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Successful Awards Program

How to Manage a Successful, Meaningful Awards Program

2019-11-19

Awards programs, when done well, can serve as an opportunity to put your organization front and center while also raising up those people and organizations who have made difference in the industry.

Positive, public recognition is a surefire way to gain support, inspire participation and boost awareness and excitement for an organization or industry. But that can be hard to accomplish. Here are tips, suggestions and real examples of how to manage a successful and meaningful awards program.

Create awards categories that reflect the values and mission of your organization and/or industry.

Any awards program should be designed to recognize the people, organizations, work, etc. that best represents the industry or organization that distributes the awards. The best way to start is to refer to the organization’s mission, vision and strategic goals to ensure that the award categories align with the priorities of the group.

Each year, the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts the Spirit of Cincinnati USA Awards, which recognize the people and organizations that go above and beyond to move the local tourism and hospitality industry forward. The award categories mirror the CVB’s guiding principles: influence, authority, inclusion, transparency and collaboration. The award categories are as follows:
  • Champion Award for Convention Meetings and Sales
  • Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Service
  • Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate
  • Partnership Award
  • Wendell P. Dabney Award for Diversity
  • Horace Sudduth Progressive Business Award


Generate awareness and interest in the awards program through meaningful and consistent communications to potential nominators.

Any awards program is only successful and viable if there is a strong pool of nominators and award submissions. Effective promotion of the awards program moves beyond general e-communications and newsletter mentions. This year, to promote the Spirit Awards, the CVB’s team is creating a series of videos that describe each award, showcase a past winner or nominator and end with a call to action to submit entries. These videos will be shared on social media, along with award descriptions, nomination deadlines and other relevant information to encourage entry submissions.

Empower and incentivize employees and partners to submit nominations.
Collecting nominations can be a challenge. Turn to your employees – the people who know what matters most to your organization – to drum up support and increase nominations.

To encourage staff nominations, the CVB’s team organizes a Spirit Awards Nomination Raffle. On pre-set days during the nomination window, all CVB employees who have submitted Spirit Awards nominations are entered for a chance to win a gift card to a local restaurant, bar, shop or business.

The Spirit Awards team also schedules a small window of time to chat one-on-one with employees to discuss potential nominees and craft an awards submission together. The extra step of assisting with the process and taking away some of the pressure of writing a full nomination helps encourage people to share their ideas and suggestions for potential winners.

Use the awards program as an opportunity to connect with members of the community/industry.
Awards programs are primarily established to encourage public recognition and to stir up excitement and inspiration for a particular organization, community or industry. The best way to make your awards program a truly recognized honor throughout the community is to get out from behind your desk and engage with the people you’re trying to reach.

Set up a nomination booth or box at a community event, perhaps one that your organization is hosting or sponsoring. Talk directly with your industry peers and partners to plant the seed and encourage nominations. Invest in a pop-up banner or other signage or collateral that will catch peoples’ attention and start a conversation about the awards and how to submit nominations.

Elevate the prestige and honor that the awards represent by involving high-profile personalities to participate in the program’s process.


When the time comes to select the winners of your awards, it’s important to have a fair and deliberate process. Recruiting a selection committee comprised of diverse representatives from outside of your organization helps create a balanced and unbiased selection process. The CVB invites leaders and partners to participate in the selection committee whose perspective, influence, reputation and partnership are highly valued, both by the CVB and by the local tourism and hospitality industry. This special invitation helps partners, stakeholders and industry peers to feel more a part of the organization and its work.

Another way to elevate your awards program and to earn some exposure is to select a well-known emcee or individuals to hand out the awards. The Spirit Awards have been presented by local broadcast news personalities, public officials, business leaders, etc.
By including a variety of people and organizations in the process of selecting and awarding your winners, you immediately increase the reach and impact of the awards program. The selection committee and emcee can also help contribute to your attendance numbers and sponsorship opportunities for the event where the awards will be given.

Continue to involve past winners with your organization beyond the conclusion of the awards program.

Once the winners have been selected, the awards have been given and the pomp and circumstance has died down, the awards program should not stop there. The winners of your awards program have been deemed among the best in your community or industry and are those that best exemplify the qualities and characteristics that your organization values. Keep them in your court as advocates, partners and supporters of your organization by continuing to engage and foster relationships with your winners. Consider using their testimonials and experience as marketing collateral, including them in special events throughout the year, or inviting past winners to be part of your selection committee. You can also consider keeping nominations open year-round to keep the awards front and center throughout the year.

Create a special, memorable experience for all involved, from start to finish, and your program will be a success.