Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Business awards - the gift that keeps on giving

Business awards first crossed my radar back in the late 1980s when I was a newspaper journalist. Back then they were a big deal, certainly on the papers where I worked.The main reasons why we put time and effort into entering industry awards were: 
  • They were great for morale and boosting self-confidence. 
  • Judging panels included some big hitters in the industry, so winning was validation that you were doing a good job. It was a meaningful pat on the back. 
  • Awards ceremonies were fun (usually!) and a treat for the shortlisted staff members. The drink would flow, there would be a nice meal in a swanky venue and if it was in London or a major city away from where you lived the editor would often spring for hotel rooms for everyone. 
  • Award ceremonies were a good networking opportunity. You could chat with your peers from other papers and find out what they were doing. The innovations and ideas that had made them finalists were sometimes things you could adapt and adopt on your own newspaper.
  • Winning an award, or being highly commended, was a story to tell your ‘customers’ (our readers and advertisers). It boosted your credibility and encouraged them to keep buying the paper and advertising space.
  • Award wins helped with recruitment. The best staff wanted to work on the ‘best’ papers and do rewarding and interesting work. Individual award winners could often get poached for bigger, better jobs. 
  • Putting together the award entries was a chance to reflect on what you’d done and feel inspired to continue improving. 
  • Winning or securing nominations could get you a story in the trade press, and sometimes beyond, which was great PR. 

You can’t win an award if you don’t enter! 

Elaine Pritchard collects a BAFTA award for Headline History
Between the late 1980s and 2010, I was fortunate enough to attend a host of award nights. The highlight was undoubtedly when I went on stage in London to collect a BAFTA for a content-rich, educational website I’d devised and had commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 

I mention that to show you that anything is possible. Reach for the stars, you just never know what might happen. I would NEVER have believed that our project, brilliant though it was, would beat the BBC and Channel Four who were also shortlisted that night. 

You have GOT to be in it to win it. If you never enter then undoubtedly, you’ll never win. 

I believe that the list of benefits above, from my newspaper days, still applies today to today’s business owners in any sectors. 

Awards are great for raising your profile, boosting credibility, networking, self-confidence, PR and more. There has probably never been SUCH a wide range of awards that businesses can enter as there is today. Don’t let the weirdness of 2020 put you off entering. The award ceremonies, and the judging, may be online at the moment, but it’s a great year to show your fighting spirit and the innovation you have used to keep going. If you have taken a financial hit, you won’t be alone. Just be honest and explain how you plan to bounce back. 

The benefits of entering business awards 

Let’s put winning to one side for a minute. There are benefits that will boost your business if you just enter. 

You can usually talk about ‘being nominated’ on social media - even if you have nominated yourself. There really is no shame in that. Everyone does it. You don’t HAVE to wait for someone else to nominate you – not in most cases. 

Putting together your entry reminds you of the great stuff you have done. That, in itself, is a great opportunity to reflect on your journey and get a deeper understanding of the customers you enjoy working with most. It can help you to develop and grow your business by seeing what has worked best and what you could do more of in the future. It’s also a self-confidence boost. 

The words you write, or have written for you, can often serve other useful purposes. You might find phrases and explanations that you realise capture what you do so well that you want to include them on your website and your social media bios. Some awards may ask for case studies or testimonials from clients. Would any of those make good blog posts or articles for LinkedIn? The words of others, our happy clients, can be a powerful persuasion tool when it comes to securing new customers. 

How can I find the time to enter business awards? 

Those of us who have moved from a salaried job to running our own ventures have to learn to be self-sufficient until we can afford to delegate work and employ others. If you start a one-person business you are suddenly responsible for sales, marketing, IT and much more. So it would be easy to think, ‘I’ve not got the time to enter awards’. 

 One way to look at it is to think of ‘the award’ as a new, important client. If you had the chance to work for someone who could grow your business, bring in new customers, raise your profile and help you build the business you’ve always wanted you would find the time to meet with them and create proposals. Yes? 

An award entry is the same sort of investment. You can find people who will write award entries for you, but remember that no-one knows your business as well as you do. If you do want to delegate the work, choose a writer who comes recommended by people you know and trust and ask them about their success rate. 

If you don’t use an awards writer, DO consider using a proofreader to make sure your entry is free of spelling mistakes and missing words. It’s so easy to go word-blind on your own work and think you KNOW what it says. 

How can I benefit from being a finalist in a business award? 

If you are a finalist, PR the hell out of it: Include it in your LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram bios; use images and words on your social media cover pictures; write a blog post; use a logo or a visual on your website home page; write a story and submit it to the trade press or your local media companies. 

If you win, or secure a highly commended award, you can do it all again and have a second bite of the cherry. 

Your success in awards is a story you can KEEP telling in different ways. You are an award-winning business. Congratulations! 

Some awards organisers will help publicise you. Make sure you understand how they can help. Some will give you mentions on their social media channels. The WomanWho awards send out ‘I’ve been nominated’ logos, followed by ‘I’m a finalist’ and ‘I’m a winner’ logos for those who progress. 

How do I find business awards to enter? 

Champagne glasses for celebration
Wherever you are based in the UK you will find that your local chamber of commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses will be hosting awards each year. You can also ‘Google’ UK business awards and find more opportunities. 

A company called Boost, which also offers help with writing your entries, has a list of awards online  and you can also sign up to get an email reminder of awards and their deadline dates. 

Social media can be a good source of information. A lot of awards organisers have Twitter accounts and will post regularly when applications are open. LinkedIn is another good social media channel for news and updates about awards and who has won them. 

When you’re next chatting to networking contacts, face-to-face or online, ask them if they’ve entered any awards and see what you can learn from their experiences. 

Of course technology and the media have changed dramatically since I was a newspaper journalist, but one way in which it’s changed for the better is that we no longer have to wait for the media to report on us – we can report on our own success stories through our websites, blogs and social media channels. Don’t be shy. Just go for it.