Business Awards
By - Sandi Webster

How to Use Business Awards for Publicity and Public Relations!

I possess a talent for winning awards.  Yes, I’m an “awards junkie.” Is this a talent or a cultivated activity?  I believe it’s a little talent peppered with a lot of cultivated activity.  I have the marketing background to identify the awards that would be best for my company. However, I also deliberately plan what will happen before and after I win the award.


Business Awards


It is irrelevant if you were nominated for the award, or if you paid a fee to apply for the award.  The only relevant thing is to GET the award or a nomination. Notice I did not say “win.”  Awards are given for different reasons, categories and levels – Top Ten Businesses, Best Business of the Year, Most Promising X, Ugliest X.

It started in 2002 when my business partner and I formed a company with very little savings right after 9/11.  After we purchased our computers, we realized we had no money to pay for necessities like public relations.  How would our potential corporate customers learn about us and the fantastic new service we were offering? Publicity filled the gap.

We volunteered to do a project with a non-profit organization because we had no current client and time to burn.  We created a targeted, on-point, five-year strategic planning roadmap for them.  They were grateful (and we did an excellent job) that they gave us a beautiful plaque as our first award.  That plaque elevated our business profile.


Here is why I apply for awards and how you can use these tips:

  1. It was an opportunity to invite family, friends and potential clients to an event we couldn’t afford.

Such a new business rarely gets the opportunity to invite people to an event due to the cost. Take advantage of things you can do before receiving the award:

  • Publicize your nomination if there is a nomination process.  Make a big deal about the “upcoming event.”
  • Event award nominees and/or winners usually get a +1 or a steep discount on the ticket.
  • If tickets are sold as a fundraiser, invite potential clients to grab sponsorship opportunities. They will thank you and sometimes attend.
  • Family members and friends will support you, and even invite others.
  • If you have enough supporters, purchase a table.  Again, that price is usually discounted.  You can sell the seats back to supporters or invite potential clients. If they are offering a “sell 10, get one free” offer, you can attend without any cost to you.

2. The organization took lots of pictures with our award.

The organization asked us to speak to the press in a 2-minute interview and distributed the pictures with the interview.  We landed in NJ Biz, a top business paper at the time.  We did not yet have the connections to bring the attention that the press gave us.

  • Ensure that your family/friends take lots of high-resolution pictures with everyone you can grab – government officials, famous people, local celebrities, corporate sponsors – everyone!
  • Take individual pictures since you are already dressed, made up, and have a good backdrop.  It is not the time to be shy.  You will need these pictures for future promotional opportunities.

3. We issued a press release.

A press release was costly – around $80 at the time – but it was well worth it.

  • It allows you to spread your news locally and nationally.  Press release companies allow you to target specific areas and the newspapers and TV news media can pick up your story.
  • It is an opportunity to position your company as a mover and shaker in your industry. When you have a new business, you need all the eyeballs that you can get.  If you are an established business, great press never hurts to keep you in front of your community.

4. We created newsworthy moments with the pictures.

  • We created our first company newsletter to share the event with potential customers. You can do the same.
  • Plaster the pages of social media with your award.  A picture of your award becomes your cover picture.  It is a conversation starter.
  • On a regular basis, release little tidbits about the event (and your company) – you can stretch this out for months.
  • Update your brochure with the pictures.  If you didn’t have a brochure, now’s a good time to create one as it can be distributed online.
  • If you lose an award after promoting your nomination, still consider it a win.  Use that opportunity to share how much that award would have meant to you and your business, how honored you felt to be nominated, and publicly thank your supporters and sponsors.

5. A recognized entity said we were awesome!

The organization was extremely well-known and highly thought of in the local tri-state area where we lived and worked.  Getting accolades from such a prestigious organization was public validation of our company and helped to create an atmosphere of success that we didn’t have as yet.

  • Include the award in your sales calls – “As a matter of fact, we just won award for strategic planning from XYZ organization.”
  • Corporations will notice when you pose with an employee in a picture.  Those pictures will be posted on the company’s website, social media and the individual employee’s social media. This will result in congratulatory calls, text or social media posts from people you know in those corporations.  Take those prime opportunities to schedule a call with prospects.

The combination of publicity and PR had a positive effect on our business.  Awards beget awards – other organizations reached out to us to speak or to give us awards as well.  I parlayed my learnings from that first event into numerous awards and accolades over sixteen (16) years in business.  We made the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Businesses in America list six times, plus was a featured Entrepreneur of the Week.  We landed the July 2007 cover of Money Magazine.  We won a coveted place in the 2006 Make Mine a $Million Business contest – which I freely credit with giving us publicity along with business advice that catapulted us over the million-dollar revenue mark.

An award definitely means press and interviews for my business, but the most important lesson that I learned was that it’s not whether or not I win or lose, but how I played the game!