Insights & Ideas

How to Craft a Winning Business Award Strategy

As I boarded a Delta flight last month, I noticed a list of their business awards right there on the plane door. Just a little reminder that I was flying with the Fortune World’s Most Admired Airline.

Some industry and business awards are worth the time it takes to fill out the nomination. A few are revenue generators: send a check, get a prize. The business awards that are truly coveted, those that can help a business enhance its reputation internally and externally, require strategy, planning, and effort.

Why enter an awards competition?

  • Be acknowledged as a leader by industry peers
  • Benchmark your business against competitors
  • Burnish your reputation as a great place to work, enhancing talent recruitment and retention

What are the general industry award formats?

  • High-performance awards–A focus on recognizing outstanding people, initiatives, or employers.
  • Questionnaire-based–Usually a survey, followed by an audit by an external body to validate the data. These can be industry-wide or internal surveys of employees.
  • Rankings–These are usually a listing of companies based on a survey, questionnaire, or audit by independent bodies.

Mapping out your awards strategy

First, understand that awards submissions require the investment of time, effort, and budget if you want to win. There’s an entry fee for submissions in every category, so if you select multiple categories, be ready to bring the bankroll. If you pursue an accreditation or questionnaire award, you’ll need to engage internal stakeholders to help with data gathering or responding to the employee survey. Most employee survey-based awards require a minimum response rate. If you don’t think employees will take the survey, don’t waste your money on the submission.

 Keep these things in mind when selecting award competition submissions:

  • How does this support your business objectives?
  • What return will you get for investing time, money, and effort?
  • Find out who won last year. Are they reputable or aspirational companies? 
  • Can you meet the data requirements before the entry deadline?
  • Will internal stakeholders be willing to collaborate and support this?

Here are two final suggestions to ensure the exercise is worth your time. First, read the category and nomination applications carefully. As a long-time competition judge it amazes me how many nominations 1) are submitted in the wrong category, or 2) the submission narrative does not match the nomination question. It happens more than you can imagine. This is where the assistance of an external consultant is invaluable.

Finally, once your business wins the award, activate a communications plan to share the news.   Ensure that you reach the right audiences on the right channels. Create an opportunity for Senior Leadership to celebrate with employees, thank them for their contributions, and build pride and retention. Then celebrate the win!