Don’t Misrepresent Your Awards Program – Brand it with Authenticity

There is a trend I have been noticing lately around incubators, accelerators, and economic development organizations giving out awards to their portfolio companies, but branding their event and the companies as being representative of the best of the state, city, or region they are operating in has to offer.  Organizations that do this are behaving in the most deceptive ways possible and they are doing this as a method to attract more sponsors, donors, and state and federal dollars to their programs.  It is purely a money grab and the regions that are being showcased by it don’t raise an eye because it generates publicity for their region and publicity is always a good thing.

This is yet another case of putting investors first and entrepreneurs second – actually in some cases last and the impacts for the region and the economy can actually create a negative perception of which entrepreneurs are welcome and which ones are left outside looking in.

Here’s a list of some of the things you can do for your awards program to keep it above board and be authentic about your message.

  1. Be clear on who is eligible for an award
    If you are giving an award out to only companies that are in your investment portfolio or from your group’s membership.  State it clearly.  Example: “Top Exit of the Year from a member organization of XYZ investment club.”
  2. Don’t overstate who you are and what you do
    I’ve seen way too much copy out there of, “We are the Only,” “The Region’s,” “The Largest,” and “The Best” incorporated into these awards programs.  There are probably a number of organizations doing something similar to your organization and they are operating in your back yard.  Be clear on which markets and industries you serve and be honest what you do and what you don’t do.
  3. Say what the money is going to be used for
    Let’s face it, an awards show is there to raise money.  What we don’t typically see is where is the money going to go.  If its to support a specific program, used for cost recovery for the event, or used to pay the salaries of your organization’s top execs tell the audience.
  4. Don’t crap on other organizations
    This kind of goes into number 2, but be gracious.  Understand that there are other organizations out there with different missions that play in your same space.  Don’t be a jerk to them during your event if they come up in conversations.   If you want to do the awesome thing, give these other organizations a shout-out from the stage.  Include them in your program.  Be inclusive.
  5. Cut out the BS
    There is typically way too much fluff in these programs.  Everything is sunshine and rainbows with a bit of lip service of how things could be better, but that dovetails back into look at what we are doing to make things better.  Give the real story from the stage.  You have the microphone, use it to elevate the conversation, address real problems for your city, state, region and what everyone needs to do to make it better.

Celebration of achievement is important and will help a region be noticed and get more attention, but you want to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and that you do not overstate what that awards program actually is actually awarding and how the nominees got to the stage.