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The pros and cons of PR awards

Industry awards exist for a number of very good reasons. They showcase great work and reward the people who carry it out. Plus, as Neil Van Ginsburg, global sales director at communications agency TVC Group, points out, it is a great feeling to the hear the words “And the winner is…”. Ginsburg adds: “Come on, every agency must want to have that moment in the sun when your name is called at that glittering awards ceremony, when you are feted by industry colleges and it’s high-fives all round.”

We obviously believe in the power of PR awards (especially our own), but we also believe in the power of balanced debate. So here we ask industry pundits to describe the pros and cons of entering industry awards.

The pros

From TVC’s Van Ginsburg:

You can see the competition. “You can benchmark your work against your peers and see if it stacks up.”

It pinpoints your strengths and weaknesses. “You can take a step back from the day to day and see where your business is strong – creative – and maybe weak – proof points...”

It gives you credibility. “If you’re a winner there’s the exposure, credibility and morale boost.”

From Adele Woodthorpe, founder of agency Woodthorpe Comms:

It promotes your company. “Awards give clients and staff an indication of the kind of business you are and the standards you work to, as well as demonstrating your abilities and attracting recognition from peers and industry observers.”

 It provides content for news. “Awards also provide great content by giving your business something to shout about. You can utilise this news by posting on your blog, social media platforms and of course sending out to industry news outlets. This all helps with SEO and online presence, a further benefit of 'putting yourself out there' by entering awards.”

It helps you to win new business. “When pitching for new business, be sure to include any award wins or favourable coverage on all pitching material. Award wins – and even just participation – will instill confidence in the business you are pitching to, which should give an extra little advantage when trying to win an account.“

You gain respect. “Participating in awards help gain you and your company respect in your sector, and send a signal to current clients, prospective clients and both existing and prospective staff that you operate an ambitious, high-calibre business.”

The cons

From TVC’s Van Ginsburg:

It costs money and time. “It is not just the entry fee, but likely between £1,000 to £4,000 investment in time and resources to support any entry. Could you use that time and money more wisely?” 

It can be risky. “Ask yourself, is this award-winning work, can it be packaged up in a convincing and succinct format to impress the panel, is it ground-breaking or just good? Make sure you get a second, independent view on your entry.”

It may not be fair. “Is it a level playing field, is the judging panel and process robust and independent, or is it gathering of the usual suspects fawning over each other to self-congratulate and share the awards among themselves?”

From Alex Black, part of the marketing competition The Creative Shootout and associate director at PR agency Launch:

It is hard to enter. “Writing awards entries is time consuming – and not everyone's cup of tea – so it often gets outsourced to colleagues or consultants. But it's difficult to showcase work to the best effect when the person writing about it wasn't at the sharp end.”.

People politics can be a nightmare. “There's the politics of who goes on the day. Who to invite – and how many? Who to keep an eye out for? Too much 'skin in the game' and you're bound to feel frustrated if you don't get enough marketing juice out of it. Too little and you're liable to feel a bit flat, whatever the result. What should be team-building gold-dust can suddenly carry a bit too much baggage for comfort.”

Case study

Why we are skipping awards this year

Jim Hawker, co-founder of PR agency Threepipe: “20 years into the PR industry and having won PR Week, PRCA, CIPR, CorpComms, Communicate, Holmes Report and of course PRmoment awards, we are taking a break!

“The decision has not come lightly and it’s partly an experiment to see if it makes a difference or not. As our business has evolved and we now run campaigns across more channels, then more awards (and vertical awards) become open for us to enter. I worked out that we could have considered entering 70 awards this year across the SEO, PR, social, search and display channels for which we create and execute campaigns.

“Instead, we are putting our budget into other ways to market the agency. Not just to client prospects and staff, but also to ensure that our clients are being given the right level of care and attention. We are putting resource into creating more of our own content and creating our own events, rather than relying on awards to be the main channel we are using to talk about the value we offer.

“Awards definitely have a place in the agency marketing mix and I know from experience that winning an award can bring benefits. However, I also know that some of the changes we have made are also working.”

Everyone loves to be a winner, and being at an awards event is also a great place to network. So if you want to feel special next spring, we suggest you enter the PRmoment awards here. We may have said this article was going to offer balanced debate, but we never said we wouldn’t do any self promotion! We are a PR magazine after all…

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