The glamour, the glory, the grandeur of the Oscars, the Baftas, the Brits. Industry awards are often compared to them, and with good reason. Comparisons can be drawn not just to the awards ceremony, but also the early mornings, late nights, dedication to clients and the strive for success.
It’s great to win an industry award. And it can be frustrating to see a competitor win when we feel we’ve got a better proposition. Sadly, no-one walks up to us and hands us an award without a submission – bar the lucky lifetime achievers – we have to enter them to win them. And not just one, but many.
It’s tempting to craft one excellent entry, attend the event and wait to win. But it doesn’t always happen like that. It’s important to enter as many categories as the organisation has good case studies for; and as many industry awards as are relevant, and keep going over multiple years.
It’s a competition. The excellent submission entered may be up against a particularly competitive category. It’s not easy to compete with The Titanic of that year.
Conversely, there will be companies who will struggle to compile a submission for some categories, so chances of winning will be increased for others. So it’s always worth entering.
Andy Murray got to four grand slam finals before he won one. Usain Bolt failed to qualify for the finals in his first championship event. Tom Daley had to wait four years after competing in the 2008 Olympics before becoming an Olympic medallist in 2012. Keep going, keep entering.
We all want that trophy in our hand, but actually a nomination is incredibly valuable too. It’s no mistake that film makers advertise ‘nominated for x academy awards’ when promoting a film. A nomination is recognition, independent verification, and very valuable. A logo that says ‘finalist’ can be promoted widely and proudly and will be impressive to existing clients as well as prospective clients.
It’s no coincidence that Meryl Streep is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. Over 20 Oscar nominations, three wins: those nominations count when directors and producers are looking at who to cast. And industry nominations count when potential clients are looking at who to appoint.
For those who are inherently modest, you may feel you don’t need to win an award to know you’re excellent. Which of course is true. But just as a recommendation boosts your value, so too does a nomination and an award.
Tender documents increasingly ask for details of awards. Having said how wonderful your organisation is in a presentation, how great to be able to say that the industry agrees. It’s excellent internal recognition for all the hard work from staff. Career prospects can be enhanced and extra resources allocated following the wider industry recognition. It gives potential new recruits a feel-good factor about joining the company.
Promote ad-infinitum on email footers, in social media, on a website, in an awards cabinet, and dropped casually into conversation at every opportunity.
So where to start? It’s never too early to plan. Gather evidence from day one of winning a client. If that sounds too much, at least be able to lay hands on all evidence of excellence, be that in customer service, proposition development, or a particular project.
Back up all statements in an awards submission with evidence. Competitors will do, and a submission won’t be as strong without it. Evidence might include customer feedback, increase in sales, improvements in business processes. It will be stronger with numbers, percentages and tangible results. It’s important to prove our worth.
What’s more, compiling a submission doesn’t just teach us about entering awards, it can also teach us about our own company. The very process of looking at the criteria of an award category can shine a spotlight on a particular area and show us where we might be able to improve, and that can be a useful exercise in itself.
I have first-hand experience of all sides, I’ve organised them, judged them and entered them. I’ve known the high of the win, and the disappointment of not winning. But we have to get back in the saddle.
So the message really is to enter, don’t give up at the first hurdle, take the glory from a nomination, and enjoy the process. And you never know, you might just win.