When you walk into any advertising or PR agency, one of the first things you usually see is a wall or case full of awards. It’s a reminder that the agency does great work and is respected for it. You take the company seriously before you ever set foot in a conference room—where more awards likely await.

Inexplicably, many companies outside the communications industry don’t follow the same strategy; in fact, more than one has told me they don’t need a “dustcatcher” for their office to know they’ve done a good job. However, awards and recognition from local and national organizations are so much more than the plaque or trophy that goes on a shelf—they’re a gold mine of marketing opportunity.

For starters, they provide you with instant third-party credibility. It’s one thing for you to say you have the best product or service ever, but it’s quite another when an organization with 50,000 members or readers says so. They’re usually not shy about promoting their award winners on their websites and in their newsletters and e-blasts, which gets your name (and sometimes a longer feature) in front of even more people.

Better still, awards and recognition create a reason for you to reach out to your clients, customers, partners, vendors and yes, the media. You can share the news via a blog post, news release, newsletter and social media—all of which help with search engine optimization, brand awareness and thought leadership. Additionally, the organization bestowing the award often has a badge or logo you can use in these venues as well as in your email signature and on your website.

That dustcatcher is sounding better and better …so how do you increase your chances of winning one? Doing excellent work is imperative, but when competing against scores of nominations, even the most deserving entries can be discarded or disqualified. Here are five tips to help you stand out from the competition:

  • Tell a compelling story. Judges sift through many superlative-laden entries. Capture their attention by painting them a more engaging picture. Be candid about the problems your company faced, guide them through your solution and illustrate how it made a difference. Including metrics helps underscore the impact you had.
  • Remember it’s not all about you. Third-party credibility is vital to your success, so incorporate quotes, testimonials and even letters of recommendation in the space provided, as well as when allowed to provide supplemental materials. More often than not, your customers and partners will gladly let you draft something for their approval; take advantage of that gift to ensure you cover your key messages.
  • Clean your plate. Mom’s dinner table advice applies here, too—many entries have a word or character limit; be sure to use this to your full advantage. If you still have space left after fully answering questions, bridge to other things that would help the judges understand your accomplishment. You can link to case studies, industry research or social media, to name a few options.
  • Use photos and graphics. Most award nominations have fields that restrict your answers to text only, but many allow you to upload supplemental materials. When this is an option, remember that a picture is worth 1,000 words—when it’s a good one. Don’t waste this opportunity on static grip-and-grin shots; choose photos that highlight the difference made or graphics that showcase the results you achieved.
  • Make your entry a priority. Although the call for entries goes out months before submissions are due, too many companies wait until a few days before the deadline to begin. Good planning allows you to focus on the aforementioned tips and gives you ample time to collect everything you need to help your company shine.

Make no mistake—award nominations are a lot of work, and summing up your accomplishments within a set number of words is an art. Done properly, you stand an excellent chance of winning a dustcatcher and enjoying the benefits that come with it—but they don’t come easily. Aker Ink has considerable experience and success in garnering industry and local, regional and national awards, as well as promoting awards once received; contact us to learn how we can help.