By Beck Bamberger, founder of BAM Communications
Companies often come to our PR firm in pursuit of highly regarded industry awards. There are plenty of incentives to target these honors. Earning global credibility and bragging rights along with the attention of investors are a few of the most common. Securing a spot on certain lists is a hefty achievement and a litmus test of innovation, whether a company is a Fortune 500 or a growing startup. Such awards tend to garner massive media coverage for brands across top-tier outlets, not to mention a solid SEO boost. The question is, how do you assure your company will stand out to editors who are inundated with thousands of other submissions?
Any agency can task an intern with drafting a submission on your behalf. Applying is simple, but actually winning is a whole different beast. Your company must be a genuine game changer in its space. On top of this, there's also a science to crafting a strong application. In fact, it has helped our firm secure more than 24 percent percent of clients a coveted spot within a single influential list this year. Here's the gist of what you'll need to demonstrate.
Relevant Innovation in Trending Spaces
This is a fundamental requirement. Companies that rank are solving a problem for consumers, businesses or, in some cases, the whole planet. They might be raising big, disrupting a space, eclipsing competitors or creating an entirely new category. Whatever the case, your company must offer a product or technology that is both timely and related to current trends. Companies in rapidly evolving areas that editors, venture capitalists and tech industry pros have their fingers on the pulse of are often the most likely contenders (e.g., drones, transportation, sustainable biotech, data science for social and financial inclusion, consumer-driven health tech, artificial intelligence and robotics).
It's also key to include a "why now" component detailing precisely how your company created a new product, introduced a fresh initiative or launched a compelling project in the last 12 months. Unless it has just infiltrated the market, an organization's mere existence -- or historical achievements, no matter how innovative -- aren't sufficient means to place it in the running. Major household names and public companies rise and fall on and off these lists each year. Additionally, many thriving organizations will never secure these awards because either their concepts, timing or technologies simply do not fit the bill. Perhaps most importantly, you must have the utmost confidence in your submission and your company's realistic prospect of being chosen. This applies to startup teams applying in-house and to PR agencies: half-hearted applicants need not apply.
Data That Backs Up Your Claim
Specific data and hard metrics illustrating exactly how the innovation is having a direct, measurable and proven impact are table stakes. At a minimum, this should include figures like growth metrics, customers served and revenue. Delivering additional granular data is what will truly give your submission a competitive edge. For example, if your company is saving the environment and reducing emissions via getting cars off the road, offer specifics. In what way, by how much and exactly how fast?
To provide context for said data, tell a compelling story that outlines the current status of a specific issue and how your innovation acts as a transformative solution. It's a mistake to share only a few pieces of the puzzle and assume those vetting your application know the ins and outs of your market. On a similar note, avoid using too much fluff, jargon or any bolstered stats, all of which are turnoffs to those reviewing. Present a holistic, unbiased look at your company's role as an innovator within its industry.
An Existing Media Footprint
It's nearly impossible to attain recognition through these "best of" and "most innovative" awards as an utterly unknown company. Generally, the only exception to this rule is if you happen to have the backing of a notable venture firm that is vouching for your submission. Otherwise, as a startup, don't expect positive results when applying out of the blue. If the panel reviewing applications has never heard of you (and can't gauge your credibility through a quick Google search), your chances are slim. Instead, put in the time to establish a foundational media footprint and start building relationships with prominent outlets.
One way to cut this time down is to invest in a good PR team and leverage their expertise and connections. Once you have an in at the outlet curating your target list, you can often tap them for behind-the-scenes insight into the process. What's more, a strong wealth of recent coverage under your belt will most often mean you're already on the outlet's radar when it comes time to apply. While even the most powerful media placements won't guarantee such awards, and having a PR team isn't the only way to land these placements, they are one of the numerous validating proof points you'll need in your court to increase your odds.
Beck Bamberger is the founder of BAM Communications, a PR firm for VC-backed tech startups, as well as OnePitch, a pitch platform for journalists and publicists.