Business Press: Black Tie Publishing - Business press awards carry great benefits - and not just for the recipients. Richard Cook discovers that ceremonies do wonders for the magazines too

If you remain in any doubt about the importance of award schemes to the business press, one phone call to the Grosvenor House Hotel should put you right. For London’s biggest hotel venue’s largest single customer is a business press publisher.

If you remain in any doubt about the importance of award schemes to

the business press, one phone call to the Grosvenor House Hotel should

put you right. For London’s biggest hotel venue’s largest single

customer is a business press publisher.



There are awards that reward creativity, those that favour innovation,

prizes for presentation, gongs even for industries that don’t get many

awards - a sort of unsung heroes medal that seems to be striving

ultimately towards achieving its own obsolescence.



’We think that awards are extremely important,’ says Reed Business

Information’s director of corporate communications, Denis Hart, ’and not

only from a PR point of view. If organised well, they can serve as a

focus for the whole industry. Your magazine is the host of that event

and can make the most of that, as well as generating revenue from the

award.’



More than one business press magazine has relied on awards revenue to

augment its conventional ad revenue in tough times. But with the trend

toward bigger and better awards ceremonies, the equation now is less

often about making money directly from the sale of places and

sponsorship and more about using the cachet of the awards to develop the

magazine brand, and hence, its revenue.



’We get involved in very few awards thinking about how we can maximise

profit out of them,’ says the Miller Freeman director, Neil

Thackray.



’They are getting increasingly complicated and expensive to

organise.



It’s more important to us that our awards have sufficient status - that

people talk about them, and that they are covered by other media. And

then the people who do win will be pleased and hopefully become

customers of ours.’



That is not to say awards can’t be lucrative - Reed’s Motor Trader and

Motor Transport awards, for example, have long been an attractive

revenue stream. It’s just that more thought is being given to making the

awards work to extend the magazine as a brand.



’Publishers are increasingly tending to stage awards as part of an

overall process of leveraging their brand franchises,’ explains the

Periodical Publishers Association deputy chief executive, Peter Dear.

’Publishers are finding that business magazines are powerful brands that

can drive other revenue sources and awards are increasingly part of

that.’



Certainly, the trend towards bigger and better awards evenings seems

irresistible. For example, Miller Freeman, which publishes Travel Trade

Gazette, moved its Travel Awards this year from the Great Room at the

Grosvenor House, which has a capacity of around 900, to the Royal Albert

Hall, where the company entertained around 2,500 suppliers and travel

operators.



There was one sponsor for the whole event, American Express, while the

tour operator, Kuoni, invited 400 travel agents along as a marketing

initiative.



But then the publisher had to spend pounds 30,000 building a floor in

the middle of the hall to accommodate all the guests.



’The trouble is you can’t just rent a minor celebrity to hand out the

prizes at a venue like that. People expect an evening of entertainment,’

Thackray says. ’So we had rollerbladers and the Royal Philharmonic and

put on a continuous programme of entertainment in the evening. Because

at the end of the day there are so many of these awards around that the

calibre of the event is at least as important as the event itself.’



On the day, Miller Freeman actually made an effort to keep the

presentation time down to a minimum. Thackray himself presented the

awards in a 40-minute interlude to the entertainment.



’There are two main dangers,’ Thackray explains. ’One is that people

remember how good the party was but not that it was a Travel Trade

Gazette event. The other is when there are too many sponsors and the

whole thing gets blurred. The whole process can degenerate into a series

of disjointed presentations.’



Of course it’s one thing filling the Albert Hall with representatives of

a notably sociable industry and quite another to get the same response

when the award is being handed out to mark excellence in cylindrical

tube construction, for example.



Publishers tend to solve this problem by making their titles work

together to produce a shared awards ceremony. Reed, for example, this

year created the Reed Retail Awards which are shared by the four

magazines it operates in the grocery sector: Supermarketing, Checkout,

Checkout Fresh and Independent Retail News. Organisation of all the

awards is handled by the individual titles, but the company uses its

buying muscle to negotiate with the Grosvenor House - Reed stages 18

events there each year.



Miller Freeman runs the Manufacturing Industry Achievement Awards for

all eight of the manufacturing titles that the company publishes. It

means they can combine to put on the sort of all-singing, all-dancing

affair that Design Engineer might not be able to muster on its own. It

means, too, that they can fill the 900-place Grosvenor House Great Room

and afford Carol Vorderman to present the gongs.



Because there is one thing that is becoming clear about business press

award schemes - just as important as who or what they are celebrating is

how they look. Which perhaps is exactly how it should be.



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