And the award goes to… The higher education institutions who prove their impact.

In a world where academic integrity rules, your team may get the side-eye if you strive for marketing and communications awards. You might even be one of those giving the side-eye. 

In truth, the stigma associated with marketing and communications awards and honours needs to be cancelled. And not because marketers are missing out by not having trophies to flaunt in the office. (Though a little golden man is fun to have around.)

Awards matter – and help marketers achieve key institutional priorities like improving and managing reputation, increasing profile, and making the case to donors that you’re an institution worthy of investment.

The means, not the end.

The award is not the end; the award is the means. The honour your institution receives illuminates and popularizes the achievements you’re already earning. Pursuing awards is one of the smartest things your team can do to cement your credibility and elevate your equity.

It’s time to turn those side-eyes into nods of appreciation and awe — for your institution’s sake.

The Impact of Awards: It’s More Than a Free Dinner.  

Sure, the free dinner and drinks are good. The feeling of walking on stage to accept an award in front of your peers is a thrill. (Unless being the center of attention isn’t your thing.) And there’s nothing like a trophy sitting on your office shelf to make you feel like you’ve made it.

But none of that is why you should scrap the stigma and seek recognition for your team’s accomplishments. 

The real reason you should go after awards? Doing so maximizes your impact and elevates your institution. 

It’s one thing to walk the walk. But if no one knows that your recent fundraising campaign received your highest levels of alumni support in 15 years, you’re leaving your chips on the table. Tout a “Best Marketing Campaign” award and you’ve made your impact known loud and clear.

If no one knows that your last recruitment campaign saw a dramatic increase in enrolment, you can’t use that information as leverage for your next large donor ask. What donor wouldn’t consider that kind of investment, coupled with a “Best Recruitment Campaign” award?

Of course, the awards themselves don’t expand your institution’s profile. They don’t raise money for your institution. Frankly, they don’t even make your institution a better school. 

But awards do infer your institution is a place of worth, value, and innovation. And that matters.

There’s credibility that rises to the surface when your team is recognized and honoured. And it’s that very credibility that bolsters what your institution brings to the table. 

And for the potential donors whom you’re asking to invest in you? You’re showing them you’re willing to invest in yourself by going after award-calibre recognition. 

If you’re eyeing places to put your next trophy now, read on. There’s more.

How Awards Keep Higher Ed. Marketing Teams in the Innovation Cycle.

Every higher ed. institution has done the tired “three students under a tree” marketing campaign. We hate to break it to you, but it’s not award-worthy. 

But when your institution can position the same recruitment campaign in a groundbreaking way? That’s award-worthy. And it shows you’re moving in the right direction. It proves you’re on the leading edge.

Unfortunately, innovation often gets relegated to the research realm in higher education. (Scientists get all the praise.) But in marketing, positioning the same thing in a completely different way is a form of innovation. 

It’s using bold black and white imagery instead of vivid colour. 

It’s using intrepid children as imagery subjects instead of smiling, friendly teens (under a tree).

So how do you start to push to the forefront? Think like an scientist: Research. Market research can tell you a lot about what’s going to resonate with your target audience and what won’t. And it’s a critical tool for innovation that’s often overlooked. 

And the thing is, innovation sparks more innovation. If you win an award for a novel project, you’ve just received validation to keep going. 

And if you don’t win? Don’t stop! You can’t win ‘em all. 

It’s a constant cycle of innovation: research, innovate, win an award, repeat. Jump in.

Not All Award Categories Are Created Equal. The “What For” Matters.

We’re not knocking any award categories. Awards for marketing materials and graphic design are worthy of appreciation. But to get a bigger bang for your impact buck, categories matter. And it’s something you need to consider when you invest your team’s time and energy into submitting a case study or application for award consideration.

So what are the worthy categories? Those that are tied to results. 

Picture it: You’re accepting the award at CASE for Best Digital Marketing Campaign. You didn’t just make a TikTok video that went viral. As part of your recruitment campaign, your institution’s enrolment jumped. The case study you submitted for award consideration proved that your innovative work was inextricably tied to a rise in students sitting in seats. 

The cutting-edge work you do could theoretically fit into a broad range of categories, low-hanging fruit among them. But when you’re investing your resources into a submission for award consideration, you have to discern what will prove your team is creating value for your institution. 

Be strategic in going after the awards that will give you the most clout — and prove your undeniable impact.

In the end, it’s not about the award at all. Not really. It’s about what the award stands for: What you’ve done for your institution, and where your institution is going thanks to your pioneering work. 

Part of your pursuit of the right awards is justifying that your work has a return on investment for your institution. And that is what the little golden man (or woman) statue stands for.

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