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Do awards and accreditation matter?

As an agency MD there are an ever-increasing number of ways in which you can secure third-party validation of your agency’s success. There are obviously awards – most importantly those of PRmoment naturally – but there’s also a range of accreditations, audits and benchmarking you can submit to in order to receive a stamp of approval.

The question, of course, is whether any of this is worth it. Awards can be costly and time-consuming to enter, audits sometimes require endless box-ticking exercises of little real-world relevance and benchmarking can only provide comparison with an average of firms that might be completely dissimilar to yours.

The success of the competing schemes would seem to suggest that the answer is yes – the growth of the PRCA’s CMS scheme and the plethora of industry awards clearly demonstrate the demand.

Certainly, as an agency, we’re strong believers in awards and accreditation. MWW is itself a participant in these – we’re PRCA accredited, we enter, judge (and win) various awards here and in the US, and we use industry-benchmarking programmes to track our performance. Moreover, in nearly all of our campaigns we encourage our clients to enter their work for the relevant awards, so we must practice what we preach!

If the validity of these activities is therefore accepted, the next question is what is the optimal mix? It would be quite possible to consume entire PR teams in entering awards and meeting audit requirements, so where does one draw the line?

The answer is, of course, different for every agency. I’ve met successful founders who’ve sworn that being active in the PRCA is the gateway to riches whilst others have proposed a marketing strategy almost totally focused around winning awards.

At MWW we even have variations between territories – in the UK, where we’re a relatively new entrant, the PRCA CMS was a great way of demonstrating the robustness of our processes. In the US, where we’re a well-established name, something like our founder’s recent recognition as US PR Professional of the Year by PR Week helps to reinforce our existing reputation.

The most important thing is that any scheme you enter needs to have credibility amongst the audience you want to reach – largely potential clients and employees. Whilst a little-known award scheme might fill space on your coffee table, any potential client or employee worth their salt is quickly going to ask themselves whether the small plastic brick from an obscure organisation is really a meaningful validation.

Similarly, passing an audit from a body without the weight of a major professional organisation tends to ask the question of why you chose that rather than the blue-chip alternative.

Awards are unquestionably good for validating your fantastic work, for improving the reputation of the industry as a whole and for helping to attract clients and staff. However, as with any such investment, the time and cost needs to be focused on those schemes which achieve the objectives you set and that matter to the people that matter to you.

Article written by Paddy Herridge, UK managing director, at agency MWW PR

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