Each year (well, twice each year, really) I express a very unpopular opinion – I don’t like wedding industry “awards”. To be clear, I don’t like certain kinds of awards. There are great organizations like ISES and NACE and others who grant awards that I think are awesome. They have objective criteria as well as subjective judging. They require submission of a body of work or a demonstration of skill to enter and to win.
I don't like awards where the awarding marketing firm doesn't reveal its criteria.
I don't like awards that aren't accompanied by some kind of application process, judging, maybe a resume or portfolio. You know - something that proves you did something to earn the award?
I actually don't mind awards where you must be an advertiser in order to "compete" - as long as it's clear to brides that if you don't pay, you can't play.
Along with these awards, I also DECRY any award that you can only get if you purchase it. Yes, there are "awards" where a company sends an email or letter to a wedding professional and says "if you pay me $X, I will send you an "award" (extra for a plaque, by the way). The very, very worst kind of pay-to-play. And people get sucked into it all the time.
I don't like awards that mislead you into thinking that you're choosing the BEST, when you're really choosing the best that the particular award giver thinks they have to offer.
I would totally dismiss all of it if on the surface it was easy to understand how a professional earned the award.
Did you know that in some cases you must be a paid advertiser in order to participate? You probably didn't know, and in my opinion you should. Simple disclosure.
Did you know that some "awards" are given to pretty much anyone who can drum up enough positive reviews by a certain date? At least that's what seems to happen. Unfortunately, those awards don't come with "criteria", so no one really knows. Disclosure.
Well, then there's that super-icky "send me money, I'll send you an award". That's just wrong. Definitely lack of disclosure.
Why Do Wedding Vendors Participate?
A) They are usually not asked. You are "awarded" status without any kind of effort or achievement.
B) Fear - I have had more than one person over the past couple of years tell me that they hate the awards...but are afraid to be the only one without one. Great. Fear-based participation is a sign of healthy business planning, right?
C) It's easy. The "awarders" send out shiny badges with HTML code, easy links for Twitter and for Facebook. You don't even have to be creative about announcing it. Just hit "send" and everyone knows how cool you are. Excellent. You will be easily distinguished from the thousands of others who are publishing the same thing at the same time.
How many times do you have to read the same press release before you start to wonder what's going on?
I’d be ambivalent about the whole thing…if it wasn’t for the fact that brides are lead to believe that some kind of competition existed and that the award winners did something merit-based to win.
Just a clear label. That's all it would take me to avoid my twice annual rants.
What This Isn’t About
It would be really easy to say "she doesn't like them because she didn't get an award". (You only get to say that if you use a taunting 2-year-old voice). Fair enough argument, except...
I choose not to advertise with companies that offer unlabeled advertiser-only awards. I don't feel like "pay to play" is an effective use of my dollars, so I don't do it.
I did participate in a review-based site once. Then they enacted a policy that I felt was unfair and non-transparent. I brought this to the attention of the company. The response was unfavorable. I asked to have my (20 positive) reviews taken down. My access to monitor the reviews was removed, but my reviews were not. My requests for further discussions were ignored.
If I wanted the award, I could probably obtain the award (I imagine...I haven't been able to find the criteria for awarding them, so in truth, who knows?). I could not, however, in good conscience accept an award without knowing how it was awarded, and why. Without that information, how could I say in good conscience to clients that I had "won" anything?
Wedding Industry Junk Mail
I get junk mail at home all the time saying I've "won" something valuable, or that I'm someone's "Best Customer". I hold all kinds of "VIP" cards to establishments that I pay for services and products.
I don't put that on my website. Do you?
Some industry awards amount to fancy junk mail. Fancy junk mail with fancier "badges" and easy to use links to promote your fancy junk title throughout social media to prospective clientele that simply doesn't know better. It's sad.
The way it stands, brides can't tell the difference - and it's totally not your fault. These are MARKETING companies do a really good job of marketing stuff to you, so they can charge higher advertising rates to wedding professionals in order to gain access to you. That's cool - as long as you know it. They leave that part off of the fancy badges though (the ones that generate traffic from the "winners" to their site so they can publish higher traffic demographics and sell more expensive advertising to the...winners). Guess being transparent isn't graphically pleasing. Sigh.
More on Transparency
My displeasure with all of the awards is the effort at making a dollar at the expense of transparency. And while I have made attempts to discuss this with more than one company in the past, I have been given the “party line” and sent on my way.
Why do I write about these pseudo-awards? Why do I risk irritating my colleagues who just want to proudly show off their "awards" and be done with it? Because I believe that brides and professionals have more than a right to think about what they are accepting as truth - but a responsibility. There are a lot of issues with these marketing ploys, and if you’re going to participate in them, I think you should do it knowing the good, the bad and the really, really ugly.
Every year I make a point of expressing this opinion loudly for one reason – to spur brides and my colleagues to scratch the surface of what looks shiny and find out what is real. Many, many of the award winners are FABULOUS wedding professionals who I would give awards to myself if possible. I just wish they would consider who they lump themselves in with when they publicize their junk mail awards.
What Do I Hope You'll Do? Simple - Just Think
The takeaway is this – if you want to be wise about your decisions for your wedding (and for your advertising dollar), drop random awards from the criteria and instead look for value, reputation and skill.