I’ll be completely honest with you: almost all press releases informing me that company XY has won this, that, or the other award, end up in my trash folder. Unless the award can be backed up with any real substance, I am neither interested nor are our readers fooled. What is the industry trying to achieve with these awards? And is it time things changed?
Over the past few months, my LinkedIn feed has pinged like a machine-gun with the number of companies posting their award for whatever air cargo industry achievement, and my mailbox has burgeoned
with messages encouraging me to enter or vote for a myriad of categories and companies. One “Sustainability Award” which a certain media outlet markets as the “Industry’s most prestigious
recognition of excellence”, particularly caught my attention, and I reached out twice to ask how the limited number of companies available for selection in the 21 categories were shortlisted;
whether they had to apply with proof of their sustainable activities. No response. A look at the website, however, shows me that “Sponsorship” packages are available… The “Winners” have since all
been named, but without any information on what it really was that actually placed them in their respective categories, nor what individual measures they were being judged on. The only caveat in
that voting was that you should not vote for your own company. So, at least voting incest is ruled out, but otherwise, simply subjectively selecting your favorite name from a short, mostly
repetitive list – what is the point?
Do Awards help drive the industry?
The awards tsunami led me to pose the question in a LinkedIn poll a couple of weeks ago: “Are Awards an important factor in driving the air cargo industry forward?” which provided a few votes (yes – I can see the irony of setting the limited answer choice!), and bilateral messages. In summary: just 5% believes that awards help to develop the industry. Of the remaining 95%, 37% agreed that “they’re paid for, thus fake”, 32% felt “no, it's all just show”, and 26% said “they're nice to have, but...” So, the majority is clear that these award ceremonies are pretty much simply a superficial reason to party – something the air cargo industry is admittedly, in fact, award-winningly good in…
If you can’t get it, buy it
Personally, I think it is a shame that most of these awards are simply paid advertising, since many of the respective companies actually do have great initiatives and best-demonstrated practices, and really do not need to resort to paying for their own trophy. I wonder, too, at the authenticity of being able to say “We are proud to have been awarded…” when you are fully aware that cash has exchanged hands. I completely understand the importance of sponsors when it comes to holding industry events or financing industry outlets, but why, then, can we not simply agree on “Thank You” ceremonies? Be open and credible about the whole thing. The advertising is a (paid) given, anyway. (On a side note, from a sustainability point of view – what use and benefit are all the fake plastic/wood/metal/glass trophies, really?)
Don’t tar everyone with the same brush
On the other hand, there are some very good award initiatives out there. As a case in point, the TIACA Sustainability Awards is one of my favorites. Why? Because it is a far cry from simply patting each other on the back in an industry where we all face the same challenges, and where we are generally voting as peers rather than actual customers. These TIACA Sustainability Awards demand “proof of the pudding”. Entrants submit their projects, which are then objectively judged by a diverse jury and short-listed for presentation to a larger audience. The larger audience is then the one voting in the winner. And those winners go home with a cash award to further develop their project. The result? Motivation, presentation, feedback, reward, improvement, betterment of the industry and of society as a whole.
Visibility and credibility
Talking to industry representatives, the feelings are similar: too many paid set-ups out there. On the other hand, the few non-paid award ceremonies do serve a purpose, especially for new companies on the market, which gain recognition and publicity. Another colleague explained that he would like to see a rating system brought in, rather like the hotel ratings in Booking.com, where actual customers judge the company in question, in a standardized approach aligned throughout the supply chain. I, too, feel that customer endorsements deliver a more accurate picture of just how good a company is in its field, and as an industry we could consider establishing such rating standards. I also believe that approaches such as IATA CEIV audits are a better indication of a company’s qualities.
Coming back to the overall awards topic, I think it is high time that our industry comes clean and puts the truth back into whatever awards it sees fit to give. Let’s call paid advertising by its name, and let’s only endorse properly judged award events. Those trophies should be earned rather than be the result of spent earnings.
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