Why Association Publications Enter the Azbee Awards

Veteran Azbee Award winners know showcasing exceptional reader service impresses our judges and provides the edge in many close judging calls. Editorial staff members for any B2B or association publication spend countless hours carefully considering topics, types of coverage, and how to engage with their readers to provide the best value in exchange for time spent with their publication. This dedication to your craft deserves recognition.

Although professionals from association publications represent a still-growing portion of ASBPE’s membership, our Azbee Awards judges are repeatedly impressed with their content, the value provided to their membership and their exemplary reader engagement. When your audience is your membership, it translates into a value-driven work ethic.

“As an organization, ASBPE does not bestow more credibility upon ‘traditional’ B2B media compared to association publications,” says ASBPE President, Cory Sekine-Pettite. “Great journalism is just that — no matter its source. Each year with our awards program, we strive to recognize the best of the best in writing, editing, design, and more. A key factor our judges look for in winning entries is how the entrants serve their readership. As you will read from our association contributors below, no one knows their readers better — or how to provide journalism with real value — than association publications.”

For the 2023 Azbee Awards of Excellence, just over 21% of our submissions came from these member-focused publications. Similarly, association publications accounted for over 20% of our regional winners and nearly 22% of our national winners. (You should check out our 2023 winners for inspiration!)

While many Azbee Award winners support their marketing efforts with these wins, association publications celebrate these wins together with their members — and each win is evidence of the value they bring to their members daily.

Read on to hear from ASBPE members why association publications enter awards programs, and what business and trade publications can learn from their association-based peers. Some responses have been edited for length or clarity.

ASBPE: As an association publication, why do you enter the Azbee Awards, or other awards programs? Is it for staff recognition, promotion/marketing, extra clout in your industry, or something else?

Brad Dennison, Director of Content, Healthcare Financial Management Association and Executive Editor, hfm Magazine (Downers Grove, IL): Staff recognition is a big driver and we’ve found the entire organization, right up to board members, takes a lot of pride in our victories. I like contests that aren’t association specific as I feel there is stiffer competition and more prestige in the recognition.

Claire Meyer, Managing Editor, Security Management, ASIS International (Alexandria, VA): Security Management enters journalism and design award competitions, including the Azbees, every year for a variety of reasons: recognition for our staff’s hard work, a chance to be recognized among other outstanding publications, outside feedback from judges, and — to be honest — bragging rights within our industry and our membership. While we don’t create our content with awards as an end goal, the possibility of being nominated for or winning a regional or national award for our work is a motivating factor, especially on tough, deep-dive journalism on challenging topics. An editor’s genuine note of “Well done on this article. Let’s remember this when award nomination season comes around” is often enough to recharge an exhausted writer.

Tony Lee, Vice President, Content, Society for Human Resource Management (Alexandria, VA): We enter with the hope that the Azbee Awards will recognize the talent and hard work of our team members and give them a chance to shine in the spotlight.

Nicole B. Racadag, MSJ, Senior Managing Editor, ACR Bulletin, American College of Radiology (Reston, VA): The Azbees are one of the most competitive award programs for trade media because they highlight editorial, online and design excellence within magazines, newsletters, social and digital media. At the ACR, we have been entering ASBPE’s awards for over a decade. Winning an Azbee Award each year demonstrates to our leadership and to our society’s members that we’re doing outstanding work as an association publication.

Kevin Davis, Managing Editor, ABA Journal, American Bar Association (Chicago, IL): We enter the Azbees because it’s another way to support and honor our hard-working staff for their exceptional work. While we recognize our staff’s achievements internally, the Azbees affirm that it’s not just us saying their work is superior, but that a highly respected national organization of professionals also has done so. The awards also send a strong message to our peers in the industry and to our larger organization that our work is valued.

ASBPE: Does winning awards help you get new members or gain additional trust from current members? What feedback do you get from members when you win awards?

Brad: I think it helps with branding the quality of hfm‘s editorial products. We hear a lot of “well-deserved” from members when we do social posts and such. We hear more directly from board members, the executive team and staff.

Claire: Our association marketing team touts Security Management’s award-winner status in communications to current, new, and prospective ASIS members about the value of their membership. We seek to involve and interview our members — who are practitioners within the security industry — regularly, and when an article or issue they were quoted in or wrote for wins an award, they spread the news among their peers. Having an award-winning publication fosters a sense of pride and ownership among our members. Award season news also spurs more members to reach out to Security Management with article pitches, recommendations, and feedback, which helps us continue to craft a publication that serves the membership and the security industry.

Nicole: Winning awards like the Azbees cements ACR Bulletin’s status as an award-winning magazine. It signals to our members that our editors, writers, and designers work hard and are committed to the highest quality editorial excellence year after year. We’ve consistently won Azbee Awards for our screening special issue content and for our design and layout. Our members and leaders have noticed, and they consistently refer to our award-winning design and content in Grand Rounds presentations that they do at institutions and facilities across the country.

Kevin: There’s no way to quantify such a connection, but ABA Journal often gets feedback from members of our organization that the honors add value to our publication and strengthen our credibility. We receive messages of congratulations and mentions from our senior executives, managers and coverage in our in-house publications.

ASBPE: What other ways does winning awards help you as an association publication?

Brad: hfm Magazine’s editorial team operates just as a news media organization would — all the same principles and practices. Competing successfully with general media publications has bolstered our credibility among media organizations.

Claire: Security Management’s content is used well beyond the publication’s website and print issues. Our marketing department regularly picks up content to use in lead-generating products like eBooks or infographics. Our learning department aligns many of their programs and webinars with our editorial calendar so they know they will have quality content to refer to during sessions. Our membership department encourages members from across the world to read Security Management articles and offer their own commentary, analysis, or discussions on our member networking platform. Having award-winning content and design — as judged by fellow journalists and designers, not security or marketing professionals — is an additional element to bolster trust in our work and justify its use across the association and the industry.

Nicole: It has helped us in many ways as an association publication. It has helped us engage with new sources and interviewees, has helped us attract new columnists, new members to our editorial board, new guests for our podcast, new freelancers, etc.

Kevin: It reinforces our value, credibility and trust among readers and members of the ABA.

ASBPE: We’ve seen incredible work from association pubs with a big focus on member service and value, and our judges notice that. What have you learned as a publishing team about focusing on reader service that business and trade publications could learn from?

Brad: You have to be real about whether you’re publishing practical content that can help someone do their job better now. Likewise, you have to respect your members’ valuable time and get to the point. I also think it’s important to remember the little things, like finding as many ways to get member names into the publication as possible. There’s nothing wrong with refrigerator journalism, even in a journal. And it’s not lost on the membership.

Claire: Associations have the benefit of knowing a lot about their audience. Your members are your volunteers, your leadership, and your board of directors, as well as your readers. We are able to bounce ideas off of members; build focus groups based off of members’ influence, geography, demographics, or interests; and call for volunteers who want to contribute as an internal group of sources or freelancers (with the caveat that few members have journalistic experience, so a lot of editing and guidance is required).

That’s not to say that we do not need to regularly reevaluate our understanding about the membership and check our biases about what we believe security professionals want or need. We ask our members, and then we validate what they tell us or ask for through analytics and other research. Association members often feel a sense of ownership of “their” publication, so we strive to make decisions that we can readily explain and defend to members. This mindset helps us always keep the reader and the audience in mind as we create content, design the feel and usability of the publication, and deliver valuable information that helps security professionals protect people where they work, live, and play.

Nicole: We’ve learned that its all about the passion, creativity, and dedication you bring to your publication – from story pitching and idea generation to interviewing, writing, editing, design, etc. It’s the whole pitch to print, soup to nuts process. Everyone on our publications team at the ACR gives their 100% and it shows in each issue that we publish. That dedication, that love of storytelling and reporting and illustrating, it matters!

Kevin: Presenting stories online and in print that readers cannot get anywhere else makes our publication stand out. We don’t rehash or duplicate stories but take them to a new level and offer insights and ideas that set us apart. Presenting stories in a visually creative way also contributes to making the ABA Journal the kind of magazine that readers want to pick up and look inside.

Submit to the Azbee Awards

The Azbee Awards of Excellence honor the best in B2B media, recognizing outstanding work by business, trade, association and professional publications across 61 categories. The competition is built to even the playing field between different types of publications, and our judges do not favor any one publication type in their scoring. Instead, judges look closely at key criteria, such as Writing, Reporting, Value to Reader, Development of Subject, Design/Presentation, and Purpose & Impact. Each category uses a mix of general criteria and category-specific criteria to truly reflect what excellence looks like in each type of editorial, design or digital work the Azbees honor. 

One of the most competitive award programs for B2B media, the Azbees highlight editorial, online and design excellence within print media, email newsletters and online publishing. The competition is open to all U.S.-based B2B, trade and association publications. ASBPE membership is not required for entry, but members receive a discount on entry fees. The final deadline to submit is January 17, but entrants save $30 on each entry ahead of our Dec. 15 early-bird deadline.

Submit to the Azbee Awards

Judge the Azbees

ASBPE’s Awards Committee recruits judges each year for the Azbee Awards. Would you like to help us rate the best of B2B media editorial and design? Do you want a sneak peak of other publication’s best work? Want ideas for how to handle certain types of work or topics? Learn more and sign up to judge the Azbees. Judging takes place online in January and February 2024. Volunteer judges earn $75 in Azbee Bucks towards membership dues, event registration and future Azbee submissions.

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