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
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
’They are getting increasingly complicated and expensive to
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
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
There was one sponsor for the whole event, American Express, while the
tour operator, Kuoni, invited 400 travel agents along as a marketing
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.