Awards Competitions: Are They Worth It?
Local professionals share their thoughts.
Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.
Who doesn’t like having a nice plaque on the wall or trophy on the shelf representing some fabulous award your business or nonprofit won?
Almost every award, however, represents time spent filling out nomination or application forms — time not spent generating revenue or advancing your mission.
“It’s important to weigh the value proposition,” observed Marielle Dupré, co-founder of Windowsill Pies. “How much time and expense are required, and what are the potential benefits?”
Like any other cost-benefit analysis, there are many variables to consider. Let’s review some key ones, starting with the upsides.
Credibility. The Pontchartrain Conservancy recently received the EPA’s Gulf Guardian Award, and according to Executive Director Kristi Trail, “As a science-based organization, it adds to our technical credibility. It’s similar to having a peer-reviewed published paper.”
For Kristin Marshall, digital marketing coordinator for Urban South Brewery, awards can be the little extra something that differentiates a company in a crowded marketplace.
“You put yourself a step ahead of your competitors,” she said. “People know they’re getting a good product.”
Recognition, publicity and awareness. When Windowsill Pies won an award from WYES-TV, “it was the first time we’d gotten public recognition,” noted Nicole Eider, the business’s second co-founder. This, in turn, led to further media coverage.
Urban South recently won a Crushie Award — an international recognition of a brewery’s marketing efforts — from the Craft Beer Marketing Awards.
“People often buy a brand’s personality more than they buy the product, and this award was a chance to show off our brand identity,” said Marshall.
“The bragging rights for a small brewery that comes out on top is huge,” added CBMA co-founder Jackie DiBella-Curry. “The name recognition alone in the global press will help them get to that next step.”
New business/support. “We hope it’s a layer of what brings clients to us,” commented Alicia Vial, senior director of strategy for public-relations firm Gambel Communications, “but it’s one of many strategies we use to promote our agency.”
Trail noted that “awards help when putting together grants and talking to funders,” a sentiment shared by James Howell, development director for Boys Town Louisiana. “We tell our donors, ‘This is your award, too.’”
Money. In both the private and nonprofit worlds, awards occasionally include a financial win. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.
Morale. “Most of the value is in our own community,” Howell observed. “It boosts morale and commitment to the mission among our staff.”
But what about the costs? Those can include:
Time. “It can be pretty time-consuming to pull all the pieces together,” commented Vial. “So capacity is a big determination for us.”
Finances. Costs start with competition entry fees, which Marshall noted “can get pretty steep.” Windowsill Pies was once asked to provide 500 samples for a competition.
“It’s not just the time, but the cost of the ingredients, and even space to store the products,” Eider said.
Ultimately, the decision to compete for awards should align with an organization’s overall strategic plan and goals.
“Be selective. Do your homework,” advised Howell. “Will this award advance your strategy for your marketing and your brand?”
“Will it increase awareness? Will it establish you as a thought leader, a community influencer?” added Vial, regarding her agency’s advice to clients. “We recommend applying if it goes back to their goals.”
And remember, you may not win.
“Know what you’re up against, what kind of quality you need to have,” advised Marshall. “Be honest with yourself, and be willing to take the criticism that comes with it. You may not win an award, but you will get higher knowledge.”
Each organization and award is unique, and each competition requires a strategic analysis and decision. But the benefits are there. For instance, when this humble columnist was first approached about writing for Biz New Orleans, the publisher cited a profile that described me as “an award-winning writer” as having piqued his interest!
Keith Twitchell’s blog, “Neighborhood Biz,” appears every Thursday at BizNewOrleans.com.