Getting it right is not always a given. The bigger the awards the harder it is to manage all the moving parts. There’s a smarter way to approach every single element of your awards and you will learn all the ins and outs in this complete and holistic guide. Don’t worry if some part of the guide doesn’t apply to your awards, you can still apply about 99% of the information to pretty much any kind of program. We cover absolutely everything like nobody has before.

Well, happy reading!

Table of contents

01. Introduction
02. Why start an awards in the first place
03. Ticking all the boxes
04. Creating and pricing your award categories
05. The fine art of creating your entry forms
06. Awards marketing & communication strategy
07. Evaluation phase and judging criteria
08. The somewhat boring (but important) stuff
09. You`ll need the right tools
10. Announcing the winners

 

01 INTRODUCTION

 

Everybody loves awards 

Awards have always been popular but nowadays that’s more so than ever before. It’s pretty obvious why – literally everybody loves awards. It’s all about being superior in sport, quality, activity, industry, etc. If attracting lots of people towards your brand is important for you, starting a contest can be a real game-changer and if done right it can be quite beneficial for everyone associated including the organizer, sponsors, program judges, everyone recognized with a nomination, and of course the worthy winners.

There’s a smarter way

With this guide you’ll end up considerably wiser on what makes an awards program tick, including:

  • why organize an awards competition in the first place;
  • how to ensure you have a winning formula on your hands;
  • creating, promoting and selling your award categories;
  • more marketing basics and not-so-basics;
  • formulating your judging criteria and evaluation phase;
  • preparing the legal terms for your awards;
  • picking the right tools for every job;
  • announcing the winners and overall results.

02 WHY START AN AWARDS IN THE FIRST PLACE

If you are organizing awards, you need to understand what makes participation compelling to people. What is the first thing that pops into your head, when you hear the word “awards”? Is it a gold-plated trophy, the red carpet at the Oscars, flashing lights, celebrities in tuxedos and designer dresses? Doesn’t matter if it’s the Emmys, or your local squash league, аwards are all about prestige and recognition.

People like having their efforts, work, and accomplishments acknowledged. In business awards it’s also about comparing against the rest, being recognized as one of the best, celebrating with your team, and impressing your current and potential clients.

There’s plenty of strategic value

Companies understand the strategic value of awards as a means to be more competitive in
today’s business climate.

  • Recognition – a win or even a simple nomination can have a great impact on the growth of a company and help it gain further recognition in its field.
  • Credibility – if аcompany has embraced innovation as its number one priority, then an innovation award can give considerable weight to such claims.
  • Public relations – the acknowledgement that comes with awards is the bee’s knees of PR, especially if you align the awards with a good cause that people would love to get behind.
  • Increased profits – award winners enjoy bigger sales and more clients compared to their competitors. And the benefits of even just being nominated are too good to pass.
  • Team building – winning, or even participating in an awards competition boosts team morale that resonates well in the workplace.

“Think of it as building the foundation for massively scalable word-of-mouth.”
Aileen Lee, famous venture capitalist and blogger

That’s enough for companies nowadays to set a part of their budget specifically for awards and jump at the chance to participate.

But what’s in it for you?

As the organizer, what exactly do you stand to gain from creating an awards competition?

That’s pretty easy…

NEW BUSINESS LEADS AND CONTACTS
Obviously, if you have a database with existing contacts you will get in touch with them first. But an awards contest has high potential for bringing many new business leads for the reasons
listed above. We’ll cover this bit in-depth in this guide.

STRENGTHENS AND IMPROVES YOUR BRAND
Awards you organize are also a good way to bring some attention to your brand. This can also
have long-term benefits – the more the program grows, the more you strengthen and improve
your brand image.

EXTRA PUBLICITY FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION
Not saying you’ll automatically get free publicity simply because you’re organizing an awards competition. But awards are the darlings in any industry and as such generate more online buzz, media coverage, shares, likes and commentary across all channels.

NEW BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS
Because everyone’s fascinated by awards competitions, there’s great potential for arranging new business partnerships, even with companies that aren’t part of the industry you operate in. Awards are great for branching out.

ANOTHER INCOME CHANNEL
It’s not about the money – but money is money. Any source of income for your organization is definitely worth the time and effort, so let’s not pretend it’s “no biggie.” Even as a non-profit or a charity organization you can do with some resources to operate more efficiently.

POTENTIAL TO DO SOME GOOD
An awards competition can serve a good cause, like distinguishing excellence in science, supporting environmental efforts, pushing innovations, etc. A good cause is something that people are usually happy to get behind.

Next, time to make it a winning awards competition!

03 TICKING ALL THE BOXES

If you want to succeed in this endeavour, every element and program phase is important. Creating and managing a winning awards program means paying attention to the details. So you want to make sure you tick all the boxes, starting with the basics and moving onto the more
advanced stuff.

✔️A name that sticks

It may seem unimportant, but the name of your awards is significant. It can give an indication of what the awards are for from the off. A catchy name will always attract more attention than a generic one. It’s not a key factor, but every little bit helps. Oh, and check to see if you can register a suitable domain.

✔️Identify your audience

Knowing your audience is central to everything you do for the rest of the awards. It’s probably the single most important element of your strategy. Do your research, and make sure you have identified and profiled your target audience well, so you can plan the rest of your awards well.

✔️A detailed plan

Planning is critical when it comes to awards management. Make sure you plan every phase of the program carefully and know exactly how much time you need every step of the way. Avoid approximate timelines as they often lead to bottlenecks throughout your program.

An awards competition usually has 4 main phases:
• registration period (a.k.a call for entries)
• entry submission (entrants work on and submit their applications)
• entry evaluation (judging phase)
• announcements (finalists, winners)

The longest stage should be the collection of entries, at least if you want as many entries as possible. The evaluation phase shouldn’t be too long, else you’re mixing anticipation with procrastination. Finally, you don’t want to wait too long to announce things like shortlisted
entries, finalists, and winners of course.

✔️Team-up

Contact companies for partnership and sponsorship opportunities. The main thing here is to find sponsors that match your awards, industry, and/or the interests of your audience. It just needs to make sense for the potential sponsor to sponsor your awards.

✔️Bang-on website

Your website has to be the face of your awards, where people come to find out more about it and register for the program. Having impressive but also informative pages will ensure the credibility of your awards program and generate more traffic.

✔️Marketing budget

Investing some time and money into marketing the awards, rather than merely organizing it, will help reach the precise audience and make the most of this whole endeavour. This guide has so much food for thought in this regard, it will make your head spin.

✔️Expert judging panel

Featuring industry experts on the judging panel spells prestige and publicity. Spend time to select judges who lend legitimacy to your program and also become brand ambassadors of sorts, who could actually attract more potential entries.

✔️Strong online presence

If your awards competition is not online, you’re doing it wrong. There’s 4.5+ billion people out there using the Internet to get stuff done and you want to reach as many people as possible with your awards.

✔️Social proof

Social proof is necessary to create an aura of prestige, recognition and good publicity for your awards. It’s a continuous effort that comes from selecting the right judges for the contest, having articles published about the awards by various media, and attracting big-name sponsors and partners along. If available, add customer testimonials and company logos participating in the awards.

✔️Trophies, plaques, certificates

An award means nothing if the winner has nothing to show for it. Plan who gets what to commemorate their awards participation and make sure everything looks as professional as possible, so people would actually enjoy showing them off.

✔️Additional goodies

Consider some extra goodies, like trophies for 2nd and 3rd place as well, website banners or badges that participants can use, certificates and plaques (can be physical or digital), and any other digital or non-digital goods you can think of.

✔️Everything made easy

You’ve checked everything else on the list, but there’s one more important thing to do – make all moving parts run nice and smooth. Everything should be easy not just for you, but for the award participants and program judges as well. Only then can the awards be considered a success.

 

04 CREATING AND PRICING YOUR AWARD CATEGORIES

You have a clear concept of what your awards competition is all about, but it’s the entry categories that define it. You want to welcome as many participants as possible, which comes with identifying and doing some research on your target audience, then providing the categories
they’d be interested in winning and being recognized as the best in. At the same time avoid creating so many categories that it throws off potential participants and becomes a nightmare to manage for you.

A simple example

Let’s say you want to incite corporate venues to participate in your awards. This means you can have different categories for the various types of venues. Then there’s the fact different venues cater to different events, activities, audiences. Congress and convention centers are usually extremely large, while conference ones may be smaller, so you’ll probably want to consider
venue sizes as well.

Breaking up the venue categories guarantees you higher interest and more entries for the
awards. To continue with the example, you can have different categories depending on venue
type, like so:

  • Conference centers
  • Congress and convention centers
  • Hotels with meeting facilities:

– City hotels
– Resort hotels
– Airport hotels

  • Special venues

– Cultural (museums, universities, galleries)
– Recreational (country clubs, restaurants, parks, zoos, botanic gardens)

  • Unconventional venues

Next, if you want additional categories, you can break each type of venue into more categories for size:

  • Conference centers
    Large / Medium / Small
  • Congress and convention centers
    Large / Medium / Small
  • Hotels with meeting facilities:

– City hotels
Large / Medium /Small
– Resort hotels
Large / Medium / Small
– Airport hotels
Large / Medium / Small

  • Special venues:

– Cultural (museums, universities, galleries)
Large / Medium / Small
– Recreational (country clubs, restaurants, parks, zoos, botanic gardens)
Large / Medium / Small

  • Unconventional venues
    Large / Medium / Small

You can further break down these into even more categories based on venue purpose like sports, concerts, restaurants, etc.

This simple example shows how you can approach your categories to provide many possibilities for participation. At the same time there’s a clear distinction between them, therefore there’s value in winning.

 

Names and descriptions

Unlike the name of your awards, the category names don’t have to be unique. In fact, better keep them simple so people can…

  1. Easily identify the category/ies they should enter
  2. Clearly see the value of winning the category/ies

There should be a simple and crystal clear description for each entry category. In addition, you might want to put info on who is eligible to participate and/or any requirements for participation. Here’s a quick example from the biggest global event industry awards Eventex Awards – a description for their New Event Technology category:

“A category devoted to the rising stars in the industry! Any new event tech, app or gadget, or new feature in an existing product that was developed in the last 3 years, is suitable for this category. Here’s your chance to be recognized and show off in front of the whole event world!”

 

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:

Include the judging criteria, or at least some information on how entries are going to be evaluated, within the category’s description. That way participants would know exactly what the judges will be looking for in an entry and increase the overall quality of the submissions.

How to handle pricing for paid entry awards

Perhaps the trickiest part is deciding on the right pricing for entering the awards. If you set it too low – the program will bring lower profit margins. Set it too high and you’re pricing out potential applicants and missing out on more sales.Here are the main pricing strategies you
can choose from.

Competitive pricing – based on what the competition is charging is a relatively safe and reliable strategy to adopt. Just keep in mind that it has its downfalls, as the difference in prices influences the decision to buy and consumers are less likely to do so if faced with a choice between two similar items with identical prices.

Premium pricing – simply put, charge higher prices for entry into your program or awards. This is suitable for market-leading organizations and well-known names, but can be tricky to pull off if you’re still relatively unknown. We recommend a lower markup, because it would be more effective during your organization’s growth period when aiming for higher market penetration.

Economy pricing – more or less the opposite of Premium pricing, this strategy adopts low prices. It’s a good option provided you’re able to minimize your costs enough to afford such lower prices. This strategy is usually a good way to guarantee more award entries for the program, but it’s also less likely to bring a good profit.

Psychology pricing – our favourite strategy as it uses a mix of different marketing techniques to drive sales. The main idea here is to incite the potential applicant to make a purchase by appealing to them on an emotional rather than rational level. Throughout this guide we’ll go through most of these techniques.

Getting the price right in 4 easy steps

1. Calculate your base price

The base price is the lowest amount that someone will pay for participating in your program. To ensure that you will at least break even your base price should be derived by calculating your potential direct, indirect, variable, fixed, and other operating costs. Then you can add a markup.

2. Add a markup

Do you want entry into the program to come at a premium price, be more affordable, or somewhere between? When deciding this consider important factors such as competition, market trends, special offer strategy, and last but not least – how much would target applicants actually be willing to spend to participate in the awards.

3. Plan your special offers

Adding improved value propositions like discounts, promo codes, freebies, etc. should be part of the plan. They’re a good way to attract new applicants, retain previous ones. Consider any special offers you’ll be adding and make sure such strategic sales don’t reduce your bottom
line instead of increasing it.

4. Set your prices

You’re ready to set a dynamic pricing range to drive sales. This should be based on segmentation and knowing data about peak sales periods. The price of a perishable product fluctuates continuously over time, one simple way of driving demand is to incrementally increase the price when nearing “D-day” and mix it up with unexpected discounts and promotional sales.

Fixed vs dynamic prices

Fixed prices

One obvious advantage of fixed prices is the simplification of the budget and pricing structure. This can work really well when there’s a stable demand for program registrations. There is one major drawback of the fixed price scheme that we already mentioned – set the price too low, and you’ll miss out on potential revenue; set the price too high, and you may face slow demand and end up losing sales. This type of pricing model also ignores the reality of fluctuating demand, and in some cases, completely eliminates the sense of urgency in the potential buyer.

Dynamic prices

Revenue, or yield, management is a strategic tool used to maximize revenues. It provides a more optimal way to sell inventory for the hospitality industry, event tickets, fashion products, or award entries of course. The idea is to adopt dynamic pricing in order to drive sales.

The price scheme is usually based on segmentation of relevant price categories and researching the potential peak sales periods. You can mix this with incrementally increasing the price when nearing the end of the registration period and mixing it up with unexpected discounts and promotional sales.

If entry price increases are part of your strategy, you should do them gradually with small and frequent changes. This makes the changes less noticeable and people don’t get used to a certain reference price.

Influencing price perception

You know the saying that we’re all bound to spend ”til it hurts”? Driving sales is all about reducing that pain. The act of paying with a credit card as a very simple example of reducing that pain – it feels better compared to paying cash because you are not giving actual bills of money. There are many ways to make a purchase less painful. Part of this fine art involves affecting the customer’s price perception – commonly known as psychological or charm pricing.

Adjust the left digit

To make your price seem lower, reduce the left digit by one count and complete the whole number with .99. It works because we tend to scan information rather than analyze it in-depth, so we see $299 as less than $300 because the first digit we see is 2, which is less than 3.

Use prices with less syllables

People unconsciously perceive a positive relationship between syllabic length and numerical magnitude. A price which has 7 syllables may be perceived as more expensive than one which has 5 syllables, even if it really isn’t. Test your price to see how long it “sounds” and optimize it if possible.

Remove unnecessary characters and zeroes

Research indicates that putting a comma in the price can influence the perception of its magnitude. A $299 price will always work better than $299,99 because you reduce both the physical and the phonetic length of your price.

Use words that imply small magnitude

The language you use around the price is very important as well, since it changes the potential buyer’s numerical perception of magnitude. Try to use words that imply a small magnitude like small, low, little, tiny, etc.

Arrange from highest to lowest price

If you have different prices for entering the program, consider the order in which you’re going to present your categories on the registration form. The first price people see becomes a sort of reference for them and affects their perception of all other prices. If you start with a $300 category, a $100 one will seem cheap and $800 expensive.

Motivate the visitor to act

Use words that can motivate potential applicants to register. The idea is to trigger action instead of just writing about your program. This is a powerful marketing technique that leads to increased sales known as Call to Action or CTA.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
Decide what action you want to trigger, start with a verb that motives towards that action, and for optimal results, put that CTA above the fold at the top of the landing page. This makes the button one of the first things the potential registrant is going to see.

Sale badges and other conversion triggers
Promotional sale indicators are a very powerful tool. Whether that indicator is a large SALES text or an attention-grabbing badge, they often get a response from the potential buyer. This one is so effective that a higher price with a special sale indication can even outperform a lower price without one.

Some careful planning and a good strategy can yield fantastic results. Just remember that there’s no universal recipe for success – you should always experiment, analyze results, update, and improve. With Evalato you get the right tools to do all that and so much more.

 

05 THE FINE ART OF CREATING YOUR ENTRY FORMS

With the categories all set, you’ll need to decide what information would each participant be required to enter as part of their application. Most of it, if not all, should be based on the criteria that judges will be using to distinguish the poor from the average and the exceptional entries. That’s where the entry forms come in – they’re filled out by entrants and allow you to collect everything you need.

Consider what would the judges need to make an accurate assessment of the entries. Try to ask the right questions. Maybe require visual data like pictures and/or videos to supplement the entries. Also, be very clear on the requirements and specifications, if any – for example, list the accepted file formats that you’ll be accepting, or indicate the maximum number of characters for a text field.

Avoid using too many fields – in most cases the simpler the form, the better.

A simple example

To continue with the example used when creating the award categories, we’re evaluating
venues, so here’s some ideas that fit the theme:

  • Allow entrants to provide a short history of the venue.
  • Require some visual information on the venue like photos, a 360-video, or short presentation.
  • Ask for the unique selling points of the venue.
  • Ask for any additional features like technological equipment, flexibility (modular space),
    security, accessibility, sustainable design, etc.

Useful options Evalato brings to the table

In any case, make sure you are using a solution that has a robust entry form builder. Anything less would just be considered old school today and frankly that’s not something you want for your program. Evalato offers the whole shebang along with a number of super useful extra
features you can utilize.

Text fields with character limit – not just text fields, they’re obviously needed so people can provide any necessary information related to their application. The ability to limit the number of symbols allowed within a text field is important, if you have requirements about the length of the text or simply wish to avoid judges from having to read what is usually referred to
as a “wall of text”.

Image, gallery placeholders – allow people to add images as part of their applications. While such visuals make an application more appealing, they can drastically complement the text and help make things more understandable when necessary.

Embeddable videos, images, etc – how about a place where applicants can simply drop a link to a web page, a video on YouTube or Vimeo, an image, or even a Google Maps location and it gets automatically embedded directly into the application? It’s not only super convenient,
but also considerably faster than having to upload large files.

Questions – for when you want to ask questions and let people choose one or select multiple answers. You can even create a whole survey then analyse the data and export if for external use.

Limit data access – maybe some of the information you collect via the entry form is not for everyone to be able to access. Evalato even has you covered there as well by allowing you to separate which information can only be seen by you (the program administrator), by award
judges, and the public of course.

Application thumbnails – a thumbnail option is great if you want to have an image next to the name of every application on the lists. That’s usually the case where public voting is involved, it also makes it easier for the applications to stand out.

File uploads – of course you’ll want to provide an option for file uploads as well, that’s most useful whenever the embed option just isn’t suitable. You probably don’t want embedded .zip files for example.

Downloadable entry kit

Since you’ve probably just finalized the categories, their descriptions, and the entry forms for the different categories, consider preparing a downloadable entry kit as well. Most award programs out there choose to provide one for potential entrants to download – it’s a selection of information and materials that help people submit their entries.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
Try this neat trick – once you finalize the categories, descriptions, and entry forms, consider sending at least some of that information to your judges. They may give you some invaluable feedback, like pointers on what could be missing or stuff that’s unnecessary. Trust their expertise as they will be the ones assessing the entries.

 

06 AWARDS MARKETING & COMMUNICATION STRATEGY

 

We covered business partnerships, online presence, and marketing to some extent already. Now it’s time to expand on how to make your awards successful. The main thing here is to explore all possibilities and use as many channels as possible to popularize your program, because awards are meant to be announced far and wide and reach as many people as possible.

Start with finding sponsors 

What’s the participant profile you’ve identified as your target audience? If it’s individuals – what’s their age, sex, education, profession, income, interests? If it’s companies – industries, revenue, interests. These are things you might want to consider and find the kind of company that would benefit from reaching your audience. Choose your targets carefully and you will have a much higher chance of striking a deal!

While the main goal here is funding, there is also the element of “social proof” in having a widely recognized company logo on the awards competition website as an official award sponsor, as well as adding their name in press materials.

Some ideas to help you entice a sponsor:

  • let them headline the competition;
  • offer sponsorship of specific categories that are relevant specifically to them;
  • put their logo in all email communication for the awards;
  • provide additional email marketing opportunities;
  • agree to share certain data and statistics about your audience.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
Remember that you can’t just process personal data without having consent to do so. Use Evalato’s Waiver fields to add
any important terms of participation, privacy agreements, consent forms, etc. You can use the field as many times as you need to be fully compliant with GDPR and other applicable data protection requirements.

Influencers 

“Individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position, or relationship.”
Source: Businessdictionary.com

Like them or not, it’s 2020 so you shouldn’t ignore the ‘influencers’ and any kind of so-called trendsetters. You probably want to look for people that fit your awards, of course. There are free online tools to help you find such individuals.

Keyhole provides a great tool for finding influencers on Twitter and Instagram.
Followerwonk for finding influencers on Twitter.
Buzzsumo for finding the most shared articles and authors online in a given field.
LinkedIn is also great for finding individuals and companies that specialize in the sector you are targeting. In the top search bar of LinkedIn you can research for:

  • individuals with the skill-set of your target field, be it event planning, tourism, marketing, etc;
  • public and private groups for specialists in the field;
  • companies that operate in that field.

With LinkedIn you can also use your searches to find close connections and individuals or companies in a given geographic area.

Media 

There are plenty of magazines for every professional sector. You are always likely to find an editor or prominent journalist in a panel of judges. They are well informed and because their profession usually demands it, they tend to be impartial and objective – key qualities for a member of your jury panel.

Editors of industry-specific publications are influencers in the field. Authors of more general publications who cover your industry are also very knowledgeable and influential. With the right pitch, they can see the value of participating as judges in your awards.

Companies 

How about companies from the sector? The first point of contact can be the PR or marketing team – they understand the value of their company directors participating.

Keep in mind you don’t want to contact the same companies you’ll be approaching for entry registration or sponsorship packages. Carefully consider which company you’re to contact and for what purpose. The same company can’t be a registered participant and have someone from their team on the jury panel.

Associations

Every industry and sector has an association or governing body of some sort. Research and find the ones relevant to your awards, browse through the members, find the ones that would have the most influence as judges in your awards. Again, no need to rule out competing associations.

Celebrity judges 

Another option is to look for celebrity judges, but unless it’s for a charitable cause, they probably won’t jump at the chance to do it pro bono. Generally speaking, consider who’d make more sense to examine a thesis on “Black Holes and Dark Matter” – renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson or Taylor Swift?

No matter where you decide to look for members of your jury panel, the judges should be held in high regard by your target audience. Just make sure there’s no conflict of interests. That’s a potential sh*tstorm in the making because it would ruin the credibility of your competition and once you lose this, it’s an uphill battle to gain it back.

Getting judges on board 

Now that you have a list of potential judges, it’s time to get them to agree to become part of your awards. It helps if you understand all the potential benefits they stand to gain from this, so you can communicate it better. These can include their name and company:

  • on the awards competition website;
  • shared across your social media channels;
  • featured in press releases;
  • featured in media publications;

And that’s on top of the opportunity to further establish that person as a leader, influencer,
prominent figure in the industry. You can also entice their participation with additional
offerings of:

  • sponsorship packages;
  • product or service positioning;
  • interviews and media publications.

Finding media partners

Find at least one media partner from the off. Contact publications and influential industry bloggers early on, introduce yourself, your idea, the purpose of your awards and ask if they’d be interested in becoming official partners of the contest. Explain how this can be of great
interest to their readers. Mention the names of any prominent judges that are already on board and other partnering companies.

As part of that business partnership you can have them publish press releases, interviews, and other promotional materials about your awards. You can also ask:

  • if they can offer you permanent or periodic presence
    in their publications, newsletters, bulletin, etc.
  • to put your program’s (or organization’s) logo as their partner;
  • about ad space (for example, banners).

Apart from the more straightforward, factual information about your awards competition, you
can also offer:

  • interviews with judges and contestants (if they agree, of course);
  • insights into organizing the awards;
  • invaluable industry know-how.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
You can sweeten the deal even further by offering media partners to include their logo on your website, make someone from their team part of the jury panel, put their name in some of the program communication. Such exclusives are important, otherwise they’d have no reason to partner with you for the awards.

Non-partner media

If your awards aren’t international in scale, you can create a targeted media list. Set your sights on local ones and reach out to them. Another way you can populate your list is by checking out media publications that cover only a specific industry or field that would be interested in
covering your awards.

In any case, always focus first on the ones most likely to publish your press releases!

Press release topics and ideas:

  • Awards announcement
  • New category announcement
  • Announcing of the judging panel
  • New business partnership
  • Big-name sponsor onboard
  • Prizes announcement
  • Special promotional sales
  • Milestone reached
  • Aligning with a cause
  • Announcing the finalists, winners

 

Some PR stunts

There’s a multitude of PR tactics you can use to further make buzz around your awards. We’ll just mention а few solid ones you can consider.

New partnerships – try to strike some partnerships within your industry and other related industries as well, every industry has its associations, organizations, non-profits, etc.

Viral campaigns – you can work with influencers in your field, make a challenge, organize a game, make a fun or educational video, you name it. Unleash your creativity and try to be innovative!

Award listings – get your awards included in lists for awards or articles (there are lots of articles listing different industry awards – just do a quick research on Google).

Newsjacking on breaking news stories related to your industry – a great way to attract attention to your brand and build credibility.

Guest blogging or interviews in popular relevant blogs or online media – not only will that increase your brand awareness but it will also help you improve your SEO.

Add public voting – a great tactic which is a match made in heaven for awards, as it helps increase the scale and skyrocket visibility and engagement. Make a public voting round that’s part of your evaluation process. Or choose some categories to be judged exclusively by the
public.

Whatever PR tactics you use, you must strive for one thing – building a stellar image and establishing your awards (or the organization behind them) as an authority in the field. You can only do that by being authentic. So don’t copy, be creative!

Getting people to apply

Complement the registration page, where your award categories are listed, by summarizing the participation benefits. It’s important that you do that in order to maximize program conversions. Here are some of the usual ones that are valid pretty much 99% of the time:

  • participating brings recognition as one of the best in a field and builds brand credibility;
  • leading industry experts get to see and provide valuable feedback on the participant’s products, services, work, etc;
  • almost year-round potential for publicity and buzz on social media;
  • new business leads by using the awards competition as a networking opportunity;
  • can be a vital part of the marketing strategy to impress clients, partners and potential customers;
  • it also shows confidence;
  • …and of course, there’s always the chance of winning a prestigious trophy!

Entice with some special offers

You can entice people further with some strategic sales. Here are some examples:

  • Pre-launch offer (discount)
  • Early bird discount for the ones who enter first
  • 2 for 1 limited time offers
  • Volume discounts (for multiple entries)
  • Free entries for a cause

A good special offer has 4 secret ingredients. Follow these simple steps to make sure your promotional sales achieve their objectives.

  1. Goal. What do you want to achieve with your special offer? Is it to get new registrations, reward existing participants, or simply increase your revenue. Once you define a goal, you’re ready to decide how to meet it.
  2. Value. Let’s make one thing perfectly clear – people can always tell a good value offer from a bad one. A sales promotion must never be the latter. If you have doubts that your offer isn’t attractive, it probably isn’t.
  3. Profitability. The Special offer has to represent good value, but without sacrificing profitability margins. Do the math to calculate its profitability and make sure the offer is healthy for your revenue.
  4. Exclusivity. The final ingredient is the element of exclusivity. This usually means making it a timed offer or setting a maximum number of times it can be used.

And what if there is a participant whose entry is applicable to more than one category? Well, that’s an opportunity as it gives them another shot at winning an award. You need to be ready to cross-sell, up-sell and entice!

Don’t go overboard because you don’t want to establish a thrift store image! Special offers need to feel exclusive. If you want to have a larger variety of pricing offers to attract more entries, try contacting organizations or companies with promo codes made specifically for
them.

Social media 

You need to be present and very active on social media, especially after you’ve done your research on your target audience and the channels they use predominantly. Join conversations. Don’t just “like” other people’s comments, try to engage your audience and start conversations when possible. It’s best if this happens alongside any promotions, updates, press releases and news coverage you publish.

There are now dozens of social media networks and each have their benefits and advantages, however it is crucial that you maintain a strong presence on the one/s where your target audience is most active. You need a unique #hashtag for your awards. Use it regularly and make sure you are tracking it. Try to include popular hashtags too, as long as they’re relevant of course.

Focus into generating social media content that’s:

  • Visual (Photos/Graphics/Video)
  • Relevant to the awards and the industry you operate in (at least 80% of the time)
  • Useful or fun for your potential participants
  • Positive rather than negative
  • Engaging and encouraging conversation

Keep in mind that some social media channels have their own specifics and might require different strategies.

Twitter

Strive to make the award’s Twitter profile an engaging and up-to-date conversation about your competition, industry and audience.

  • Reply to people and companies instead of just liking their Tweets.
  • Engage new followers in a conversation instead of just “thanking” them for the “follow.”
  • Join in and start your own conversations. Ask questions and ask for opinions.
  • @Tag organizations, people and partners when possible.
Facebook

Nearly any kind of awards or program should have a presence on Facebook. Why not create a Facebook event for your awards competition? Here’s what you need to provide:

Details. In the details section start with a link to your competition’s website. If participants need to register elsewhere make sure you explain that clearly. Always add the necessary links.

Add more hosts. Click “Edit” at the top right of the event and then add sponsor or partner names in the “Host” field.

Event wall. Choose whether you wish to turn on the “Only admins can post” option. You want everyone to be active on the event page – organizers, sponsors and participants.Use Tags. To generate even more likes, shares and comments try to get the sponsors involved. Tag sponsors, partners and entrants in your posts. Encourage their activity and engage your audience.

LinkedIn

Unlike most social media channels where people come to have fun or waste time, LinkedIn is where people usually come for work-related activities: to look for new work/business opportunities, network with other people in their field, learn new skills or find out what’s
trending in an industry.

This makes it one of the go-to social media channels for business awards. Here are some nice
features you might wish to use:

  • LinkedIn Events – similar to Facebook events, it’s a great tool, especially if you plan on having a live ceremony or gala night for the awards
  • LinkedIn Live – videos on LinkedIn Live get, on average, 7x more reactions and 24x more comments. You can even stream directly to your LinkedIn Event attendees.
  • LinkedIn Showcase – create a page for your awards as an extension to your main company page. Don’t forget to enter a full description, the right hashtags, cover photo, custom buttons, etc.
Instagram

With over one billion monthly active users, less competition and a more engaged audience compared to Facebook or Twitter, Instagram is a channel you might want to include in the marketing mix, provided it makes sense for the awards, of course. A photo competition or design awards, for example, are a perfect fit for Instagram! Some tips and tricks:

Show your awards in a creative way. Instagram is the “Beauty Queen” of social media, so your feed can be an essential tool to add value to your audience and look great doing it. Showcase your trophies, provide some interesting behind-the-scenes visual content, post judge photos and quotes, share participant success stories or some visual creatives that were part of their entries, etc.

Try Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels. Reels allows you to record and edit together 15-second video clips set to music, then share them to your Stories, Explore Feed, and the Reels tab on your profile.

Start a blog, vlog, podcast 

Try to post as regularly as possible, at least once a week. Even better – create a content plan calendar and schedule everything. A blog is only useful if kept active.

Post ideas

  • Any of your press releases can be partially re-written in a more casual way
  • A post with advices on how to make the best of your awards
  • Interviews with judges, someone from your team, sponsors, contestants, etc.
  • Teasers on various elements of the awards, like the awards ceremony
  • Off-topic stuff that might make for a fun read, for example “5 Ways To Be Happier” (keep such posts to a minimum, the focus should be on your awards after all)

Email marketing 

Email marketing is a great way of generating extra buzz around your competition and potentially increasing the number of entries you get. But first things first, make sure you are not sending spam, prepare a mailing list of contacts that have subscribed, or signed up to receive your newsletter.

Here’s a quick guide for your email marketing:

  • Test before you send! Really, testing is always important, and if you can test something by all means, do so! Test on multiple devices.
  • Make it responsive. A lot of the people receiving your email will open it from their mobile devices. You want them to be able to read it effortlessly, otherwise they probably won’t read it at all. Test the email on a mobile device.
  • Always put a CTA (call-to-action). Make sure it’s obvious, but not too obvious to the point where it takes the whole screen of the mobile phone. Links are better CTAs in emails if you’re going the responsive route.
  • Keep it simple and clean! Nobody wants to see a wall of text when they open an email. Be prompt and to the point, else your emails might get ignored, people might unsub, add your address to the spam filter, etc.
  • Add a personal touch. Personalise your messages so that the recipient feels as though you’re reaching out to them alone.
  • Use the right language. Know your audience and address them accordingly.

Emails are a great way to send out news about exclusive offers and special promotional sales, because everybody loves good value. Just don’t overdo it with too many emails or else they might end up in the spam filter.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
With Evalato you easily export all applicant data, so it can be used externally. The software also integrates effortlessly with over 2000+ popular apps and services on the web, including most of the leading email marketing solutions out there, so you can automate a ton of your work.

Outbound marketing 

We are huge fans of inbound marketing, especially when it comes to marketing awards. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the good old paid advertising. At the very least, it gives a great boost to all your other marketing efforts. The number one rule here is to find the right channels – test what works and when you see that something does, go ahead and scale. Then keep monitoring each campaign closely and act accordingly to maximize their effectiveness.

Again, some basic guidelines and tips you can follow.

Google ads
A great ad channel for almost any type of awards (alternatively, consider Yandex for Russia and Baidu for China). Any specific advice here would be useless, because it all depends on the specifics of your competition and your target audience, but here are some general tips:

  • Make a strategy based on research. Use Google Trends to look for trending keywords
    in your niche and Google Keyword Planner to come with a rough estimation of your
    costs.
  • Ad campaigns require outstanding creatives (banners or videos) to be effective. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a bag of money for little to no results.
  • Monitor and optimize! Don’t just launch a campaign and forget about it. Monitor it both in Google ads and Google Analytics at least once a week, so you can make adjustments.

Facebook ads
You can reach only a small percentage of your followers on Facebook organically. So if it’s an important channel your audience frequents, you’ll need to use its paid ad options to achieve better results. Now for another batch of quick tips:

  • Always use Facebook Business manager for your ad campaigns – don’t just boost a post!
  • Experiment with the ad creatives and scale the ones that perform best.
  • Remember there’s the Facebook ad fatigue – you can’t have the same ad on Facebook or Instagram for a long period of time, people will just stop noticing it.

Since Instagram is part of the Facebook corporation, you can also manage your Instagram
advertising from Facebook, which is pretty convenient.

 

07 EVALUATION PHASE AND JUDGING CRITERIA

Right off the bat, your main objective here remains ensuring unbiased judges for your awards, then you need to set criteria that ensures objective evaluation and make it easy for the jury panel to do their job. Which means you also need a clear concept and to clearly explain everything so the jury panel has a clear understanding of it in order to determine what is considered poor, average, exceptional.

Evaluation phase and judging criteria

Another vital part of your awards is how the jury panel is to go about evaluating competition entries. A detailed guide on this could be confusing as it varies greatly from one awards program to the other and everything depends on your requirements. But there are some
pretty important aspects that you need to understand.

Awards have an element of competition that absolutely requires you to carefully consider the judging phase and set some clear criteria for evaluating entries. First because participants need to understand how their entries will be judged and second because it’s what judges will use to score the contestants. There’s also the fact that as the awards organizer it’s how you get to spare yourself a lot of potential trouble and complaints.

How to set clear criteria for your awards

Properly formulated judging criteria minimizes the unconscious biases your jury members might have and focuses their attention on the qualities of each participant, on the merits of each entry. A simple example would be Eventex Awards where the entries are rated based on 3 key sets of criteria – creativity & innovation; objectives, planning & execution; and effectiveness & results. Each set contributes respectively 40%, 20%, and 40% of the total score.

So make it clear what the judging criteria is to all participants and judges from the off. It could be a simple sentence even – “Essays must be in English, be original work not exceeding 1000 characters in length, and comply with the terms of the awards as provided on the site.”

Pick a scoring system

With the criteria set, you’ve one last thing to decide – the scale or scoring system that entries will be rated upon. One of the most popular scoring systems in competitions is the 10 point scale, also used in many sports. With it it’s very easy to find average scores and weigh up different entries.

Apart from rating the entries, consider whether you wish judges to have the option of leaving comments and feedback along the scores they’ve given each entry. This increases the transparency of the awards, which generally speaking, is great for the credibility of the awards program – especially once the final results have been announced.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
The scoring system for your awards is extremely important. Go for a robust evaluation solution that offers complete flexibility, where you can customize every element of the judging phase – like setting the total scale, adding multiple criteria, adjusting how much each criterion contributes to that total score, etc.

Judging with Evalato is a sleek and smooth experience for your program judges. They can leave comments and evaluate entries from any device, even on the go via smartphones! As the program admin, you have full access to the analytics including sales data, judging results, and voting, allowing you to coordinate with the program judges at all times.

08 THE SOMEWHAT BORING (BUT IMPORTANT) STUFF

The legal side of the awards is the bit that people rarely read, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carefully prepare your documentation! In case you’re not sure what legal stuff, it’s the part where people click the “I agree…” checkbox when registering for your program, where they give consent with the rules of the competition, etc.

Your terms and conditions for participation in the awards program need to be well drafted and coherent. This makes a good impression of professionalism and trustworthiness. More importantly, they need to be rock solid when you’re dealing with payments, collecting personal information, processing and controlling data.

Define the rules and requirements

The rules of the competition and any additional requirements should be part of the legal documentation. Make it perfectly clear that everyone who wants to participate needs to agree to them. It’s as simple as that. Include information on:

  • who the organizer of the competition is (you!);
  • provide definitions for the terms used in the document;
  • clarify the relationship between each party that’s part of the awards program in one capacity or another;
  • state which law governs the contract and how and where any dispute is to be settled;
  • limitation of liability to ensure your organization is not held responsible in some scenarios.

Explain what’s used and for what purpose

You must be crystal clear what information you’re collecting as part of the participation, if and what part will be shared with the judges, as well as indicate if some of it is to be made public or shared with a 3rd party at some point.

  • Can entries be shared for the marketing purposes of the competition?
  • Make sure companies entering the awards with their projects have the permission of all parties involved, such as partners, clients, etc.
  • If they’re adding video, music or photo materials to their entries, make sure they have the appropriate licenses for you to show them.

Detail the judging process and criteria

Explain in detail how the judging process works starting with what’s required of each entrant, how the winners are selected, and even how the actual awards are going to be presented, trophies delivered, etc. Set out any responsibilities, be it yours, the entrant’s, or the jury’s.

Set the payment and refund terms

Explain the payment terms, including when payment is due, what happens in case someone pays late, and other billing terms. As far as refunds go, in e-commerce it’s common practise nowadays to offer money back guarantees and store credit, but award programs are obviously different. There isn’t much you can give in exchange and participants are not exactly guaranteed to be happy with their purchase, unless they win an award of course. You should consider your refund policy carefully and put it into writing, so participants know when and if they’re eligible for a refund.

Go over your data protection and privacy policies

GDPR and other applicable data protection laws require you to let participants know in detail who gets to process their personal data and for what purpose. The data considered personal include name, address, and photos. GDPR extends that to include even an IP address and other sensitive information such as genetic and biometric data, which could be processed to identify an individual.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
If you’re using an online awards management solution, go through its privacy policy and security features list. Since
such solutions play a huge part in your awards, you want to choose one like Evalato, where security is one of the platform’s main strengths. It’s how you can put program participants at ease with being part of your project.

 

09 YOU’LL NEED THE RIGHT TOOLS

There are various software solutions that can help your endeavours. Like tools for cutting costs, saving time, streamlining communication, and automating some of the duller tasks. To help with this, we’re happy to share some useful ones we’ve been using to get stuff done fast and easy. There are plenty of alternatives to most of the solutions we’ve listed here, but these are the ones we do use and enjoy.

Organize your work

Example: We’re big fans of Asana.

Task management solutions are great for organizing and tracking work progress. Asana has a sleek interface, keeps track of everyone’s tasks, and most importantly to us, integrates flawlessly with the other tools we use.

There’s a free version and a premium one which gives extra bang for the buck.

Do you need it? Possible that you don’t need such a solution. But if our super organized team
can see such great benefits, yours likely will too.

Team communication

Example: Slack is currently our favourite for team communication.

Team communication solutions improve… well… team communication. What Slack does for us is eliminate the need for long team meetings and internal emails. We use it to coordinate, chat, share pictures of puppies, etc. It’s quick and clean and helps us get things done faster.

Again, you have the option to use it for free or pick a paid plan for some additional features.

Do you need it? Team communication apps are a great quality of life improvement – not something you REALLY need, but they do save a ton of time nonetheless.

End-to-end awards management

Example: Obviously our top recommendation for awards management is Evalato.

Evalato helps you with every phase of the competition – registration, entry submissions, judging. The reason we love it is the level of freedom and control it gives. You can customize almost anything, retain all of the program data, receive money from your sales right away and directly to your account, etc.

Do you need it? If you want to do it the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, or using spreadsheets for everything – sure you can. But if saving countless hours of repetitive work, making use of online payments, improving submission and evaluation processes and being part of the digital age sounds good to you, Evalato is well worth it.

Email marketing

Example: ActiveCampaign gets our vote here.

These platforms help you design email campaigns and automate marketing. We like how clean and easy to use it is, but the reason it gets the vote is the solid feature set you get at a competitive price.

Do you need it? Probably a must. Basically if you want to do email marketing, it’s well worth investing in an email marketing solution.

What each tool you choose should do

Any tool you choose should at least bring either a clear benefit to your work, or a clear benefit to the people participating in your awards. Most importantly, you need to ensure that every process is easy and convenient for your customers. Starting with the registrations for your awards competition, through entry creation and submissions, to the judging phase, every element has to be a most positive experience.

Some key factors you should consider when picking a solution.

  • Is the price good and what would your costs be like without said service?
  • Does it integrate with other tools you use and will it optimize your work?
  • Is the service secure and is all data stored safely?
  • Does the solution share data with third parties and if yes – how is that data processed
    and for what purposes?

Time for a shameless plug

We obviously want you to check out Evalato. It’s the end-to-end management platform that helps you handle every phase of your awards – from registration and automated communication, to entry submissions, judging, and then showing the results! We’ve put every bit of know-how from our 12+ years of experience as award organizers into creating a truly awesome solution for other award organizers. Here’s why we believe you should definitely give Evalato a try…

  1. Simply makes everything easier
    With Evalato all processes become a walk in the park for judges, entrants, and you as the organizer. It streamlines the process of application submission, allows you to manage your programs with ease no matter the scope of the awards, and allows program judges to fill in their scores directly, from anywhere and at any time.
  2. Removes lengthy and tiring administrative procedures
    Evalato also removes all applicant woes when it comes to the vastly dated traditional methods of creating and sending in submissions via emails, filling out word docs, excel sheets, etc. You probably don’t need us to tell you that simplicity is king and everything Evalato offers is just a click or two away.
  3. Creates a better organizational structure
    Organizing an entire awards program can be quite challenging and extremely tiring. With massive amounts of applicant entries, it’s easy for mistakes to happen. Evalato helps to create the necessary format to reduce unnecessary hassles and considerably improves the process flow.
  4. You can customize the judging format
    The software enables you to tailor the judging process exactly to your requirements. The system is super flexible and allows you to create anything from a simple review process to the most complex evaluation scenarios.
  5. Improves the quality of applications and you get more of them
    Having an efficient awards management software is like owning a magic wand – yes, it’s that beneficial. It allows you to receive better submissions, sort them by category, manage registration, review and monitor all stored information with ease, etc.
  6. Easier accessibility for entrants and judges
    With Evalato you don’t have to deal with tons of emails or manual postal submissions. You simply log on, enter the required information and the software is ready to assist you with pretty much everything, including sorting submissions, storing details, monitoring processes, scoring procedures, handling online payments, etc.
  7. Eliminates human error for more accurate scoring
    The software greatly reduces the element of human error, especially compared to manually calculating everything. When it comes to your judging phase, Evalato brings reliability and accuracy.

Tangible benefits such as these give you a pretty good picture why organizations are opting to automate their awards management system. Best of all, not only does Evalato offer automation and security, the software also connects to 2000+ popular apps and services, so
you can automate everything, to get even more work done in less time.

 

10 ANNOUNCING THE WINNERS

And finally it’s time for the best part – announcing the winners. As a key phase of your awards and one that can really make or break the whole program, there are some important things to consider in advance. Some mistakes you really want to avoid as well.

When to announce

First things first, give yourselves enough time to compile all the data and analyze the results, you want to be 100% sure everything is correct. This is another aspect where an end-to-end solution like Evalato can save you hours of work and eliminate the human error element, but if you want to do it the old school way – make sure there are no mistakes. Next up, decide how you’re going to announce the results.

In-person, virtual, or hybrid

Traditionally, an in-person live ceremony is the prefered way of announcing the winners, with people physically present in one location and receiving the awards on the spot. Today, virtual – where people get to attend online, and hybrid – where some attend in-person and others
online, are really good alternatives. Up to you to decide what suits your awards best.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. In our humble opinion hybrid is the best and offers a proven formula for success if you aim for a deeper connection with your audience and higher engagement rates. But for the record – a virtual-only announcement is hands down the most efficient way to go.

Generate some BUZZ before, during and after

To maximize the buzz around announcing the winners it’s best to prepare as much content as possible.

  1.  Prepare emails. Could be one for the winners and another for everyone else who
    participated. You can also ask the winners to send some feedback and a photo (or video) of
    them celebrating, along with address information to send their prizes.
  2. Write a press release. Keep the PR professional and informative, to make sure it gets
    posted by as many publications as possible.
  3. Prepare some social media posts for Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you’ve asked the
    winners to provide some user-generated content for your social media posts and further
    promotions – use that as well.
  4. Write a blogpost. Announcing the winners via a blog post is a surefire way to increase
    publicity in your loyal community. A blog post gives you more room and flexibility than any of
    your other potential announcement channels. In it, you can include all the contest details and
    user-generated content to tell a full, visually engaging story.

👉 Evalato Pro Tip:
Consider thanking all participants for entering, and make special mention of the award sponsors, media partners, etc. Also try to always include at least one link to the awards website and/or its social media channels.

Pitfalls and mistakes

Mistakes happen of course. But you can avoid some serious ones that could harm the reputation of your organization or awards, by double-checking:

  •  the final results;
  • the winners and their names;
  • the categories;
  • if there’s email communication, make sure all names are correct and sent to the right address.

Some additional ideas

Reveal the nominees first – no matter the format you’ve chosen for the awards, you can start by revealing the nominees first, then announce the winners live at the dedicated ceremony;

Hire a celebrity host – again, regardless of the format, it’s better to have a host. Find an industry expert or someone easily recognizable by your audience to keep people engaged.

Request feedback – while you’re at it and everyone’s engaged, try to get some feedback from your audience. It’s a good way of checking what works and what can be improved.

Ever wonder how technology can impact your work?

Check out Evalato! It’s the end-to-end management platform that helps you handle every phase of your awards –  from creating a landing page with smooth registration process and automated communication, to entry submissions, managing applications, judging, the evaluation process, and finally showing the results!

Launch your program in minutes

No credit card required. Unlimited free testing.

Launch your program in minutes

No credit card required. Unlimited free testing.