There are plenty of legitimate business awards open for entries. However, alongside those are some award schemes that are less of an achievement to win.
These are the type that email businesses en masse to tell them they’ve been “nominated” for an award and need to complete an entry form. A large number of businesses who complete the form will be told they’ve “won” – often in an obscure category made up especially for them such as “Best provider of Paw Patrol birthday mascots in the greater Barnsley area.”
These “winners” will then be invited to pay for a trophy, pay for a photo opportunity, pay for a feature in a magazine, pay for coverage on the organiser’s website – you get the picture.
I like to call these “bullshit” awards and they can really damage your credibility. If your customers see you promoting a “win” at one of these, they may well start to question how legitimate the rest of your claims about your business are.
So how can you spot a bullshit award?
- Does it have a deadline? Real awards want all the entries in at once so they can judge each entrant against each other to find their winner. If it has rolling entries throughout the year, check step two…
- Does it have an awards ceremony? Real awards want to promote their scheme/publication/industry body and gather everyone together to announce the winners (even though that’s often online at the moment.) Anything along the lines of, “We don’t have an awards ceremony, preferring to let individual winners choose the package that best suits their business,” should set alarm bells ringing, and lead you to check step three…
- Look at last year’s winners: do they have one winner per category (or a first and runner up) and in a sensible number of categories? If there are lots of winners in each category, or categories so weird and wonderful they can only have been invented to serve one particular business, then be cautious.
Of course, there are exceptions to these. For example, the biggest awards of all, the Queen’s Honours Awards, has no deadline, no awards ceremony, and lots of winners in each category – but it certainly doesn’t ask you to pay for your medal!
There could even be some merits to winning one of these awards, in terms of boosting staff morale.
But in terms of getting the business benefits that come from winning an award – credibility, gravitas, genuine media coverage, opportunity to network with peers – I recommend sticking to awards where you’re judged for a particular category against a particular set of entrants and can feel truly proud about winning.