Association Awards Programs: Making Them a Win-Win
Monday, April 19, 2021
Associations may often struggle with their awards programs and find them to be a task to check off the list each year. While awards committees and volunteer leaders help with reviewing applications, it can be difficult to find candidates, particularly when associations don’t receive the number of application submissions they hoped for.
Rather than viewing awards as just an annual task to be completed, associations should think about their awards programs as an opportunity to increase awareness, reputation, and strategic priorities.
ASTCT Awards Dr. Anthony S. Fauci with the 2021 Public Service Award
For SmithBucklin client organization the American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT), awards have been a long-standing priority to recognize science and service. In February 2021, Pavan Reddy, MD, ASTCT president, presented ASTCT’s Public Service Award to Anthony S. Fauci, MD, NIAID Director and President Biden’s chief medical adviser. ASTCT’s Public Service Award recognizes an individual who has advanced the interests of patients or given special service to the patients and families ASTCT serves.
When Dr. Fauci accepted, the ASTCT team quickly regrouped to determine how to maximize the opportunity to raise awareness for ASTCT, the field, their providers, and the patients they treat. The team expedited an award to be shipped to Dr. Fauci, coordinated photos, and a video with acceptance remarks to show at the virtual annual conference. Further, they coordinated a press release and media relations efforts, boosted by a strong social media presence.
The results were impressive, including nearly 50 million views on the press release, 10+ media engagements, and resounding support from the community on social media. The greatest outcome was a heightened, long-lasting industry and media awareness of ASTCT and a deeper pride in ASTCT’s mission among our members.
Rethinking Awards Programs
While every awards opportunity may not involve a public figure to the caliber of Dr. Fauci, an association’s awards program should be reconsidered for what it can offer. Awards programs can “award” enduring value to an association by:
- Inspiring newer, younger generations: Pay homage to those who are more experienced in your field as an inspiration. Award newer professionals for helping to move the future forward like those who came before them did.
- Motivating giving: Many awards are tied to charitable giving that advances research or other initiatives in your field. By showcasing the benefit or outcome of an award, you grow engagement.
- Raising awareness about your organization and/or profession: In awarding an individual or group, you are not only highlighting the recipients’ achievements from the past year, but also raising awareness and telling powerful stories about your organization, members, and the profession at large.
- Driving a strategic priority: Awards create a new opportunity to advance a strategic priority for your association. As an example, if diversity, equity, and inclusion are a priority, consider an award that grows awareness and shows your support.
Make it a Win-Win
How can you maximize the impact of your association’s awards program? Consider the following:
- Build content about your winners: The personal stories of your award winners are the most impactful element of an awards program. Consider capturing these stories with written interviews, photos, blogs, and video content that can be utilized on your website, social media channels, and at your conference. These can also become year-round assets for continued inspiration and giving campaigns.
- Aim high: You never know who your association leaders know ― CEOs, public figures, government officials. Consider opportunities to grow awareness with higher-profile individuals in your industry. They may appreciate the chance to give congratulatory videos or remarks, and you can cross-promote your marketing efforts with them.
- Public/media relations: If one or more of your awards will gain media attention, consider creating a media outreach plan, particularly for media outlets and publications in your industry.
Rethink your association’s awards programs – they offer a win-win for associations and recipients.
Jennifer Kasowicz, MA, is a marketing director at SmithBucklin and serves as Director of Marketing and Communications for ASTCT.
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