Friday, July 3, 2009

How to Win Awards for More Professional Recognition and Credentials

8 Keys To Winning Awards

by Diane Valletta

Finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish yourself and your company in a crowded marketplace?

The pursuit of awards can be an effective strategy to strengthen your brand by building your own name recognition.

There are countless awards available within the business community. You can be honored for your business achievements. For overcoming adversity. For leadership in your industry. For advocacy and mentoring. For civic and charitable contributions.

At the same time, there are costs associated with the pursuit of awards. First, there’s investing time and effort in doing the things that will make you qualified. And then there’s the time and cost of preparing your application. You’ll want to tell your story in such a way that the judging committee will easily see how award-worthy you are.

Consider the pursuit of awards as a part of your marketing or PR strategy.

Even if you don’t win the award, the nomination process is valuable. Getting your story down on paper – who you are, what you do, what you have accomplished, and what drives you to do it all – can be a revelation. Plus, you’ll find you can adapt your initial nomination package for other awards, for board appointments, or for use in proposals, promotional materials, or feature articles.

So how do you do it?
In my years as an awards consultant and marketing communications professional, I’ve relied on a few simple tips for creating a winning award nomination package.

1. Go after the right award

Look for national, local, industry-specific or association-sponsored awards programs. The Small Business Administration, for example, offers numerous awards at the state, regional and national levels. So does the National Association of Women Business Owners.

2. Study the guidelines

“Read between the lines," allowing the guidelines to dictate how you'll present your qualifications and what angle you'll use as a "hook.”

3. Identify in detail why you are qualified for the award

Take an objective look at your successes and accomplishments. As you do, resist the temptation many women have to downplay their significance. Pinpoint what drives you to do what you do.

4. Don’t overlook your volunteer activity

No matter what the award, it’s important to consider and include what you give back to the community.

5. Present your nomination in a narrative form

Answer every question, and write in a dispassionate style using the vernacular of the award program.

6. Include supporting documentation

Third party items such as articles and testimonial letters help distinguish you from other nominees.

7. Meet the deadline

Don't let an oversight jeopardize your opportunity to win valuable recognition.

8. Adjust your "basic" story as needed

Recast your narratives to fit each award's specific criteria and organization.

The impact of awards can be significant.

One of my clients, Rachel’s Bus Company, is a good case in point. This school bus company in Chicago’s inner city was known for hiring the hard core unemployed and then training and motivating them to perform and develop. Rachel had already received several awards for business excellence and social responsibility. But one of them – the Business Enterprise Award, presented to businesses who “do well by doing good” – caused a ripple effect of visibility and honor.

· As a direct result of winning this award, Rachel was featured by ABC-TV news anchor Peter Jennings as his “Person of the Week.”

· She was cited by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in her book, It Takes a Village.

· She and Hillary appeared together on Oprah to discuss the book.

· She was featured in the book Aiming Higher, and her story was included in the book Stone Soup For The World.

· She was invited to serve on then-President Clinton’s Welfare To Work Task Force.

· She was named to the Board of Directors of the National Welfare to Work Partnership.

All in all, quite a set of reputation enhancements for someone who felt she was just running a business and doing nothing out of the ordinary.


About the Author, Diane Valletta

Diane Valletta owns Valletta Associates, a Chicagoland-based firm providing a full range of marketing communications, editorial and website content development services to entrepreneurial businesses. Valletta’s niche as an awards consultant began in the mid-1990s when Chicago Area NAWBO initiated an ambitious awards nomination program and advised its nominees to seek professional help in developing their submission packages. Since then, she has prepared some 200 winning local, state, regional, national and international award nomination packages for her clients. In addition, Valletta has herself won numerous awards for service to the small business community, most notably the U. S. Small Business Administration’s 2007 “Home Based Business Champion of the Year” Award for both the State of Illinois and the Midwest Region. Contact her at or

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