Local awards and regional awards, recognition for national and international schemes for issues from sustainability to ethical practice: the range and choice of plaudits grows by the year.
It's always nice to have a certificate or trophy displayed in the lobby. But as well as awards being regarded as a serious marketing tool, can they have a real impact internally?
Wins can have a positive effect on employees in terms of morale and motivation. A survey earlier this year of previous winners of the Queen's Award for Enterprise - arguably one of the most prestigious business awards in the UK - backed this up. Ninety per cent of winning companies said the award had given a significant boost to staff morale and pride in their organisation.
A morale boost was also seen by far as the single biggest advantage of winning (41 per cent), beyond increased recognition in the UK (27 per cent) and an increase in new business (20 per cent).
Coors Brewers has been shortlisted for the IPR's Excellence Awards for the past two years. Director of communications Lesley Allman says winning awards has two significant internal comms benefits. First, awards help build and reinforce Coors's employment brand and reputation as a desirable place to work. Second, they are 'great for team morale and to promote the reputation and credibility of the team with our business leaders and internal customers'.
Within the PR industry's schemes, the PRCA FrontLine awards allocate 50 per cent of points to spelling out exactly what individual team members at account manager level and below did to contribute to the success of PR campaigns.
The Queen's Award survey also showed that 90 per cent of winners said the award was a valuable part of their marketing activity. Weber Shandwick European marketing director Emma Bowen-Davies agrees that entering awards is an important strand of her marketing strategy and has particular benefits for internal communications.
'Industry recognition of this kind is important; the discipline of peer review of our work even more so,' she says. 'Award entries are a great way of showcasing work internally, at both national and international levels, and distilling the details of campaigns in this way allows our people to learn and apply new techniques to their own clients.'
Over the past few years, there has also been a noticeable shift in awards for PR activity to reward solid business outcomes for clients, rather than accepting a list of media coverage as proof of success. This growing emphasis on evidence of PR's effectiveness has also led some PR consultancies to feel that the time is right to seek rewards for their work beyond their peer group - by entering general business awards schemes.
Kaizo, for example, won the CBI Growing Business award for Innovative Company of the Year in 2003 for its ValueFlow evaluation system. CEO Crispin Manners says a tangible link can be made between winning an award and the behaviour of the agency's teams.
'Respected external endorsement has a real effect on company morale, and a desire to continue to maintain that bar,' he says. 'The best PR awards schemes are so focused on outcomes now that at the planning stage of a campaign we are thinking about how we can make it award-winning - because that's the same as asking whether it has the rigour to produce the outcomes for the client.'
This has proved to be the case for Four Communications, which was the PRWeek New Consultancy of the Year in 2003.
Partner Ray Eglington says winning a business award was one of the agency's goals from its inception.
'Externally, the award has helped us get on lists we might not have been on before,' he reveals. 'When you are a smaller organisation going into big brands, you have to spend a lot of time convincing them that you have the skills and capability. Awards can do a lot of that work for you as a very clear endorsement. It's also helped with recruitment for the same reason.'
For in-house teams, such as Aston Martin (see box), broader business awards that are not rewards for PR activity are often an important element of marketing programmes and are seen as valuable business development tools. At Shell LiveWIRE - awards for young entrepreneurs - England director Bryony Whiteley says winning business awards can boost the confidence of a company, but are more than a pat on the back.
'Awards can be used as a real marketing tool, and they can have incredible business results,' she claims. 'Eighty per cent of previous LiveWIRE winners say they won new business as a result, so there are real bottom-line benefits. Depending on the award and the business, it can also be a ticket to larger clients that might have been difficult to get into before.'
A further internal benefit for consultancies and in-house communications teams is the rigour of putting together an entry to an award. The structure of the criteria requires focus on what exactly has been achieved, and why the campaign or the company being put forward is deserving of recognition. It may be the first time anyone has done this, and the process can be valuable in its own right, regardless of whether the entry is shortlisted.
Russell Grossman, BBC head of internal communications, has been shortlisted for IPR awards for the past three years, and he says the process of entering allows the team to reflect on and capture good work, as well as identify projects that didn't work so well.
Bowen-Davies agrees: 'So much effort is put into producing each entry, and the process allows the teams to really step back, critically review and fully appreciate work they have done.'
Completing an awards entry may take up some time, but as well as a platform for marketing activity, and a key to capturing new clients and even greater business revenue, entering and winning awards can be just as valuable as an internal communications tool.
Aston Martin is 90 years old this year, and is still producing top-of-the-range cars. The company entered and won a Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2003 in the International Trade category.
Director of public affairs Tim Watson says he entered the award with the specific aim of using it as a communications and marketing tool, internally and externally.
'Aston Martin has been going through some of the biggest changes in its history - we have a new factory and new cars and, in some respects, we have been relaunching the brand,' he says.
'We regarded the Queen's Award as an opportunity to do some flag waving, as we don't have the money to advertise or run huge marketing campaigns; so this was a way of raising awareness of the company around the world.'
Watson adds that the company has used the Queen's Award emblem on all letterheads and communications material, and informed all its dealers and customers around the world.
'We also spent time with staff to tell them about what this award means to the company,' he adds. 'A lot of people are proud to work for Aston Martin and this came at a period of intense change, so it was useful to be able to give our employees praise for a job well done.'
Watson explains that while it's difficult to quantify the business benefits of winning the award, a lot of it is about the feel-good factor and motivation.
'It's recognition for what our staff have been able to achieve,' he says.
'I can't say we've sold a specific number of cars or our staff are 100 per cent happier as a result, but there are definitely business benefits, internally and externally.'