Entering your business for an award – 10 tips for getting PR

26 March 2012 By Northern Lights

Entering your business for an award – 10 tips for getting PR image

Recently I ran a PR and social media workshop in York for tourism businesses with Denise Howard OBE, director of Welcometraining.  All the participants were finalists in Visit York’s Tourism Awards.

Entering and winning awards is a great way for businesses and organisations in any sector to achieve effective and low cost PR.  You can show your clients and prospective clients that you are a great business. Being shortlisted for an award can be a terrific morale booster internally too.

Denise built up YorkBoat from a one boat, summer-only operation into an award-winning all-year round passenger boat company, with six boats and 65 employees.  She entered awards right from the very start and used national and regional award wins to gain PR for her business, which she sold in 2004.  Similarly Northern Lights has entered and won awards since we started 22 years ago.  It is a great way to give credibility to a small business, particularly if you win national awards.

Here are our top 10 tips for maximising the PR benefits of your award entry.

1.       Plan Your Message

Take a moment to think. What do you want your PR to do? Enhance your reputation locally? Make staff proud of the business they work for? Be seen by your customers? Generate leads or sales?

2.       Understand where your customers are

What media are they reading, listening to? What social media do they use? Aim your PR stories for the media your customers will see, not necessarily what you will see

3.       Tell a story

Everyone likes stories. The fact that you are a finalist is not likely to be of interest on its own.  What’s yours? In 2011, Nick Palmer and his sister Beki Palmer-Bunting did a masterful local PR campaign using sibling rivalry and entering the same caravan park award.  Their story made headlines in both newspapers and TV and the PR resulted in increased business for them both

4.       Writing  a press release

Make it easy for journalists. Good story, good headline, good photo. Write a good headline and get the journalist’s attention.   And the first paragraph needs 5 things: Who, What, When, Where, Why?  If you read your press release and think “So what?” then you don’t have a story

5.       Invest in a great photo

Don’t be shy. You’ll be glad you staged a good photo, even if some media will come and take their own photo. You need to demonstrate your story is photogenic even if they don’t use your photo.  It’s worth investing in a professional photographer if you can afford it

6.       Tell Your Customers About Your Success

Before the awards’ presentation, tell them how excited you are that you are a finalist and you wanted to share the news with them: email, blog, newsletter, phone call. After the awards, whether you win or not, tell your customers what the judges said – and link the message to the right customer base. Use an email signature that includes the awards’ logo

7.       Get a Quote from a Customer

Ask a customer for a quote about you that is relevant to the award category and include it in your press release

8.       Collaborate

Get together with other finalists and make the story bigger rather than fighting each with separate stories.  Five finalists from one town is more likely to be covered than five individual stories that a journalist could simply bin rather than pick over the others

9.       Trade & Professional Associations

Include your trade and professional associations in a targeted press release that links what they are about with you and your award category

10.   Social media

Social media can be a great way of telling people about your award win.  Write a blog about your success with tips for others, follow relevant journalists on Twitter and get a feel for what they cover to see if they might be interested in their story.  Post your success on Linkedin or Facebook, if you have a page.

If you are a small business, pick one social media channel and do it well. Don’t dabble. Victoria Tomlinson CEO of Northern Lights PR has written practical ebook about using social media for business which you can download free.

Good luck to anyone shortlisted for awards.  We look forward to reading your success stories.


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Written by Northern Lights

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