3 Steps to Strategize Your Speaking and Awards Programs

Jenny Radloff

As an active member of the PR community for more than four years now, I've learned the tactical elements of the job – from clipping coverage and tracking speaking and awards opportunities to media outreach, press release writing and everything in between. While learning more and more about the industry, I've also gained a strategic eye to accompany these tactics.

Speaking and awards may seem to fall into the tactical portion of many clients’ PR programs, but they also require a sound strategy to be successful. These programs are often the bread and butter of the Junior Associate role, and continue to make their way onto the to-do list for Associates or Senior Associates at times. Managers and above then work to determine whether or not we should submit for an opportunity, propose submission ideas and review the content before it is submitted. These programs ultimately involve PR professionals at all levels.

Whether you’re new to the PR workforce or a seasoned veteran, here are a few tips to help put some guidance and thought behind your speaking and awards programs so your clients will see the most return.

  1. Really Do Your Research. Good speaking and award programs are always grounded in solid, up-to-date research. If you have the background to support why you are tracking or submitting for an opportunity, it helps determine the strategy that will follow. For example, did your client’s competitors just win this award and see significant recognition from it? Or, did you see lots of Twitter activity around an event from top reporters who were attending? This research provides valuable insight to your clients and can help determine potential submissions.
  2. Ensure You Are On the Same Page As Your Client. When determining which opportunities to track and submit for, you need to know what your client wants. For instance, do they prefer customer awards? Are analyst awards a priority for them? Whatever it may be that they want to focus on for internal reasons, make sure you are aware of that and are using it to guide recommendations. If you’re spending time on opportunities the client will pass on anyways, you are not making the most of your efforts.
  3. Be Targeted. By using steps one and two to guide the opportunities you are tracking, you now must be selective in which opportunities you recommend submitting for. Just because your client wants financial services events or executive awards, that doesn’t mean they want every opportunity under the sun within these focus areas – some of which may be pay-for-play or have little credibility. Oftentimes for clients, my teams have tiered out the opportunities. This means first defining what a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 opportunity means. A Tier 3 event might be one that is in its first year or in the past did not have many attendees. A Tier 1 award might be affiliated with a notable analyst firm or publication and typically receives a significant amount of media coverage. Tracking this way helps to ensure your efforts are spent on more credible opportunities, and can result in award wins and speaking engagements that are press release worthy, see media coverage or maybe even gain new prospects. It can also prevent your client from speaking at an event with a small/irrelevant audience or spending budget on an award they likely won’t win.

As made evident by these three steps, a lot more goes into a successful speaking and awards program than what may appear on the surface. But with the due diligence of staying on top of the most relevant opportunities in your clients’ industries and looking at each with a strategic eye, you’ll find yourself not just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. You will hopefully, on the contrary, find yourself putting in effort that is validated by results, which include happy AND award-winning/session-presenting clients.


Are there other tips you’d like to share to run a successful Speaking & Awards program? If so, comment here or Tweet at @jennygardynski and @PANcomm.

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Topics: Thought Leadership, Culture, Services

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