Industry awards are a fraught subject in PR circles.
Awards with an application fee can feel like pay-to-play ploys, and most awards don’t result in media coverage. That can make it difficult to justify the time and effort involved by both the company and its PR partner. But applying for—and securing—awards can come with tremendous benefits, if it is done with a strategic eye and end goal in mind.
Elevating your client
PR pros are good at telling client’s stories in pitches, profiles and other media placements: Where they came from and the milestones they’ve achieved, not to mention where they’re going and who they’re disrupting along the way. Awards submissions and honors can provide another venue to share those stories. Though it’s true that smaller awards probably won’t deliver automatic media coverage, any recognition can help you bolster your profile in the marketplace.
Awards also help distinguish you from competitors, and they can complement a broader plan to position the company strategically. Morris Panner, CEO of Ambra Health, has been successful in highlighting new products and showcasing his company with awards, including multiple CODiE Awards from the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). “There are a lot of people who are trying to launch a company or product or trying to stay relevant, and you need credibility or you’re just shouting into the wind because there’s so much noise in the marketplace,” he says. “Awards allow you to start to curate your experience to direct your attention to the right place.”
That client elevation can work on an individual level within the company, too. Seeking out awards for executives can highlight the efforts of an individual and help distinguish them as an industry leader.
Enriching companies internally
Awards also help promote success within companies internally. At Renaissance Learning, CPO Todd Brekhus says winning awards—and visibly displaying them—helps boost morale for the honored employees, the department and the entire company. “Getting recognized from the outside is pretty special,” he says, noting that the company considers applying for awards part of the new product process. “Human nature wants to recognize accomplishments and be recognized for accomplishments.”
Awards can be a bragging point for companies to use in internal and external communications, too. Panner says Ambra Health gets a boost in web traffic from the energy that surrounds winning awards, especially bigger awards like the CODiEs. [Full disclosure: Our agency represents the CODiEs as the official PR partner.]
They also use the win as an aggressive part of outbound campaigns, so customers know they’re using award-winning products from an award-winning company. “The nice thing is we can really attribute in our marketing analytics and analysis the impact from awards,” he says.
Getting the most bang for your buck
It’s true that some awards are mere pay-to-play opportunities, giving a certificate and a title to whoever’s willing to pony up the fee. It’s also true that those awards don’t carry much clout. However, awards that require robust entry forms, are selected by panels of judges, or are sponsored by prominent and reputable media organizations are generally good bets.
Check out past winners, too. Most awards, including Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, the CNBC Disruptor 50 and the Inc. 5000, have archives of past winners you can look for when trying to decide which is right for you to enter.
Applying for awards won’t automatically lead to media coverage or instantly establish a company as an industry leader. But the value of awards as part of an ongoing strategy to accomplish those things cannot be overstated.