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HMC NEWS: Entering industry awards: why you should and how to make the most of the opportunity

HMC Account Manager Kate Monahan-Riddell recently spoke to local chefs about the value of PR and entering award competitions. She shares her insights here. 

Have you thought about putting in an application for an industry award or competition?

It can be a little daunting – what should you write? How can you tell your story in a way that will connect with the judges? Why bother anyway?

From a public relations point of view, applying for select industry awards can be a great part of your business strategy.  They can help you build your brand’s reputation as an industry leader, and build your credibility among customers and peers. They also give you an opportunity for publicity and media stories, and a chance to talk about your business, your brand and what you do in a genuine, non-salesy way. Winning an award can also help attract repeat business and new customers – people are attracted to leaders in their field, and will make a beeline for you.

However, applying for an award does take time and thought. If you decide this is part of your communications strategy, you need to put the time in to do it well - - or don’t do it at all.  That means taking the time to do a GREAT award application and taking charge of your own publicity.

What makes a great awards application?

Remember to read the application carefully; answer the questions being asked.  You need to address them specifically. 

This is not the time to be shy!  Talk about the great things you have done. Whatever you are saying you’ve accomplished, back it up with stats and facts.  Show the proof. 

Make sure it is well-written.  Remember the judges are busy people.  A sloppy application is not going to make a good impression.  The content is one part of the application but the way it is written is extremely important.  No spelling or grammatical errors, make sure it’s succinct, use simple language, headings and bullet points are important. 

Matariki Dish Challenge

Recently I had the opportunity to talk about the value of entering awards to a group of Waikato chefs at Wintec, part of the Chefs Talks series by Waikato Food Inc for their Matariki Dish Challenge, happening from 15 June and 24 July 2018.

I told them that entering the competition was not only about winning, but the whole event, which would run over a five to six week period.

A key part of it was telling the story behind the dish, and its link to Matariki. Weaving in the story of the local food ingredients, how they were sourced, and the values and narrative of Matariki itself were also important.

I told them that the competition was a great chance to connect with and engage with the community and your customers on social media too, with good quality photos which told the story of the dish, the ingredients and the chefs.

How can you make the most of entering awards?

Remember that you need to take charge of your own publicity.  Don’t ever assume the organisation doing the awards will do enough to highlight your finalist position or win.   

The lead organisation will often do one big release stating all finalists or all winners.  They are not concerned with getting each and every organisation involved the maximum amount of profile. Only you can do that. 

If the organisation announces finalists, that is a trigger for you to announce this.  If you are a finalist, ensure you prepare your communications BEFORE the awards take place. Have a media release prepared, social media posts (and advertising campaign), website news story, even an advert developed and ready to place.   

Think about how you will maximise the announcement (if it happens) on your earned, owned and paid channels available to you. 

Why prepare all this beforehand?  Because it has most ‘news legs’ the morning after/day after an award ceremony.  Talking about it a few weeks later will not gain as much cut through.   

If you are doing a media release and you win, pick your target media outlets and email it to them the night of the awards ceremony or first thing the following morning.  Follow up with a phone call to key media. 

The photo! 

This is incredibly important. Get a photo on the night that is media worthy. If you need to get a group shot of the winning team at an awards dinner, get a close up of 1 or several smiling faces, not a group of 20!  You only get one chance - - think about what sort of photo/s you require and put someone on your team in charge of ensuring it happens (or it won’t). Consider things like lighting, composition, and ensure the file size is at least 1-2MB (for good print reproduction)  

Put it on the calendar

So – now you have the information you need to get you started – look around and see what industry awards are coming up and get prepared. Make a calendar of key awards you or your staff make want to enter in the coming year.

Put this in your communications strategy for the year and be sure to enter (and give yourself enough time to do so)! It can take time but the results of receiving an industry accolade or acknowledgement is worth its weight in PR gold!