outreach to target prospects. Our agency produces the client’s quarterly newsletter, which we chose as a perfect vehicle to inform targets, existing and lapsed clients about the honor.

Bringing the news to local market business press. The company principals live in different cities with local media always in search of “hometown” success stories.

Sharing content socially. The award organizers created winner video vignettes which showed the business owners in a different light. These were shared on the company platforms, including LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook. A Twitter campaign also preceded the voting and announced the win with many re-tweets and additional sharing.

Working the leads. This combined effort to showcase the win has resulted in a handful of meaningful leads which the client is now working to convert to customers.

With the end of the year upon us, now is a good time to start looking for some worthy awards competitions to submit your client’s work.