by Mary Cox
Receiving an award – whether an industry award or local – can be extremely valuable for a credit union. Awards recognize excellence and validate the relevance and success of products, services, initiatives and even executives. They have the power to enhance a credit union’s image and strengthen visibility among members and potential members, thus increasing membership and loyalty.
But securing an award can be challenging as competition tends to be fierce. Increase your chances of being selected by developing and executing a carefully crafted and strategic award campaign.
1. Execute an Email and Social Media Campaign
There is an art to securing awards. While most require an application form, awards are often discussed by the association or publication months before the deadline. For these, credit unions should begin campaigning for the award early – before the award is officially announced.
Develop an email and social media campaign that targets the award decision makers. Craft emails, tweets and posts that specifically speak to the reasons your credit union should be recognized. For example, if the award is recognizing credit unions that exemplify green initiatives, send regular updates about what your credit union is doing to be more eco-friendly.
2. Schedule In-Person Meetings With Decision Makers
In the months and weeks prior to the award decision, consider in-person meetings with those charged with making decisions. This provides a solid opportunity to present your case for why your credit union is a fit for the award as well as build relationships with those responsible for making decisions.
3. Develop and Submit the Award Application
After your initial outreach, it is time to submit. Here are a few considerations when developing the application:
- If no formal application is available, determine the most appropriate format to best communicate your point.
- Ensure the application is extremely organized, using headlines and sub-headlines.
- Include page numbers with a running head. Often, award submissions are printed out and stacked with others. This will help decision makers stay organized and ensure that your entire application is considered.
- A picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to include images and graphics to illustrate why you should be recognized.
- Include testimonials from members and industry friends, if possible. There’s nothing better than someone else talking about how great you are.
- Ensure proper grammar and avoid typos.
- Last but not least, follow the directions! This may seem like a no-brainer, but applications that are missing information or do not follow the specified format are often tossed out, regardless of how deserving the applicant.
4. After the Application is Complete
If you think your job is done once you hit the “submit” button, think again. To further ensure your application is considered, follow up with the decision makers approximately one to two weeks after the deadline. It doesn’t hurt to check that they received your materials and to ask if they need anything else.
Depending on the type of award, you may want to offer informational interviews with your members or industry friends, if possible. This can be exceptionally powerful for awards like “The Best Mobile App of 2015,” where members can discuss why your platform is the best. If members or industry friends are willing (and if it seems appropriate for the type of award—this step might be overkill for a marketing competition), have them call decision makers directly to validate your recognition.
And be sure to send any supporting updates or new research immediately. For example, your credit union significantly increased membership because of your initiative since the award application deadline – send them the good news!
5. You Have the Award – Now What?
While award campaigns may seem like a lot of work, the payoff is rewarding. But don’t be guilty of letting your recognition fly under the radar right after you take home your shiny new trophy. Make sure everyone – your members, employees, industry friends, prospective members, community leaders – know about your award. Here are a few ways to successfully do that:
- Issue a press release to announce your award.
- List the award in your standard boiler plate and press kit materials.
- Add an update in your next newsletter.
- Showcase the award on your website’s home screen and social media sites (Facebook and LinkedIn) along with the award graphic or logo.
- Tweet it from the rooftops! Send out updates to your Twitter following that you’ve been recognized, along with a link to the product (if the award recognizes a product or service), or a link to any article that talks about why you were recognized.
- If profiled in an article for the award, consider purchasing reprints.
- To boost member awareness, consider signage at the branch or including updates on your online member sign-in page.
Awards can positively impact a credit union’s reputation and success, but securing them can be a challenge. Campaigning prior to the award deadline and continuous follow-up after the deadline is imperative, and following these guidelines and recommendations can further increase your chances of winning.
Mary Cox is an account supervisor 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.