People love to win awards. No matter how simple, the validation of one’s work and accomplishments sparks a genuine feeling of unshakeable joy. And these opportunities are ample throughout one’s lifetime—from spelling bees and sports competitions to baking contests or academic and scientific pursuits that can better the whole of society—so practically anyone can find their award sweet spot.
It should be no surprise that companies, too, would seek award recognition to reinforce the value of the service or product they provide, how they operate, and what their team has accomplished.
But, it’s easier said than done to earn this recognition. Running a successful company awards program takes consistent planning, monitoring, and hyper-focused submissions to prove that your company truly is award-worthy.
Additionally, awards are just one element of a successful thought leadership program. So teams must diligently assess the value of any award opportunity instead of pursuing every potentially relevant award just for the sake of it.
Let’s explore how companies can maximize their success through awards programs, with a deep-dive on what type of awards are relevant for brands, how to find relevant award opportunities for your team, and our tips for crafting award-winning submissions.
What Types of Awards Are Relevant For Brands?
If you’re new to the business awards space, you might be wondering what awards opportunities are even relevant for brands. You may be surprised that there is a range of options, a few general categories of which we’ll explain here.
If you’re already versed in the types of awards out there, though, feel free to skip ahead to get right to our tips for finding the right awards programs or writing award submissions.
There are four general business-relevant awards categories that you should look out for:
- Brand Awards: Awards that honor a company for its business success, the work done by its team, or other elements of its makeup that is attractive to prospective employees, customers, and investors or shareholders. Brand awards can span anything from ‘Fastest-Growing Companies’ lists to awards that recognize strides in corporate social responsibility or achievements in customer satisfaction.
- Culture Awards: Closely related to brand awards, culture awards recognize a company for its workplace culture elements and whether it is an ideal brand for prospective employees. These awards can be as general as ‘Best Places to Work’ or more specific like ‘Best Workplaces for Innovators’ or ‘Best Workplaces in the SF Bay Area.’
- Product Awards: These awards focus specifically on a product, its capabilities, use cases, and competitive differentiators. Product awards cover a broad spectrum of specificity, including general categories of ‘B2B Technology’ or ‘Best Tools for Workplace Productivity’ to hyper-focused awards for specific industries or applications like ‘Best Tools for API Management.’
- Individual Awards: Some awards primarily recognize business professionals and their achievements, and these awards can carry a brand halo effect of sorts for that person’s company. These awards include C-Suite recognition like ‘Top CEO,’ age-based criteria like ‘30 under 30’, gender-based criteria, or awards that recognize specific accomplishments or tenure.
Those are just a few of the general award types to explore, but as your company program matures, you will start to see more diverse awards opportunities. In initially assessing your team’s awards potential, ask yourselves what space(s) you want to bolster your reputation or stake your claim so that you can then research the right sort of opportunities.
How To Find the Right Awards For Your Brand
After you have a basic understanding of the types of awards available to brands, you can now research your options and identify those awards that are relevant for your team.
To define “relevant,” your team must discuss your awards program’s goals and how those goals tie back to your overarching organizational goals. Without a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish, your awards program will feel too overwhelming of an undertaking with potentially limited results.
With your goals top of mind, we recommend creating an award tracking document to organize all the awards opportunities within your reach.
We’ve created this template industry award tracker that you can use, and for this initial research step, you can focus just on the award name and link to the award site—don’t worry, we’ll explain the relevance of the other columns in our next section.
There are a handful of places you can check to start building your company awards tracker:
- Industry organizations: If your company is a member of a professional group or organization, or if you know of organizations that serve your industry, check their website to see what awards opportunities they offer. These awards are often exclusive to members of the organization, or nonmembers pay an increased entry fee. Examples of these organizations include the Content Marketing Institute and its Content Marketing Awards and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc. (HIMSS) and its awards program. To find these organizations, you can start with a simple Google search of “industry organizations for [insert your industry or area of interest].” You can also review relevant industry outlets for their recommendations and ask around in your professional network (colleagues, friends, and social media communities).
- Partner companies or tech vendors: Increasingly, brands host their own awards programs, some of which are exclusive to their customers. An example of this is the Adobe Experience Maker Awards. Review your partner organizations and technology vendors to identify any awards for which you may be eligible.
- Competitors: Think through your competitors and other companies that you may be up against for awards, and check their company websites for a page or section that celebrates their award wins. This is an easy way to see how others in your space approach their brand recognition program and is an easy starting point. However, don’t rely solely on following the competition where they go—revisit your goals and continuously assess if there are new awards that can better meet your needs.
- Media outlets: Media organizations host many of the most notable awards for companies. Review outlets to see their award opportunities. Inc., Fast Company, Forbes, and Fortune are just a few outlets with high-influence awards you should check out.
- Google: After you have exhausted the above avenues, a simple Google search can uncover additional awards that you should explore. Diversify your search terms and consider doing focused searches, such as “awards for SaaS companies” or “awards for healthcare startups.”
Building this list will take a considerable amount of time if you’re starting from scratch, possibly exceeding ten or more business hours. That is OK and to be expected, as you should ensure you’re aware of all the opportunities out there, instead of mistakenly prioritizing opportunities simply because they are the only ones on your radar. Refreshing the list will get easier with time as your awards program matures.
How To Prioritize Awards Opportunities for Companies
Finding the potential awards for your brand is just one small piece of the puzzle, as your team now needs to assess the various awards and identify those that have the best potential to drive results for your team.
Again, your company goals need to be front-and-center when assessing the pros and cons of an opportunity. You also need to understand what resources are at your disposal to oversee and complete the submission process.
In our free template awards tracker, we’ve included these key areas that you should consider when assessing awards. You’ll find these elements on the conference site, in FAQ materials, or in blog posts that announce a call for entries:
- Additional Award Benefits: Are there additional benefits if you win the award? Some awards will provide complimentary passes to related industry events, access to gated content or sites, ongoing networking opportunities with other awardees, or even connections to venture capitalists or media outlets.
- Announcement Date/Ceremony Requirements: When will the winners be announced, and are they required to attend the awards ceremony? Some awards programs require honorees to attend the awards ceremony, which sometimes involves table sponsorship fees that far exceed the cost to submit for the award.
- Awardee Profile: What do the awardee profiles disclose? Some awards simply provide the category and winner name, and others publish in-depth profiles on the awardees. Sometimes, these profiles include details from the award submission, like revenue numbers or revenue growth. Only apply for awards that you can confirm will not post information you would prefer to keep confidential.
- Cost: Is there a fee associated with the award? It is common for awards to involve an entry fee, which can span from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the opportunity. These costs often scale based on when the application is submitted. There are plenty of free awards to apply for, though, and we recommend you prioritize these opportunities (especially if you’re new to awards).
- Deadline: How soon is the award due, and can your team submit it in time? It may not be worth the last-minute rush to push out an award app when you can simply wait for the next relevant opportunity with a longer lead time.
- Eligibility Requirements: Who is allowed to apply for the award? Some awards are only open to companies operating from specific geographical areas, companies of certain revenue sizes, employee counts, funding stages, or products of particular industries or updated within a specific time frame.
- Host Company: Who hosts this award opportunity? Is it a media outlet, partner or industry organization, or something else?
- Judging Criteria: How are winners chosen, and is there a public voting stage? Some awards disclose a breakdown of the scoring split between a public vote and the expert judging evaluation. If there is public voting, your team needs to dedicate resources to promoting the award to your team and social media audiences.
- Media Recognition: Does this award typically garner media attention? Is this award regularly mentioned in media articles?
- The Process: What are the next steps for your team after submitting your application? Will product demos and testing be required? Will the judges need to speak with customers or users to make their decision?
- Relevant Category/Categories: What specific category or categories do you intend to submit for your team, and is there any blurb or additional details on what the category entails?
It is often easiest to slot this information into your awards grid when you are first reviewing an opportunity. Your team can still prioritize different elements at various review stages based on whatever workflow works best for your team. For example, it doesn’t make sense for your team to explore judging criteria if you cannot afford the entry fee.
Tips For Writing Award-Winning Submissions
We’ve made it. Now that you understand what awards are relevant for brands, how to identify awards for your company, and the criteria you can use to prioritize these awards, you can start drafting submissions and (hopefully) get the recognition that your team deserves.
Allow yourself ample time to complete your awards application (meaning, don’t start it the day it’s due). Ideally, apply ahead of the deadline if the judges begin reviewing as nominations are submitted.
To increase your likelihood of winning an award for your brand, follow these general tips for writing award submissions:
- Read the Rules and FAQs: Before you start crafting your award submission, you need to understand the full scope of what the judges are looking for and how they choose the winners. Review the award rules and FAQs to verify if your company is eligible to apply and any advice from the organizers. Often, awards receive hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions, and these FAQs and support materials not only help you craft a compelling submission but also ease the burden on the judges.
- Show Results or Validation: Your team must demonstrate its results or provide third-party validation to any claims you are making. In submitting a CEO for an award, it is one thing to say they have built a great culture, but it is much stronger to point to any employee data that supports that or quotes from team members or business partners. In product awards or use cases, use facts and figures to explain the work’s full results. Again, it is much more award-worthy to say “reduced the time to sale by 45% over three months” instead of just “accelerated the sales cycle.”
- Cut the Jargon: Unless the award is focused on a hyper-technical topic or requires a detailed explanation of a technology or product, use plain, accessible language in your submissions.
- Have Someone With Firsthand Experience Write The Nomination: The person who writes your award application ideally would have worked directly on the project or topic of submission. At a minimum, your writer should interview the people involved in the project so that you can provide the most accurate details and the fullest picture possible.
- Verify Word or Character Limits: There are often word or character count limits for specific questions beyond the general award rules and FAQs. Review the submission form to verify any word or character limits before you draft the submission. It is incredibly frustrating to write a compelling awards blurb only then to realize you’re 200 words over the limit. Remember that some awards count spaces as characters, so insert some sample copy into the submission form to verify the exact limits.
- Focus On The Human Element: All great stories involve a protagonist, a challenge, and a solution, and your award submissions should (most often) do the same. Except for specific instances, your team should spotlight the human element of your submission and how your product/service/team/etc. is solving problems and helping to better teams, the industry, or society.
Evolving Brand Reputation and Thought Leadership With Awards
Your team can unlock more opportunities through a dedicated and consistent awards program and a strengthened standing in your market. Your program will evolve, allowing you to understand the full range of relevant awards, the value that each opportunity can provide, and the recognition that drives business results.
Don’t forget to use our free company award tracker as a starting point for your team’s work, and customize it to make it your own. If you’re looking for further guidance on writing award-winning submissions, or if you need a helping hand to get your awards program started, get in touch.