A note: if you think awards are for numpties who like to blow their own trumpets, and you believe that PR and marketing is a load of fluff and self-promotion, you should stop reading now - this post will probably just annoy you.
Is there an award for me?
Yes! There are lots of different awards for lawyers to enter.
There are the 'big boys' - such as The Lawyer Awards (submission deadline recently extended to Tuesday 25th February - so there's still time), The Law Society's Excellence Awards, and The Legal Business Awards which incidentally took place this week in London.
If you're not part of 'Big Law' or don't think you're quite ready for a national award, there are still loads of opportunities to be recognised for your expertise, niche, customer service or internal management structure (for example).
Local awards specifically for lawyers exist, for example check out Manchester Law Society's Legal Awards and The Yorkshire Legal Awards.
And if you or your firm has a particular niche or strength, there are also awards for you. Personal injury firms are well serviced by the Proclaim Personal Injury Awards and The Claims Innovation Awards. Conveyancers can take part in The Conveyancing Awards and family lawyers have the Family Law Awards.
Lawyers operating away from the major legal centres also have opportunities for recognition in local business awards. Typically run by Chambers' of Commerce, local networking groups or business publications - there are usually specific categories for Law Firm of the Year or Legal Personality/Professional of the Year. Alternatively, why not consider entering less obvious categories such as Start-Up of the Year, Most Innovative Business or Entrepreneur of the Year.
Presuming you've now entered yourself or your firm for an award (and for tips on drafting award entries check out this post), the next step is usually to await the shortlist announcement.
If you are shortlisted then *BAM* that's PR opportunity number 1. If the awards you've entered operate in conjunction with a media partner (usually a local or national business/trade publication) then you can probably rest assured that you or your firm will be featured in that publication with a piece covering all of the shortlisted candidates. At this point, it's worthwhile striking whilst the iron is hot and getting a press release about your shortlisting issued to other relevant outlets.
You could think about sending this to your local paper's business pages, local business publication, regional Chamber of Commerce or networking group for possible inclusion in their newsletter, or as a piece of member news for their website.
Of course, the above are suggested actions only, and you must either carry out your own research to ensure you're not spamming journalists with content they'll never use or pay a PR to take control of this side of things. Note - time spent carrying out good research is fundamental to strong PR, without it you'll just annoy journalists and limit your prospects of good coverage now and in the future.
Away from the media relations side of things, you should certainly publish the release on your website, and you may also wish to tweet about it, and share it via LinkedIn and your individual/firm's Google+ page.
On shortlisting, your chances of actually winning are usually pretty good. Odds of between 1:3 and up to around 1:7 (for national awards such as The Excellence Awards) are fairly typical and it pays to be well prepared.
Without being arrogant, there's absolutely no reason not to create and approve a press release before the big event. This has two benefits: if you do win, you can issue the release immediately to your target media, or first thing the following day (regardless of how hungover you are). Even if you don't win, you now have a handy precedent for use in the future.
In addition to PR and media opportunities, it's also important not to neglect the simple, but obvious, marketing opportunities that go hand in hand with an award win. To this end, don't forget to utilise any award-winner logos on email footers, across your website, in your marketing materials and throughout your sales process.
Remember to tell your clients about your success - a mention of the win, along with some strong images of the presentation, can be used in newsletters and on your website.
At the end of the day, if an award is worth entering, it's worth shouting about when you win.
For more tips on award entries, check out our three part series: Why Should Lawyers Enter Awards?
If you would like a copy of our Calendar of Awards for Lawyers, please drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org
By Victoria Moffatt
LexRex offers a wide range of PR and marketing services to law firms and businesses that support law firms, including strategic brand and PR mapping, media relations, social media training and consultancy, awards entries, legal directory submissions and a range of PR and writing courses.
If you would like more information about our services, please drop us a line via the above email address or tweet us @LexRexComms or @vicmoffatt.