And the award goes to...

A line up of award trophies

Our Marketing Associate, Rob Martin, saw some great communications opportunities when we recently found out we'd won an award. But asking a few sensible questions revealed that all was not as it seemed. Here, Rob explains what happened and why it makes sense not to take such things on face value.

Isn’t it lovely to have your hard work recognised?

Sometimes, that recognition is such a great reward that it trumps many other considerations like time, financial benefit, career progress. A pat on the back, a ‘well done’ from someone you respect.

Or even an award.

Winning at the National Diversity Awards back in 2015 provided us not only with a real boost internally but it opened up opportunities to us that we might not otherwise have found.

So we were very happy when, around mid-2022, we were informed by SME NEWS that Result CIC had been nominated for a Northern Enterprise Award and were invited to submit evidence to support our nomination. This evidence, we were assured, would be judged by an expert panel to determine who would win. We were even invited, as part of the process, to suggest an idea for what our award category should be called.

We set to work and provided said evidence.

In September, we found out that we’d won, as Result CIC was proclaimed The Most Impactful Community Coaching Business.

We were delighted of course. How wonderful to have our work recognised. More importantly, such recognition might actually allow us to reach new clients who might benefit from what we do.

And then it all went horribly wrong…

Soon after hearing of the win we were sent more information about what would happen next. We would be featured in a list of award winners in an online publication:

“The magazine is due to be digitally distributed to our worldwide circulation of 78,000 high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals, business managers, company owners and entrepreneurs, and will be published free-to-read on the SME News website for the foreseeable."

However, if we wanted anything more than just a mention, we’d have to pay. Specifically, if we wanted to get the actual award we’d won, it would cost us £535+VAT, for which we’d also get a page in the magazine. Other, more expensive options were presented to us as well, going right up to £5.5k if you wanted to splash out on the front cover.

So we decided to ask some questions to make things a little clearer. We wanted to know that spending money would represent a good investment because there are other things that Result CIC could spend £535 on which might have direct benefits to our clients. We wanted to know more about the prestigious list to make sure it matched the kinds of people and organisations who might be looking for the kind of work we do. We wanted to know how previous winners had been positively impacted by the award. We also asked who had nominated us and who had we been up against. And who had been the judges?


After a few emails to chase it up which garnered no response, we rang and spoke to someone who assured us they’d get back to us. Eventually, we did hear from them, with an email asking for payment to make sure we would get the award and suggesting, bafflingly, that if we had any questions to let them know and they'd get right back to us.

So we asked the questions again, but this time with some observations attached, having done a little bit of digging. Because, looking at the online magazines of previous Northern Enterprise Award winners, it soon became apparent that all was not as it seemed. With over 100 awards being advertised, winning in categories as curious as ‘Best International Fragrance Oil Supplier’ and ‘Best Timeshare Cancellation Specialist' things clearly were not adding up.

These are 'vanity' awards. We had never been nominated - we had been targeted by the publishing company who, basically, provide adverts disguised as awards for payment. We had no competition. We were not judged. We weren’t the best in any category because the categories don’t really exist. It's purely a money-making exercise for the publishers.  

Suddenly, we didn’t feel quite so special after all.

We declined the offer to spend £535+VAT on actually getting the award we’d been told we’d won and, we think as a consequence of our persistence and clear frustration, Result CIC hasn’t even had our guaranteed free mention in this year’s online publication, missing out on being 1 of 121 lucky winners. If you do the maths, that's a minimum of £70k+VAT generated from this one magazine. SME NEWS is run by AI Media and they don’t just run the Northern Enterprise Awards- they have them in Scotland, Wales, London, all over. In fact, at the last count, they operate sixteen different sets of awards. That's quite an income generator.

Feeling like you've been hoodwinked is horrible, especially after the initial thrill of good news. But this article is about more than just getting this disguised offer of paid advertising off our collective chests. Those initial questions which led us towards further investigation were asked with genuine concern for making sure our limited resources are spent in the best way possible. We needed to know that the money was worth it and that the award actually meant something.

And many of the organisations who have paid to get featured in the magazine and claim their award can perhaps ill-afford the fee but isn’t it wonderful to be told someone has nominated you and then to be told that you've won? It’s tempting to then believe your business will get some amazing exposure out of it. 

Some small organisations without any kind of marketing savvy may not think to question such a prize in the first place and the money they spend could perhaps be put to better use. Our advice, particularly if you’re a small company with limited funds, or a not-for-profit social enterprise like us, is always to weigh up the full situation based on the most amount of knowledge you can, or have time, to gather. 

This applies to many things like business partnerships, organisations or people you might be tempted to ally yourself with but who might prove to be a negative association further down the line.

We don’t always have that information up front, but a little time, not taking things on face value, and doing a bit of research can sometimes prove to do more good than harm.


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