Leveraging Awards in your PR Strategy

Between the months of November and February every year, Awards season in Hollywood ratchets up as celebs, directors, musicians, and costume designers alike wait to hear if their project has caught the attention of awards judges. The next Meryl Streep may be discovered in this year’s selections. From the Emmys to the SAG Awards, Grammys and every other award in between – it’s clear that the promised prestige of awards matters. And you know what these award nominees and winners are able to capitalize on between awards shows? Tons of valuable PR opportunities and many other hidden benefits. Entertainment is not the only industry where this holds true. Let’s walk through creating an awards strategy that will net you both PR and company-wide benefits.

Choosing Your Targets

Every industry has dozens of awards programs, and they each offer unique benefits for both winners and finalists.  Think carefully about where to invest your efforts: Just like certain movies fare better at the Independent Spirit Awards than the Oscars, only certain programs will really make sense for your company and fit with your goals. For instance, if an award relies on public voting to determine results, it’s likely to be a good fit only for companies with a strong social media program. You’ll need to promote the ballot and engage with potential voters frequently throughout the voting period. On the plus side, such programs provide a natural storyline for your social feeds and a great opportunity to interact with your online audience. If doing that fills you dread, you’re likely better off submitting to awards that rely on case studies, data, or narrative as selection criteria.

Look for awards that are a natural fit, both in terms of your marketing goals and desired audience and in terms of the selection criteria. Criteria should be clear, specific, and make you think, “Hey, that’s me!” Don’t stretch to fit into the wrong box – many awards are highly competitive, and you’ll likely be wasting your time.

Special Note: Keep budget in mind when assessing awards programs, considering both entry fees and licensing fees. Increasingly, award programs require winners to sign licensing contracts to use the program logo or promote their win: Licensing costs for awards programs from tier one publications can exceed five figures.  Frankly, if you can’t promote an award on your website or social media, its value is limited. Make sure to consider all associated costs in the front half of your awards program and budget accordingly.

When you consider awards in your overall PR and marketing mix, there are a boatload of obvious benefits that I could extol: brand awareness, recognition, and increased exposure in the industry. However, entering awards programs can reap other rewards that you may not have thought of.


I’m sure you’ve taken a look at an awards program before and thought, “Well, we don’t have anything that would qualify.” If you don’t have something that fits in the categories or shipping/announcement eligibility window, that’s ok!

But don’t forget about those awards that have to do with process. Awards that cover customer service, technical support, or even community involvement can confer many of the same benefits as product awards. If you still don’t feel like your brand is award-worthy after examining these options, perhaps it’s an opportunity to reevaluate as a company.

When I was working at CEDIA, we frequently heard that the CEDIA Awards process was demanding, but it often forced companies to improve their project documentation so the entry process would be easier the next go around. Similarly, in order to be eligible for any of Fortune’s “Best Workplace” lists, you must first meet Great Place to Work certification benchmarks measuring employee satisfaction and trust.

Sometimes, the process of simply applying for an award makes your company better. If you’re not at an award-worthy level, use award programs as a benchmark to get there.

Recruiting Talent

Prior to joining Caster Communications, the fact that they had been named to the PRNEWS Agency Elite Top 100 told me a lot about the team I was looking to join. I won’t lie – I looked up the award criteria to better understand what this award really meant. And let’s just say I was impressed.

Make sure your awards are visible across your website. This can show potential team members some of the areas that you’ve excelled in. Maybe you won a Better Business Bureau award for volunteer hours, or you’ve consistently swept industry awards for innovation. Increasingly, millennial workers want their jobs to have purpose and be a source of community. Use awards to help tell that story for you.

Company Morale

Don’t underestimate the boost awards can still have on company morale. Innovative teams deserve to be celebrated. Find out what awards your team values and involve them in applying. Even the fact that management views the team’s accomplishments as award-worthy can be gratifying. Some awards programs include a celebratory event, which can also be a great way to show employees appreciation – a night out to join together and celebrate.

Still: proceed with caution if morale is a main motivator for entering an awards program. If your company just went through a round of layoffs or had to suspend raises, consider if it’s really the optimal year to enter a “best places to work” competition.

The Winners Circle

Though it would be nice to sweep every category for your company is eligible, it’s not a realistic expectation: not everyone can be season 3 of Succession at the 2023 Emmys. The awards process can be its own reward, however. Campaigning for awards can increase the cadence and engagement on your social media. Awards criteria can help you evaluate your product and organizational strengths and weaknesses. The awards you apply for and win can be rallying point for your staff, existing and new. If your enter into awards programs with a thoughtful approach, and you treat every stage as a learning experience, you will always be in the winner’s circle.

Wondering what a successful Awards run looks like? Check out our recent case studies on Hunter Douglas and Abode to get an idea of how we use awards as part of an overall PR strategy.

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