Keys to Starting and Running a Top Awards Program

A SIPA member emailed me last week to tell about their success with the awards program they run. (He/she wanted to remain anonymous.) No less than a U.S. senator from Nebraska called the awards program “prestigious” and sent out a special press release congratulating the Nebraska company on its award.

After talking about the many benefits of their awards program—good publicity, building customer loyalty, greater visibility, and even some personal feel-good vignettes—the SIPA member wrote, “I guess the bottom line for publishers to remember is we have a platform to get to acknowledge excellence and make people feel good about their daily lives for them and their families, and their legacy.”

Many SIPA members run excellent awards programs: Ragan CommunicationsColumbia BooksAccess Intelligence and Chartwell, to name just a few. And, of course, SIPA has our own SIPAwards, now in their 41st year.

The SIPAwards remain the industry’s top program for honoring specialized publishers. We’ve given them a refresh this year to increase their gravitas, keep up with the times and spotlight the winners more. So you’ll see new categories like Best Team on a Project or Event, and Best Infographic, categories honoring trends like video, podcasts, social media and data use, and then, of course, the standards for newsletters, articles, marketing and investigative reporting. Others that got fewer entries have been consolidated.

Here are some other keys to running a successful awards program:

Choose a good foundation. Use an awards system and process that saves you time, makes you look good, and, most importantly, is easy for every participant in your program.

Take time to plan an accurate and appropriate program calendar. Timing is critical for all awards programs. If your call for entry is too short, you may lose out on potential applicants. If you plan your gala near a holiday, no one will show up. Don’t approximate timelines; take the time to plan things out carefully.

Create a great awards website. Your awards website is one of the most important parts of your program and should be a big focus in the preparation of your call for entry. Ours is here. In creating an informative and easily navigable site you can guarantee that any visitor’s questions will be answered, and that they can become familiar with your program’s legacy and credibility within the industry.

Link your program to the core values of the organization. Whether you’re just getting started or are a seasoned veteran, step back and ask yourself: Is your program aligning with the goals and values your organization is trying to promote? A successful awards program will be focused on what the organization is all about and create an opportunity for others in the industry to showcase their similar interests.

Attract and promote a high-caliber panel of judges. Cynopsis did this for their Short Form Video Festival awards, and we do this as well for the SIPAwards. It makes winning much more special. Jurors for Cynopsis included film executives from Vox Media, IFC, People/Entertainment Weekly and Meredith. For SIPA we get many presidents of member companies and experts in their niches.

Price reasonably and incentivize early entries. If you can get your entry to us by Friday Feb. 28, the cost per entry is the lowest price. Getting early entries also helps you relax; there’s that tendency in so many of us to do the things at the last minute.

Create varied categories. What are the latest trends in the industry? What would you like to see examples of? More categories will get more entries, if you’ve done your homework and know what people are doing.

Put on an awards gala. An awards gala is a great way to celebrate all the finalists and winners in your program. It’s also the perfect way to recognize every participant in the program, from the entrants to the judges to the program managers. Splash your brand around the gala and include your sponsors, too, if you have them. It’s a win-win-win! The SIPAward Luncheon Gala will be June 2.

Analyze the program each year. When your program is over it’s tempting to sit back, feel good and chill, but it’s important not to just take a break from things until the next awards season comes. Every program should analyze their data in order to understand what worked and what didn’t and how they can use that information to make next years’ awards even better.


How Informa Jazzed Up a Report to a Profitable Tune

In 2018, the Informa Pharma Intelligence editorial and marketing teams collaborated on the release of its annual white paper analyzing the evolution of pharma R&D for the past year. But this wasn’t your typical medical or scientific report. It was more music to their audience’s ears.


“Using the evolution of music as the backdrop for the 2018 report, the team set the trends in therapeutics, diseases and company pipelines up against everything from present day pop charts to the birth of jazz,” wrote Informa on their 2019 SIPAward-winning entry for Best Editorial and Marketing Collaboration. “Additionally, the team created webinars, an infographic, additional articles, a supplement, and even an accompanying Spotify playlist based off the white paper to ensure its life extended beyond the initial launch and provided value for Pharma Intelligence clients throughout the year.”

Indeed there is a list on Spotify called Pharma R&D Annual Review 2018 with 23 songs such as U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for, Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You and Lady Gaga’s The Edge of Glory. And the cover of the Annual Review features images of headphones, a concert and a microphone.

Subheads in the report play off the music theme:

  • Plenty of debut singles, but the middle-eight is sounding a bit flat;
  • Novartis is still top of the pops;
  • New technologies call the tune;
  • Despite inharmonious times, Pharma keeps on rockin’ and rollin’.

The report and webinar acquired more than 875 client downloads and registrations resulting from Informa Pharma Intelligence email campaigns and website visits. And this engagement resulted in big revenue for Informa Pharma Intelligence from leads.

What jumps out at me here, besides these high notes, is the collaboration. That spirit of working together and sharing knowledge is also at the heart of SIPA’s new-and-just-about-ready-to-roll Executive Councils. Fortunately, there’s still time to sign up here.

The Councils—with some built around executives and others key topics—will consist of 12 niche publishers who meet by video conference 11 times a year, plus once a year for an in-person meeting in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with SIPA’s annual conference in June.

“It’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day dealing with in-house fires,” said Stephanie Williford, CEO of EB Medicine. She looks forward to “forcing myself out of the weeds at least once a month to focus on the business instead of in the business. She also has the unique perspective of having been a member of Vistage, a peer network group.

While that membership has allowed her to “take a high-level step back, hear from the outside and focus on strategy and big opportunities,” it has been with people who don’t know her industry.

“I am really looking forward to taking that same council idea but doing it with my industry,” she said. “They’ve lived and understood your same exact challenges and will have unique insight and perspective. There are shared real-life experiences. The other thing I like is that you don’t have to leave your office to get this value.”

The last line of Informa’s winning entry sums up the value of collaboration. “[Our] clients rely on [our] expertise to make decisions in their respective industries, and while Ian Lloyd has been the well-known author of the report for some time, it’s a task unable to be achieved without incredible interdepartmental cooperation between analysts, editors, marketing and content teams.”

That same cooperation and collective spirit should turn up the volume for any SIPA publisher. Check out the Executive Council landing page here where you can ask for further information and learn the benefits and costs involved. We’re very excited that this idea has finally come to fruition for SIPA.