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Jan 25 2011

Did the Be2Awards bypass most AEC PR and marketing people?

About two weeks ago (see Announcing the Be2Awards 2011), I launched the website for what we believe are the world’s first social media awards for “The built environment” (ie: architecture, engineering, construction, facilities management, property, etc). Nominations began to trickle in, and as Friday’s deadline approached there was a final flood, and I have just spent two days sifting through over 100 nominations across an initial 17 categories, including a couple of new awards suggested by users.

As Be2Awards organiser, I am of course a bit biased but I think we have achieved our initial objective of identifying a substantial range of examples of good practice in the use of various different forms of social media and technology across the industry, embracing blogs, Twitter, use of Facebook, LinkedIn and other community platforms, plus various industry-specific applications.

However, I was a little disappointed that the construction PR and marketing communities don’t seem to have capitalised upon the opportunities. Most B2B communications professionals know that industry awards can be a great way to raise the profile of a company, product, service or individual, and there has been considerable enthusiasm about most of the categories. But despite some encouragement from (among others) CIMCIG‘s Ross Sturley, the Be2Awards PR campaign category attracted a paltry two entries, and the marketing campaign category just three; as a result, PR and marketing has been merged into a single category with five contenders braving the online voting stage which started yesterday. And it has proved challenging to get sponsors on board, despite the good opportunities to boost brands’ online visibility through a social media awards event (many thanks, meanwhile, to HP, AsiteBuildingCADline/Dynamic Maps, Cambridge Open SystemsPauley Creative and TCS Digital World – so far!).

Why the poor response?

  • Was it because these awards have yet to grab the attention of AEC industry PR and marketing professionals?
  • Are the awards too “niche”?
  • Are there still too few examples of good Web 2.0 practice that might be nominated for an award?
  • Was the time-frame for nominations too short?
  • Is the process of online nomination and voting too open?
  • Or – given that many awards programmes are backed by industry publications (meaning content for the cuttings book) – does an independent, community-driven initiative seem less attractive?

I don’t know the answers, but I suspect a combination of all these factors may have played a part. However, perhaps now that we have inaugurated the Be2Awards, we will get a better response from the industry’s PR and marketing people second time around?

[Incidentally, I have been nominated for an award in the best use of Twitter category – so if you have found my Tweets useful, please vote. 🙂 ]

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  1. Peter L Masters MCIM

    A good post and a significant step forward for ‘The ‘built environment’ as far as I am concerned. I’m certainly glad the momentum picked up over the last few days! An inspired idea, but personally, I think the nominating process should have been made a little easier and the site a little more user friendly. Unlike most other industries, many people in construction still don’t understand the real benefits of PR or marketing, they still don’t see the value. I believe that if you called the category ‘business development’ they might be more inclined to listen. ( Even Digital Business Development might be too much!) To actually get the construction decision makers to participate in awarding votes for marketing and PR is asking a lot in my opinion. Given the ongoing gloom and consistent bad news, they’re probably not as excited about this as the likes of you I may be; to involve getting passwords and trying to work out exactly how to nominate is perhaps expecting just a bit too much. Maybe a traditional ‘direct mail’ campaign would have been more effective, perhaps construction could have been enticed towards the laptop with a mention or two about raising their profile in the construction community? I guess we’ll never know, but just 2 votes is pretty sad! However, on a more positive note, I think that overall, you’ve done a great job and considering this is the first awards, I feel that you can’t fail to go from strength to strength. Next year when the world and his brother have realised that Social Media and Digital marketing is not just a passing fad, you’ll be amazed at the response, even from the construction sector! Congratulations!

    1. Paul

      Thanks, Peter

      I think you are right about the website issues. The website was created on what was for me a new platform, provided by Cambridge Open Systems. They have been pleased with how rigorously we’ve tested their system, but we did identify some glitches as we got the ball rolling. With the benefit of hindsight, we should have opened the website to wider Beta testing before we went live (the main issue seemed to be authentication of the first wave email verifications from the Be2Awards server). The process of nomination could have been clearer too (though we are keen to retain the level of openness and transparency that a discussion board delivers).

      Relying mainly upon Web 2.0 “word of mouse” marketing to publicise the Be2Awards was also possibly a step too far when we are still in the infancy of industry adoption of social media. However, the efforts made through Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc and via the occasional conventional e-shot, seemed to work! Over a hundred nominations is, IMHO, no mean achievement.

      Next time, though, I would suggest a longer period for marketing and for receipt of nominations (sadly, I am having to reject nominations received after Friday’s closing deadline – especially as the online voting has now started).

      I think it is useful to share the Be2Awards experiences and lessons as widely and openly as possible. This is, as far as I know, the first time anyone has organised an awards programme solely focused on social media across the built environment sector (Sustainability Now did something similar for the sustainability sphere [post], of course, but I think UBM picked up on some of the Awards ideas I discussed at Be2camp Brum in August 2010; and I understand UBM’s BDonline is planning its own awards programme). Building on this achievement and learning a few lessons along the way, I hope Be2camp stays in vanguard as a progressive, independent, community-led force for change, that – as you say – will next year be able to show that social media is not just a passing fad, but an area of professional competence fully worthy of its own awards for excellence.

  2. Pritesh Patel

    Hi Paul,

    Firstly, great effort by you in organising and setting it all up. Well done.

    Why such low numbers for PR and Marketing campaigns? A couple of theories and I could be wrong.

    1) The awards needed to reach further than just the be2camp community and Twitter community. I’d be interested to know how many of the people who nominated and were nominated are aware of/connected to be2camp or follow each other on Twitter/LinkedIn etc? How many of them are actually conducting PR and marketing campaigns? 9/10 names look familiar and seem like networkers to me. Does this impact the reach of the awards? How do we get to a wider audience? How do we attract those who have just finished a 6 month marketing campaign promoting concrete as a sustainable material? Are those who nominated aware of other campaigns going on all around them?

    I see news about Asbestos all over Twitter every day……I’m suprised @Pagroupuk didn’t put anything forward for his efforts (it’s only just popped into my head actually), but then is he working on a campaign? Is this his marketing objective? Or is he providing us with news because that’s the sector he specialises in?

    2) These categories (PR and Marketing Campaigns) requires a ‘showcase’. We need to see visuals of the printed ads, scans of the press releases, links to the campaign microsite and then some results. This will add much more value to companies wanting to enter and those who want to nominate as they have an opportunity to make themselves aware of the campaign.

    What do you think?

    With a bit more time next year, I would be more than happy to help out with the awards.

    1. Paul

      Thanks, Pritesh (a typically thoughtful contribution!)

      We have tried to reach beyond Be2camp and Twitter – through LinkedIn and CIMCIG connections, for example, but we ran out of time to really push the message much wider (one of the constraints of trying to run the awards event in London Social Media Week, I guess). As I said in my response to Peter Masters’ comment, a longer period to market and solicit nominations next time.

      Also, some people don’t think that what they are doing is marketing or PR. Keith’s online chatter about asbestos, for example, might easily be described as marketing his personal expertise and interest in that sector. Shame he didn’t nominate himself or get nominated.

      Agree on the showcase element. Some of the nominations do give links to videos and other materials, but they are the exception. I did think about providing some kind of guidelines or template asking for examples, but for the first running of Be2Awards, I reckoned asking for lots of info might deter potential submissions. Next year, though, with more time to play with, and some variation in how people might apply in different categories, we could ask for more background, links, etc. However, getting the balance right is key. We don’t want so much that it then becomes difficult to judge. Personally, I would also like to be clearer about what measurable achievements were delivered by the campaigns.

      Look forward to your help next time! 😉

  3. Jon de Souza

    Hi Paul

    I don’t know if this is true for anyone else but I opted not to enter CE directly (although we’re delighted that two parts of the CE movement have been shortlisted) as I don’t think we’ve done anything that’s worthy of an award (although I think we’re probably the organisation of our type that has most fully adopted social media and web 2.0). I imagine there’s others out there that don’t quite know whether what they’ve done is worthy of consideration and will be more likely to enter once they understand the quality of submissions from this year.

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