How to Create a Winning Awards Program

Lindsay Nash

Lindsay Nash Content Marketing Manager at Award Force

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Events can be great ways to boost brand awareness and get people talking about you. What better way to get people interested than to create an awards program? Not only will you get industry-wide recognition but it's a great way to position your brand.

Article

Human achievement is worth celebrating. And recognition of excellence can be a fantastic way to celebrate the achievements of individuals and teams, increase energy in the sector and raise the standards of an organization or industry.  

Award programs are growing in popularity across the globe. Not only can they generate revenue and provide relevance for your industry, but they can also provide a strong boost to brand awareness.

A great program can attract high profile judges who help bring in quality sponsors, all of which help generate attractive marketing content. 

But with so many moving pieces in an awards program, how can you create a program that shines as bright as your applicants? How can you make sure that it elevates your brand, celebrates your industry and rightly places you at the helm of your sector?

Awards programs can be quite complex, with wide-ranging categories, criteria and multiple judging modes, but with a few good and early decisions, you can manage the complexity and get your program on the right foot from the very start.

Here are 5 tips on how to manage a program as winning as your entrants:

1. Choose a good foundation

Use an awards system and process that saves you time, makes you look good, and, most importantly, is easy for every participant in your program. There are still a lot of award programs that run on a manual system; a time-consuming endeavor that leaves too much space for errors. Using an online platform, you’ll be able to provide a smooth process for everyone involved, without all the tedious work of a manual system.

“Having a robust, user-friendly platform is essential to running a successful awards program. This has allowed us to be more efficient and allowed our most valuable asset, our awards manager, to spend time cultivating relationships rather than addressing system issues.” - Stephanie Bailes, executive director of the Cade Museum in Gainesville, Florida, who runs an awards program to recognize inventors and entrepreneurs who demonstrate a creative approach to addressing problems ‚Äčin their field of expertise.

2. Infuse credibility into your program

Any program that accepts applications or submissions will have a lot of important data coming in that should be protected. You can do this by:

  • Encrypting data
  • Requiring registration for all participants
  • Offering judges a way to assess anonymous entries

All of these steps will add credibility to your awards program.

3. Invite impressive judges

Find the big names in your industry and invite them to judge your program. This is ideal for influencers who want to give back to their industry through judging and great for your program’s credibility and branding.

“Using VIP judges is a great way to infuse credibility and market your awards program. It’s a good idea to highlight the judges’ bios on your awards page and integrate them into your marketing plan.” - Carl Turner, client success manager at Award Force, an awards management platform.

4. Promote it through social

For programs with public entry, it’s a good idea to promote your program across your social media channels before it even opens for entries. Here are some ideas for content:

Judge bios

Let the public know who’s involved in your program, especially if they’re influencers in your industry. This is a great way to add buzz to your program and feature the judges who will likely share on their own social channels, too.

Previous entries

Showcase visuals from previous seasons. This serves as a great inspiration for your entrants. Don’t forget to tag the previous winners so they get that recognition all over again. (They’ll be likely to reshare!)

Deadlines and important dates

Keep your audience in the loop by sharing important dates and deadlines for your programs. Try posting a countdown to entries open or close dates to drum up more interest.

The awards

Photos from your awards gala, if you have one, or visuals of the winning entries are a great way to celebrate the program and recognition for each winner.

Tip! Create a hashtag for your awards program from the very start. That way all your program participants can join the community around your award and post and share their own photos.

5. Throw an awards gala

Now for the fun part! An awards gala is a great way to celebrate all the finalists and winners in your program. It’s also the perfect way to recognize every participant in the program, from the entrants to the judges to the program managers. Splash your brand around the gala and include your sponsors, too, if you have them. It’s a win-win-win!

The most important thing about managing an awards program is to stay on top of every phase: from the pre-awards planning to entry to judging and awards. Create a great experience for every participant and they’ll come back, year after year.

Author: Lindsay Nash is the content marketing manager at Award Force, which works to recognize excellence worldwide through management software for awards, grants and employee recognition programs. She can be reached at [email protected].

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