Article

Inside Marketing: Tips and Best Practices for Applying to Industry Awards

hands reach out toward digital image of strategy to win business award trophy in front of sun flare
By Amber Bush

4 minutes

Consider your credit union's goals and do your homework to get the best return on investment from participating in awards programs.

We all know the credit union philosophy is “people helping people.” Credit unions across the country and worldwide are committed to supporting their members and communities by doing whatever it takes to lend a helping hand. Many credit unions regularly and freely give praise and recognition by sharing a member shout-out or a community spotlight. Something they’re not always so quick to do? Brag on themselves.

Credit unions are doing amazing work across the board, yet so many shy away from nominating themselves for the many industry awards programs available each year. However, this is something that should be carefully considered, as awards are a powerful tool to help attract new members, boost brand recognition and even grow existing relationships.

To those who have never applied for an industry award before, the process might seem overwhelming. Below, we’ll outline the many steps and best practices that can make the process easier, helping your credit union put its best foot forward in the application.

Consider Your Top Goals and Values

The most important aspect of the award process is determining if the award aligns with your institution’s long-term goals and core values. For example, do you want to be known for your member service, your innovative technology or your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts? There are many different types of awards out there, so be strategic about where you spend your time and effort.

If your credit union doesn’t know where to find appropriate award programs, there are several avenues that can be taken to investigate. First, turning to your favorite industry publications and associations to understand what awards, if any, are hosted by these organizations is a great place to start. Asking other credit unions in the community what awards are on their radar can also be a big help. Finally, there is great power in some good old fashioned Google searching—with the appropriate vetting and research, of course.

Know Your Audience

It will likely be helpful to establish connections with the individuals, organizations or associations that are hosting the awards program. Gaining an understanding of what these programs are looking for can help you determine how to most effectively draft a winning application, garner a nomination or accrue votes. (For example, Madison Magazine’s annual Best of Madison awards might be of interest to organizations in the Madison, Wisconsin area. Reviewing the FAQs for nomination and the 2022 or 2021 winners would be informative for organizing a 2023 campaign. You're likely to find similar awards in your own city.)

Do Your Homework

Reviewing the organizations that have won the award in past years can paint a clearer picture of the type of applications and businesses/credit unions that particular program is looking to highlight. Examples of past winners can usually be found on the award program’s website.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

Some applications can take a while to complete, and many will require supplemental materials or even references. Giving yourself enough wiggle room before the deadline to ensure that you are not rushed and have enough time to locate all relevant details will result in a stronger application—not to mention less stress.

Be Original

Compelling award applications are more than a recitation of key facts and figures or marketing language. Prioritize highlighting your credit union’s unique differentiators—what makes your brand different than every other institution out there. Consider including member testimonials where applicable and include any ROI you might have available; numbers go a long way in communicating value. Remember that there might be dozens of other applicants going for the same award, so make your story as original as possible.

Think About the Fees

Many award programs have a fee attached to the application process, so make sure you have the appropriate budget before starting the draft. This is also where considering your key goals and values comes into play: Only spend the time and money on awards that are a strong fit for your credit union.

Promote the Win

If you do win the award, it’s time to shout it from the rooftops! There are many effective tactics to help promote a strategic award win, such as a press release, social media posts and blog content. Awards are a solid opportunity to create relevant content to reach your target audiences.

Credit unions that follow the appropriate steps and best practices while vetting and applying for awards will be well positioned for success by participating in programs that help enhance brand recognition and promote member engagement.

Amber Bush is an account director at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.

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