Applying for an award for your business can be hard work, but the benefits are enormous, if you capitalise on the win. Kate Adam provides a step-by-step guide.
So you're thinking about applying for an award - for your business, a team or one of your people. Yes, it can be hard work, but don't be put off: a win presents one of the best opportunities you'll ever have to generate buzz about your firm for the year ahead and beyond. Miss it, miss out. And you'll get the most benefit if you begin planning now, when you apply.
The first thing you need is a clear plan for your communications around the win.
The main objective is to generate positive brand awareness for your company, but you need to go more granular that to get the best possible result. Get together a group of your people from across the appropriate parts of your business. List your stakeholders, decide what messages and channels are appropriate to each (and what else you want to tell them about your firm, staff, brand), and decide on any specific business objectives for each stakeholder group - such as building your network of strategic partners for a particular department. Your plan also needs to include a schedule of key events and timings for communication, and details of how you will measure success.
But what should your plan include?
Use the award logo
Put the winner's logo for your award through all the channels you have, as quickly as possible and wherever possible. This should include your:
- email footer
- blog / vlog
- business stationery, particularly business cards, envelopes and invoices (you could have nice labels printed and stuck on if you don't want to reprint stationery)
- badges for staff
- exhibition stands
You could also have a simple poster made up for use in an A-frame outside your office, and/or framed in reception.
Send an email
Let your referral sources, clients and other professional contacts know, through a well designed group email. Include the award logo and your official photo, and tailor the message to thank each audience. A personal email can be powerful for key individuals or organisations who have been instrumental in your success.
Hold an event
You could put together a seminar, event or special offer to be timed with your announcement.
A celebration for your staff will acknowledge the part they have played in your success. A seminar or social event for your professional referrers is a great way of thanking them in person.
Use social media
Announce your win on all your social media channels, as soon as possible, and, without bombarding your audience, keep it in their minds. Then, consider one or all of the following.
- Connect with other finalists to congratulate them - a great way to build your professional network and potential referral sources.
- Look out for other activity from the awards organisers and sponsors, such as any video from the event, and link to it.
- Write a blog on the positive experience you and your business have had through entering and winning the award.
- Consider making a simple, short video or vlog for your website or YouTube channel, about the win
Produce a press release
The more interesting your story or angle is, the more likely you will be to get press coverage. Make the subject line catchy and compelling, and your story as interesting as possible. Describe what unique methodology you created which made you award-winning, and any important competitors you beat. Include any other interesting facts about your company, sector or profession. Try to find a 'hook' - perhaps a national event, some research or statistics related to your sector product or service - to make the story more newsworthy.
Now you need to get the release to the right people. If you don't have one already, create a spreadsheet of relevant publications and media channels, with key contact names, phone numbers and email addresses. Keep the list current, regularly checked and updated.
Follow up with a phone call. Ask if there are any areas of your expertise from which their readers could benefit in future. Use this as an opportunity to build a relationship and position yourself as a credible authority in your field.
Assuming you have recently won an award, congratulations. If not, perhaps this has whetted your appetite to enter!
Your next goal may be to become a multiple award-winning firm. Alternatively, you could sponsor next year's award or volunteer to judge it, to continue the association and increase brand awareness.
A longer version of this article appeared in the April 2017 edition of Managing for Success, the magazine of the Law Management Section, our community for partners, leaders and practice managers in legal businesses.