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5 ways to tell if an award is a scam... and 1 way to tell it's almost certainly legit

by Ros Conkie on 8th Aug 2018

A client recently asked me what I thought of an award they had won but hadn't applied for. Should they invest in one of the marketing packages on offer to make the most of this "opportunity"? They wanted to know whether the award was legitimate and would boost their credibility, or whether it was a scam.

I get emailed invitations like this every so often and I also find myself feeling flattered that I've won an award and wondering whether perhaps it'd be good for my business if I spent a bit of money to make the most of it. And it can be difficult to know at first glance whether an award is credible. Just because I've never heard of them doesn't mean they're not big players in their sector.

If you're in this situation, you need to evaluate the "opportunity" to assess whether they're credible. Here's what I did for my client to evaluate their award:

1. Check how old their URL is

There are lots of URL age checker tools online. I used this one https://smallseotools.com/domain-age-checker/ to discover that the award my client had won was less than 6 months old. That doesn't make it look all that credible.

2. Look them up on all the social media platforms they advertise as being on

Don't just check Facebook. If they say they're on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ then have a look at their profiles on each of them.

How many followers do they have?
How long since their last post?
How often do they post?
What do they say about their awards?
When was their Facebook page created?

My client's award had over 9000 Facebook likes but only 14 Twitter followers which makes me think they probably bought a lot of fake Facebook followers but didn't bother to do the same for Twitter. They also hadn't posted anything in the last 3 months and their Facebook page was created only 6 months ago. And they weren't on LinkedIn at all – the link on their website diverted to their home page and I couldn't find their company by searching.

Not very convincing, especially when they claimed to "reach" over 100,000 people in their email.

3. Look up key personnel and judges on LinkedIn

The organisation should have on their website their key members of staff and their roles, so look them up on LinkedIn. How long have they been in their role? What is their area of expertise?

Again, if their judges are industry experts then I'd expect the organisation to be boasting about who they are. If names aren't published then it could be that they are internal to the award organisation, so I'd expect to see some key personnel listed instead.

In my client's case, the award website didn't have any names of anyone at all so I couldn't do this, which made me wonder why on earth they wouldn't want to promote their own expertise in their field. Perhaps because they have none?

4. Look them up on Companies house

How long has the organisation been around? Have they built up enough credibility over the long-term to be qualified to give out awards?

If you haven't been able to find their key personnel from their website then Companies House can give you this information too, so look up the directors. Are they credible?

5. Look who else has won

Have you heard of any of the previous winners? Why did they win?

If you can't find much information about previous winners and why they won I'd be dubious about the credibility of the award. If there isn't any information I'd wonder why the awarding organisation doesn't want to showcase the excellence of their previous winners. The award my client had won had no information about previous winners at all.

And one way to tell it's almost certainly legit...

If you want to shortcut any of this time-consuming research, here's the most important thing I look out for when I'm assessing an award: do they have a ceremony?

No, it's not just because I want a night out where I can dress up and let my hair down!

Every legitimate award I've ever nominated a client for has a ceremony. This is because there are really only 2 reasons why reputable organisations run awards programmes:

To boost their credibility by association
To get some PR and social media buzz for their organisation
And if they don't get any PR or social media buzz from the exercise then it won't do anything to boost their credibility.

Therefore, host organisations need to get photos of the award recipients accepting their awards so they can make the most of their PR and social media.

Now, just because the programme doesn't have a ceremony doesn't mean it's definitely a scam. But if it does have one, I'd say it's almost certainly real.

What's the purpose of awards for your business?

For most businesses, the reasons for applying for awards are:

For PR and social media
To increase inbound web links for SEO purposes (links need to be from quality, reputable sites)
To provide evidence of credibility, by association
If this is your strategy then consider this: if an award is not promoting its winners effectively, is not providing quality links to its winners' websites and is not credible themselves, then it would not achieve any of your objectives and would most likely be a complete waste of your money.

Need more strategic help?

I offer all WMB members a free 30-minute sounding board session where you can get some outside perspective on any of the marketing challenges you're facing in your business. If you need some clarity, I'd love to hear from you.