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In it to win it – the ups and downs of industry awards season


By Alice Wilkinson

At SEC Newgate UK, we are great advocates of industry awards. Currently, we are in the throes of awards season – when submission deadlines follow hot on each other’s heels, as award organisers strive to fit the entry process and the award event into the same year.

For us, industry awards are a clear way of building profiles, whether for a business or an individual. Winning an award, or qualifying as a finalist, signals to industry peers that a business is at the top of its game. Whether the win is for a broad-scope category, like Best Residential Developer, or for something more specific - such a Best CSR Initiative or Deal of the Year - these accolades position a business as exemplary.

Of course, award wins and shortlistings also help to attract new clients, investors and customers. By creating owned content around an award - including press releases (for significant industry award wins) or website news content, and social media posts incorporating award logos - we can highlight positive news at different stages in the timeline of an award: after a shortlist announcement, prior to the awards event, and when the winners are announced. In this way, we can generate a significant amount of profile-boosting content off the back of one award entry.

Furthermore, writing an award entry can be a helpful benchmarking tool. The process often clarifies key messages, whilst forcing a business to look at its activities from a new perspective – that of its competitors and industry peers. Even just choosing a category can highlight areas where a business is excelling – be it innovation, diversity, growth, staff investment, or customer service. Conversely, the process of going through entry criteria can identify areas where a business could improve. For example, a business may offer excellent employee learning and development opportunities, but fall down on its flexible working policy, leaving a gap in its overall support of staff.

Industry accolades also recognise the achievements of employees, so a win or shortlisting will boost staff morale, motivation and loyalty. Internal and external communications can ensure employees feel recognised for the hard work that has made an award win possible. Meanwhile, awards are an extremely effective recruitment tool, helping to attract and retain the best talent.

Finally, awards galas themselves are excellent industry networking opportunities, regardless of whether the night ends in a win. These events are typically formal dinners, though the global pandemic has seen these transformed into interactive online events.

Still, despite the benefits, we sometimes find that businesses are hesitant to enter awards or have never considered doing so. Choosing an award to enter can certainly be overwhelming: there are hundreds of different award organisations, each with their own criteria and long list of categories, and each carrying a different weight within an industry. So, which to choose? Some of the newer award organisations employ heavy-duty marketing tactics, whilst the more prestigious organisations often rely on reputation to bring in entrants. For a newcomer to the awards process, it can hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Similarly, entry processes vary significantly in complexity, as do category requirements. Some entries can be fairly quick to draft and submit, whilst others – particularly in the property and architecture space - are more time consuming. Entries for these awards often need to be designed, printed, and compiled into documents containing reams of photographs and technical information. Submission fees also differ and, at the top end of the scale, can seem prohibitive, especially if a business is not confident in how the entry process works.

It can be tempting to go for a catch-all approach, entering every possible award and choosing categories that only loosely align with business activities. But this can sometimes have the opposite effect, highlighting areas where a business fails to meet the criteria, rather than showcasing successes. Our role is to suggest appropriate industry awards and advise on categories that align with current messaging and show a business or individual in the best possible light.

Not only can we help to navigate the sometimes-complex entry process, but we are also highly experienced in writing award entries, selecting impactful proof points and compiling content into finished – and winning! - submissions.

If you or your business is interested in entering industry awards, or you have struggled with entries in the past, SEC Newgate UK would be happy to discuss the process with you. Contact us or speak to your Newgate team.