And the winner is…Incorporating awards into your PR strategy

Crystal awards on a shelf

For the first several years of our agency’s life, we eschewed pursuing awards. Come award season, we’d casually brush aside suggestions that we put our best work up for industry honors. Given the time and effort it takes to nominate yourself, we reasoned our energy would be better spent promoting our clients rather than ourselves.

But over time, this sense of modesty gave way to a real-world practicality: awards are a valuable tool for validating the quality of your work. We’ve been proud to have received numerous honors over the years from PRSA which has recognized our media relations work, writing talents, event planning, blogging and a host of other categories. And so now, when a prospective client invites us to “list awards here” on an RFP, we have plenty to choose from because we’ve ingrained awards in our PR strategy, and those prospects should get an unambiguous sense that, yeah, we know what we’re doing.

Making the case for adding awards into your PR strategy

Such is the power of awards, but there are other good reasons to solicit them. One compelling rationale is that employees feel good when your company gets some well-earned recognition. That sense of pride is not only good for morale, but it comes in handy on the recruiting front. Along those lines, we’ve been fortunate to have been recognized year-in and year-out by Virginia Business magazine as one of the commonwealth’s best places to work (for every year we’ve been eligible). And last year we got an even bigger encomium as we were named by Inc. magazine as among the Best Workplaces in the U.S. for 2021. We were one of only 20 Virginia companies to make the list and the only Richmond-based firm to do so. It’s an achievement we don’t take lightly though we don’t stop asking ourselves, “How can we do better?”

Now, if you believe that winning awards will help amplify your visibility, that is only partially true. Most media outlets will not cover awards presented by other publications, and you’re mostly on your own to publicize your victories through your own channels like your newsletter, blog, social media platforms and website. Even so, there’s a lot you can and should do on those fronts.

Honors that are bestowed by industry and professional organizations are often strategically important. I’m thinking of young start-up companies who compete for grants or seed money against other. Those that have won competitions from Lighthouse Labs, a local consultancy/accelerator not only receive $20,000 in equity-free funding but receive a critical validation as to the promise of their idea.

Adding awards into a PR strategy, examples

Our clients over the years have enhanced their stature through awards. Handley Watches was the Style Runner-Up in Garden & Gun’s 2021 Made in the South Awards. The Richmond-based company was featured on Garden & Gun’s website and holiday print issue. Similarly, Virginia Distillery Company has won countless awards, including these found on this page of its website. These industry honors help to separate them from the pack in a competitive marketplace.

Even when you don’t have a product to sell, other award categories may fit the bill. In 2020, Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc was recognized by Southern Living Magazine as a “Hometown Hero,” and the organization was named the 2020 Small Business of the Year in the nonprofit category by Inside Business and the Hampton Roads Chamber. In 2015, it received both the Virginia Governor’s Volunteerism Award and the Hampton Roads Volunteer Achievement Award for its service. When you’re a nonprofit, recognitions such as these can go a long way toward convincing prospective donors that their gifts are making a real difference.

Then there are clients who are on the other side of awards – the presenting side. The law firm Allen & Allen has underscored its commitment to the community by annually presenting its Home Town Heroes awards that celebrate stellar examples of community service.

Whether you’re on the presenting or receiving side, awards can be a productive PR strategy for raising visibility, enhancing credibility and reinforcing your organization’s success. 

Josh Dare

Josh’s career in communications spans more than four decades. In addition to providing strategic counsel and crisis communications direction to clients, he is the resident Writer-In-Chief, regularly writing op-eds and bylines on behalf of clients that have been published in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Huffington Post, among others.

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