The Value of Adding an Awards Program to Your PR Strategy

By: Cara Sutherlan, 1903 Public Relations

Every business needs a trophy case to show off its achievements to clients and investors, and to earn recognition in its industry. Awards validate your hard work, innovation, talent, business values and more. Like great PR, they build your reputation, and the benefits of each piece of recognition stack up over time. For these reasons, there are multiple benefits to making awards a part of your PR program.

What Types of Awards Should Your Company Submit For?

There are a wide array of awards categories out there, and that likely means there are multiple facets of your business that can be submitted for awards consideration. What makes your business great? It’s more than just your products and services. Who are the people in your organization that make it successful? You can recognize members of your C-suite with executive awards; individuals and teams in specific departments; and women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people who are an important part of your company. Don’t forget that certain business initiatives can be eligible for awards, especially if you’ve committed to becoming a more environmentally friendly, diverse and equitable, or philanthropic organization. On top of that, many of these awards will lead to  regional, national, or international recognition.

One of the first things your PR team should do when creating an award program is build a calendar that covers all relevant programs. The most valuable collection of awards is a diverse one, and it allows you to start building your business’s reputation across broad sectors. This not only validates your business model as a whole but helps build morale within the company, and interest from outside parties such as potential customers and/or investors.

How to Choose Which Award Will Move the Needle for Your Business 

Taking a deep dive into the cost of submission, the nomination and judging process, and the program itself are all important to know before starting the submission process. PR pros are experts at shuffling through this information to determine which programs will move the needle for your business and are worth the investment. 

The cost of awards submission can fluctuate wildly. Some are free; some are a few hundred dollars; others cost thousands; and sometimes it can all depend on early and late deadline rates. The more costly an award is, the more crucial it is to determine how likely you are to win, and how valuable that award will be to your business. With $5,000, you could submit to one very prestigious award, or 10 to 15 unique ones. If you don’t have an endless budget for awards, you’ll want to prioritize and see whether it’s worth it to go for the gold with that one costly award, or try for a wider range of submissions. Certain awards programs may require paid membership in order to be nominated, and PR can recommend the value of such a membership beyond the awards.

A PR agency can help differentiate the difference between earned and sponsored awards. This is especially common with product awards in editorials, where a publication names a product as a top pick, favorite, or best of the year in the market. But if you read the fine print, the publication may disclose that they may receive an affiliate commission for purchases made by readers. That means the award has been sponsored by the company, not necessarily judged against its competition. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with sponsorship, it doesn’t have the same value as award programs where everyone pays the same fees and goes through equal judgment. If you see a competitor earn an award like this, it says more about their advertising budget than their product quality or industry reputation.

Speaking of competitors, sometimes the best programs to submit to are the ones they’re winning. PR will locate these for you and make a plan to get your name out there too and help you stand out from the crowd. At the same time, it’s also good to go for the awards your competitors can’t. This is another reason a diverse awards calendar is important. 

How PR Helps You Win

It can’t be overstated how the elements of a well executed, strategic PR program works in tandem with each other, ultimately helping win awards. You might not realize how important previous media outreach, event planning, and other PR tasks help bolster your nominations. A lot of award programs ask for supplemental documentation to support submissions. Articles that cover how your services are revolutionizing the industry or thought pieces by your CEO can all make the difference between being a winner, finalist, or being considered at all. Awards are not just the result of the great work you do, but of the reputation and goodwill great PR builds for you over time. Your PR team are experts and know how to position your company to reach your desired outcomes.

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