Planning an Awards Program in 2021? Read This First

A well-executed awards program can be an excellent way to secure industry credibility and is becoming an increasingly important way to support sales by highlighting a product or targeting recognition in a specific industry. However, just like the media landscape changed dramatically in 2020, so too did industry awards. An informed and strategic awards program in 2021 will need to consider several new factors outside of if the award opportunity is pay-for-play. 

Below please find our tips for planning a successful awards program in 2021.  

Average cost of awards increasing 
It should come as no surprise that, like paid media subscriptions, the cost of many industry awards also increased in 2020. While the price increases for awards individually are nominal, they do add up. Before allocating budget to awards in 2021, it is important to create a detailed awards roadmap with every award you are considering, the deadline, criteria, and any associated costs. This will help you better prioritize award submissions if your marketing budget will be tight in 2021.  

Beware of hidden costs (time = money) 
Hidden award fees, that are not fully disclosed upfront, are becoming more common. For example, The Software Report is an online publication that provides software market research and insights, and they issue annual recognition lists, such as the Top 25 Cybersecurity companies. While it is free to apply to the award and free to be selected a winner – there is a clause. If you are selected a winner you must pay a $1,788 fee to be published on the list, because only premium annual subscribers to The Software Report can be named to the list. This fee is not fully disclosed upfront and it can be perceived as a bait and switch tactic when they issue a “Congratulations!” and then request a hefty fee. 

New awards create new opportunity – if they are credible 
In 2020 we saw a handful of new awards emerge, as well as new award categories. For example, Inc. Magazine issued their first-ever Best in Business awards, which rival Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company awards in submission criteria and cost. Similarly, awards across all industries added new categories, with a special emphasis on COVID-19 response. The American Business Awards issued new categories like “Most Valuable Corporate Response” and “Frontline Medical Hero of the Year.” Even the highly-technical and demo-based SIIA CODiE awards introduced COVID-19 categories like “Best Business Technology Pivot​” and Best Customer Experience in Business Technology​.” When considering award strategy for 2021, we recommend broadening your scope to include COVID-19-related categories if you have strong data and metrics from 2020 to support that narrative.  

Limit employee engagement to one survey per year 
Best Places to Work awards are great for recruiting efforts and company morale, and they often involve an employee survey. However, certain awards, like the Inc. Best Work Places awards have a minimum employee participation metric (based on company size) needed to be eligible for consideration. It is common for employees to get survey fatigue if a company is pursuing too many awards that require an action on their end. Therefore, to ensure that you are reserving employee engagement for the high-profile opportunities that require a participation goal, it is a best practice to pursue one employee-survey related award per year to guarantee maximum participation.  

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