How to run an online award program

Reviewr|Kyle Fredrickson|November 25, 2015

Running an award program is a ton of work - we see it every day. Between marketing efforts, managing nominations, and planning the award ceremony, program managers and marketers are left with a never ending to-do list.

So, how do program managers and marketers tasked with running an award program start? Well, first and foremost, we need to create a task list of everything that needs to be done to run a successful award program. Next, we need to create a series of processes to efficiently execute the task list.

What can you expect to face when running an award, regardless of the type or size?

5 Steps for Award Program Success from an Industry Insider

  1. Marketing and promotion.

  2. The collection of nominations.

  3. A formal review of nominations.

  4. Decide award recipients.

  5. Celebrate award recipients.


Now that we have identified the tasks we need to accomplish, where can we create efficiencies? Just like marketing teams use automation tools such as Hubspot, you too should be using automation tools to manage your award program. No, we’re not saying use Hubspot for your award, nor are we saying “go find as many tools as you can and repurpose them.” Quite the opposite, actually. Your participants have specific expectations on how they want to be engaged with and the value they receive by participating in the award.  Wouldn't it be great if the experts who wrote this incredibly insightful article ALSO have an industry leading software to efficiently run engaging award programs from start to finish? :).


Marketing and promotion

Step 1 in running an award program is promoting the event and recruiting participants though a marketing website. The goal of the marketing website is to publicly inform your audience about the award program, relay rules/regulations, showcase sponsors, and provide an entry point to start the nomination process. The website is often overlooked and set up at the beginning and never revisited. However, your websites should get constant updates providing visibility to the process and announcing award recipients as a “post award marketing page.”

While the website is not the only marketing tool you will be using, it should serve as the hub of information. Send marketing emails to your members/users, spread the word through your social channels, and even pick up the phone - but make sure you are sending your audience to the website which will have all the answers they are looking for.

Collecting nominations

We’ll keep this process basic today, but don’t worry, an entire article will be written about best practices in collecting online submissions and nominations. Typically, there are three types of submission processes.

1) Nominating someone else

2) Self nomination, or

3) A hybrid of both.


Nominating someone else:

This is one of the most common forms of submissions in an award program, and is often done incorrectly. Remember, your nominators are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. No one is making them sit in front of a computer and submit a nomination, so let’s make this process simple. To decide what data you want to capture, ask yourself, “What is the bare minimum needed to JUSTIFIABLY decide on an award recipient.” Now that you have that answer, make it even more basic and, “Whala,” there’s your nomination form. Reducing the barrier to apply is critical in the nomination process.


Self nomination:

While polar opposite to nominating someone else, self nominations are becoming increasingly popular. Why you ask? Because who knows more about themselves then the actual nominee? By doing a self nomination, you are ensuring the most accurate information is submitted. It also allows you to collect more data than from a volunteer nominator since the nominee themselves has more at stake. You will also likely receive more nominations this way.


Hybrid of nominating someone else and self nomination.

This is a great model that combines the best of both worlds. The major benefit of the hybrid model is that it allows actual nominators to begin the process by selecting who they wish to nominate, but then allow the nominee to take over and actually submit the data that will eventually be judged. This is recommended because it provides increased user engagement by allowing others to submit a user friendly nomination, and provides greater accuracy about the nominee since it was submitted by them. Of course, this process is a bit more complicated, so make sure you have a way to automate this. Hint: Use Reviewr.


Review and judging of nominations

Remember when we talked about making the nomination process easy for your nominators? Well, the review process needs to be even easier. Contrary to popular belief, your VOLUNTEER review team does not enjoy locking themselves in a room deliberating with spreadsheets. Remember your volunteers are your investors and sponsors - set them up for success.

In most awards, nominations are submitted into different phases of review, categories, or types of awards. In return, the nominees are distributed to either a specific review committees or to all the reviewers. Once evaluated, scorecards are turned in, and award recipients are announced. If you need to do numerous review phases, rinse and repeat. If you think your evaluation rubrics are a bit too complicated, then they probably are. This is not rocket science - keep the evaluations simple. The best scoring rubrics have about 5 criteria scored on a 1-7 scale and then asked to rank against the other nominees. Have we seen advanced rubrics that were 30 questions long with a weighted scoring algorithm? Yes, and for good reason - but the use cases are rare.

Deciding on award recipients

Once final evaluations have been submitted, it’s time to tabulate results. Like everything, this process is incredibly simple if you have something like Reviewr that can auto-tabulate for you. If not, enjoy the spreadsheets and math.

Depending on the type of award program, only one award is typically given for a specific category, but that doesn’t mean that runner up and 3rd place shouldn’t be celebrated. In many award programs, there is a long list of people celebrated for their accomplishments. If your review team is providing comments and feedback about the nominees they rank, it’s becoming increasingly popular to share the feedback to the nominee providing transparency and growth opportunity for future attempts to submit.

Post-award marketing and celebration

Congratulations, you’ve now completed your award program and announced your recipients, but you’re not quite done yet. The small details are what make a good program great, such as sending thank you’s to participants, surveying users, setting up landing pages for the next award, and publically recognizing your award recipients. Public recognition and landing pages can often be done together. Publically display who the award recipients are with social sharing, public commenting, and data capture forms to collect interested users for the next program.

Sounds pretty easy, huh? Unfortunately not. We’ve been contacted by far too many organizations that are trying to accomplish this through hard copy paperwork, spreadsheets, random survey builders, and the same cloud storage providers you save your iPhone pictures to. That’s why Reviewr was built:  A web-based award management software built specifically for running award programs from start to finish. There’s a reason why our clients say “There’s no way we could have pulled off an event like this without Reviewr.”