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Ever wonder how your competitors win all those industry awards and what use they are after the chicken dinner ceremony? Here is a little secret.  Many companies seek out these awards and nominate themselves.  Yes that is correct.  Outside of an independent agency finding through surveys that the company actually has “high customer satisfaction”, the “best quality item” or the “number one sales team”, companies often have a designated if unofficial “awards seeker” on staff.  This person’s job is to identify opportunities for a company to be recognized in a positive light.

Despite the initial reaction, doing this is a good use of company time.  Receiving accolades as the “Veteran Small Business of the Year” or “Best Place to Hold a Meeting” can bring a wonderful boost to employee morale, create free, positive public relations and make for great visuals during customer interaction.  However, as with all things business, it does depend on what you do with the award and recognition that determines its value to your business.  Here are a few pointers on locating the right awards and extending the value to your company after the pomp and circumstance.

First, dedicate someone in your company (maybe that is you) to spend around 10 – 15 percent of time finding ways to be recognized in the community or industry in which you work.  Review competitor’s websites, industry papers and community periodicals to understand what awards are being promoted.

Next, make a table which includes award type, date due, the geographic reach of the award PR and expectations.  Do not limit the awards to the company as an entity alone.  Perhaps you wish to recognize individuals inside of the company as well.

Award Title/Type Date Due Geographic Influence Collateral Received Requirements to Apply Winner Expectations
Small Business of the Year January 3 Local & Regional (MO, IA, KC) Comes with plaque, website logo In business 3 yrs, $50k revenue Attend dinner in Chicago
There may be other categories depending on your industry

Finally, meet with your team and determine if these requirements are feasible within the timeline required and if they align with your company goals. This may take a few meetings to do. I always suggest stopping after the third meeting if you are unable to come to a consensus to move forward.  Perhaps another conversation about company alignment is in order.

If you decide to move forward with the nomination, a good packet is key to landing the recognition.  A few tips to grabbing the win:

  • Re-Read and make sure you understand the criteria for evaluating who the award recipients.
  • Try to identify something that can serve as a theme in the letter that sums up the nominees qualifications. i.e. “strong community ties”.
  • Use specific details—numbers, facts, strong examples, anecdotes—to illustrate generalizations.
  • Ask another company to nominate your agency or employee. Perhaps that vendor does not realize the importance of a win for you.  Just ask.  They can only say no.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, revise the letter as needed and nominate again at the next opportunity.

The most overlooked tip however, is to nominate others…a lot.  One of the best things your company can do to improve your reputation is to be seen as an involved, caring entity in your community.  One way to do this, is to spread the love.  If a vendor that you deal with has outstanding customer service, nominate them or the individual. Do this for as many of your vendors or other small businesses that you can afford to spend time doing.  When the judges on the review panel handing out the “Best Work Environment” award sees your company name consistently on nomination packets, it will stand out. When they see your name coming in from others, your likelihood of landing that award increases.  Every judge I have ever met likes to see a company that is not only “outstanding” but is a good neighbor as well.

Award After Action

After you have nailed the award, the real work begins. You should incorporate the win into everything you do.

  • Ask the awarding agency for a graphic that can be placed on your company website or letterhead. If they do not have one, create one of your own if you have the capabilities. If not, a simple “Voted Best Place To Work” text will do.
  • Hold a company rally, even if that is just around the two desks in the office, and congratulate everyone for their part in making this award happen. Ensure that every employee understands how the win impacts the company’s image.
  • Send out a public release to your vendors, customers and media outlets announcing how excited you are about the recognition. Thank the appropriate people and express how you plan on continuing to be “the best”.  Three quick bullets should do.
  • Incorporate the “2016 Best Work Environment” line into every speech of the sales people, executives and receptionist. For the remainder of the year answer the phones “Thank you for calling Space Savers voted Best Work Environment by Carpenter Magazine how may I help you.” Be proud of your accomplishment.

After the year is over, simply add on the year.   You can do this for at least two years. I would not suggest more than that besides you will have other awards to be proud.

To recap. Spend no more than 15 percent of your time going after a specific group of awards. Nominate others and be a good neighbor. Thank the appropriate people after the win. Incorporate the win into your company message.  Good luck.