PR agency gives advice about entering awards

One of the most effective ways of achieving respect in the business community is through successfully winning awards. Gaining a credible third party endorsement of a product, service or company can help increase sales, enhance reputation and generate growth. An award win can also be an incredible morale boost especially in times of recession.

Award selection and entry does, however, require some time and effort but the ensuing rewards can be quite considerable.

Why enter?
Winning a prestigious honour, such as an ICT Cluster Excellence Award (our PR agency promotes these), is beneficial on many levels. It’s motivational to all employees, generates interest and awareness and, by providing an independent acknowledgement of the value of a product or service, offers reassurance to potential customers. For start-ups and SMEs this boost to sales and marketing efforts can be priceless. Many award schemes also offer invaluable feedback to entrants.

In terms of supporting a company’s sales activity, a recent survey* indicated that 82% of senior business people are influenced by awards when buying products and services. 76% also agreed with the statement “awards are important for generating business or improving the value of the brand.”

Finally, a lot of marketing mileage can be gained from an award…it should appear on the website, company brochures, recruitment material and become a real marketing asset.

What schemes?

One of the biggest misconceptions about awards is that only big companies will win. In fact there are numerous industry and business schemes encompassing companies of all sizes. Awards are often run by magazines, newspapers, companies, professional institutes, such as the British Computer Society, or government schemes. Some internet research should bring up a raft of opportunities. Alternatively, by subscribing to an awards alerts service, companies can automatically be alerted as relevant schemes are announced. As a guideline there are general IT industry awards (UK IT Industry Awards) – ah shame just closed!, regional IT industry awards (2009 ICT Excellence Awards), specialist sector and vertical market sector awards, such as information security, retail and finance.

In addition to these, there are national and regional business awards plus numerous small business schemes such as British Small Business Champions.

There’s nothing to stop companies entering more than one scheme as successful participants of the ICT Cluster Awards (we promote these) have demonstrated. Rapide Communication, who were Overall Champions in 2008, went on to be National winners of the Chamber Awards 2008 and were finalists in the 2009 National Business Awards. Data Driven Logistics, who achieved Best Innovative Product also won the Sentinel Business Awards Innovation Category and were a Finalist and selected Medallist in the British Computer Society (BCS) Industry Awards.

How to maximise your chances

With more companies vying for award recognition, the competition is getting fierce. Preparation is key. It may sound obvious but ensure you pick the right category to suit your business and check whether you’re eligible for more than one category – since the more relevant categories you enter the more chance of success. Secondly, read the entry criteria carefully as there may be limitations such as the product launch date, location or company size. If you can’t meet the conditions, there’s no point in entering.

You will need to demonstrate why you deserve to win and evidence is crucial. Effective examples of this are: customer endorsements, which illustrate the business benefits of the product; sales figures; industry partnerships; and strong growth. Again, if the proof isn’t there, reconsider whether you want to enter. Take care drafting the award entry and ensure you’ve taken advantage of any scope for submitting supporting materials. It often helps to have an objective person read through your submission to get an unbiased opinion and ensure it reflects your achievements accurately.

When writing the award, remember to keep it factual and punchy, stick to the word count and avoid waffle.

ICT Excellence Awards

We work providing PR services for the West Midlands ICT Cluster, so heres a plug for the annual ICT Excellence awards. This year’s entry deadline is 28 September. The free to enter technology awards are designed to recognise the talents and achievements of the growing ICT (Information Communication Technology) sector. They will be announced and presented during an evening reception following the annual West Midlands ICT Cluster Conference on Tuesday 10th November 2009, at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull. This year’s inspirational theme for the awards and conference is ‘Competing in the New World – Innovate your way to success’.

The open entry categories in this year’s awards comprise ICT Excellence Award for Best Innovative Product, Best Innovative Service, Best Added Value Product, Best Added Value Service, Best Added Value Project, Best Knowledge Transfer Project and Most Improved Business, with an overall champion selected from the winners of each of the seven categories receiving £2,000.

For 2009 the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) are rewarding an additional open entry category. The Special Award – High Growth Potential Business 2009 category recognises the most innovative/high growth potential business and will secure the winner the opportunity for advice and expertise from the TSB and partners.

Everybody appreciates recognition for their efforts whether it’s from customers, peers or the industry at large. Awards are a relatively low-cost, and sometimes free, means of putting your company on the map. Demonstrate your pride in your company and employees’ achievements; the potential rewards are significant.

* Awards: vanity or sanity? – Survey conducted by Shape-the-future and Boost Marketing in October 2008.

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