There is something very Australian about loving a good victory. Or even better, being the underdog and winning the day. A win feels good.

There is a misconception awards are generally for larger organisations with big pulling power.

In part, this is truth; larger organisations have the resources, skills, expertise and budget to pilot and/or innovate… plus they have a marketing or public relations department to help write the award applications in a winning style.

However, award ceremonies are calendar fixtures in every industry and those that don’t put themselves or their employees forward miss out on the advantages awards can offer an organisation long term. Advantages such as using the accolades in recruitment and retention strategies, for marketing and promotion of the organisation or for simply impressing stakeholders such as their Boards, customers and clients.

Aged care is no different.

Celebrating excellence in dignified care and the effectiveness of clinical practices is imperative for demonstrating the value delivered by the industry as a whole, as well as a way to demonstrate the raising of standards. Of course, recognition of superior customer service and performance is always appreciated. For individuals, this provides third-party validation of a job done well.

That said, it is easier to create buzz and interest if an award program fills a (vacant) need.

Many award programs have been around for so long, they now lack the energy to make impact, especially when many have already won the recognition they needed.

For an industry award that creates ongoing and lasting impact, we need to continually innovate and generate new challenges for the stalwarts, while making the overall process to apply one which is accessible for all. This ensures the quality and number of nominations remain good, while award outcomes assist with benchmarking, networking and upskilling. In essence, a celebration for all.

But an award program is like any other marketing initiative: it needs a good plan and timely execution.

To make a celebration of it, nothing can compare with the experience with stepping up onto a spotlighted stage to accept an award with hundreds of industry luminaries in the audience cheering and applauding.

However, if we are to continue with the process of industry disruption, why not start with the awards nomination process itself and then carry on post awards to upskill and educate using the award case studies?

Following is a suggested activity timeline for innovating the awards process and outcomes to create buzz, excitement, inclusiveness and community awareness.

A celebration for all; an inclusive aged care awards program

By implementing new types of award categories, we can start the awards innovation process;

  • We can embrace a contemporary aged care industry by introducing new award categories which align with current trends, such as the use of smart technology, robots, social media, solar or electronics etc. We could also embrace categories for differing services which are not as well known, such as awards for chefs, hospitality and major constructions, which would raise their profile within the community.
  • We can use the community to assist with the voting process such as the consumer choice or people’s choice awards. Or we can create categories for resident awards for outcomes they have achieved in support of, or for, the industry. We could look to social media platforms to achieve these votes.
  • We can recognise emerging leaders who have already made significant contributions and demonstrated leadership and continuing service, and use industry leaders as their judge and ambassador.
  • We can increase visibility of outcomes through influential sponsors and media partners.

At all steps, we can reach out and embrace all levels by applying award categories befitting the various sizes of organisations within our industry ie by bed number, resident number or total organisation value. In effect making this a true celebration of all, including all sizes.

Aged care awards traditionally target aged care professionals (of course), however by embracing the above philosophical objectives, we could broaden our natural target to reach our consumers (residents and clients), our public, and our industry leaders (eg for food innovation).

This then creates many public relation opportunities for community conversations around existing work in the field (by industry leaders in the lead up) as well as innovations by aged care professionals (through the awards process). Additionally, a follow up process post awards could help unravel how winning organisations did what they did, or do, to upskill others. The “celebration for all” key messages and media outputs throughout this campaign, would therefore align to inclusivity, diversity and embracing the change the industry needs, as well as being what the community wish to hear about (ie industry improvements). This then generates value, as it aligns with professionals from all levels of aged care, who are improving the industry on a daily basis, creating a better outcome for our elders.

The communication strategies to support this would need to include:

  1. Training or information sessions for member organisations to educate or assist with the nomination process (this could be at Board/Owner, CEO/Executive or site level)
  2. Award promotional packages for member organisations to assist with the nomination process via staff and residents (like a plug and play to implement internally via email/print or intranets)
  3. Media call outs via the voices of influential industry personalities during the various stages of the awards process to encourage pick up by radio, TV and print outlets. These interviews would encourage discussion about the positive aspects of change within the industry, given its size and impact across all ages of the
  4. Social media campaigns for the award nomination process (to educate and attract nominations from organisations and individuals), the finalist process (to celebrate and influence) and then an awards education process (to explain how “you too could implement this improvement’).

The campaign briefs would include elements such as digital and print imagery, as well as scripts and social content. The awards campaign would work well as a year-round communication cycle, constantly evolving as the industry innovates, through the use of award categories, sponsors and industry leaders.