Many of you may know that the Taunton Deane Business Awards were set up and ran by White Knight Marketing.
We did this because we felt Taunton deserved to have their own awards. Up to now all the risk has been taken by ourselves and the Taunton Chamber have been supportive of us, but not able to do much more in previous years. The Chamber is better resourced this year, but is still relatively small and growing and not in a position to take on this task.
It may surprise you to know that White Knight has also always funded the whole thing, raising money required through sponsorship, and it has been very much a philanthropic exercise on our part. All that aside, we have been saying for a long time that we don’t think that we have the formula right. There appears to be an ‘awards fatigue’ in Taunton and indeed potentially across Somerset and further. After much soul searching and discussions with Nigel Pearce at the Taunton Chamber, alongside our other sponsors (who have all been amazingly loyal and supportive), we are now even more convinced that we need to rethink the Awards.
The reasons we believe this to be the right thing to do are many:
- We firmly believe that to grow engagement, we need to be sector-led and involve them in the award criteria – let them decide what is worthy of an award in their area – and participate in judging it.
- We have had several awards that have struggled for entries and in the past have dropped them, we believe that some areas need to be nomination and not application led – e.g. Employer of the Year, Apprentice of the Year etc.
- Taunton Deane is not a big area and over the last 5 years many companies have entered the awards and not got through – we need to re-engage with those businesses and give them a reason to get involved again.
- Very importantly, we still don’t think the awards should sit with us but should be community based in some way – the Chamber are ideal but not resourced for it yet, and the time and marketing it takes to get the entries in cannot be underestimated; the awards evening is the easiest bit of the whole thing. Once you have the applications, you then have to organise the judging of them (eliminating conflicts of interest with the judging panels is hard enough on its own being a small town), then the interviews and presentations etc.
We have an opportunity to really roll our sleeves up and be the first awards that have actually gone to the businesses in their area and really engage with them, ask those questions and got buy-in; stop doing it for them and start doing it with them. Find out what awards they would really value? As a partnership we could engage with the various sectors and build up a new sort of momentum this year and we believe we should give ourselves this opportunity. We also believe it will be good for the council and the Chamber to be involved in this manner; building new alliances and trust alongside visibility to businesses in the area. It is time to be seen to be listening and responding to development opportunities.
This will be no mean feat but we think it will be worth its weight in gold to get the right relationships built, pride back in gaining a coveted award and pulling sectors together in the process…
We know this may be disappointing to those of you who really wanted to apply this year, but next year will give us a bigger, better, more personal to the Taunton area, Awards.
If you are interested in being part of that planning process, we would welcome contact from you. If you are a leading light in a specific sector please do get in touch; your voice will be important in formulating the way ahead.