Earlier this year I received the award, “Best of Wichita Falls 2009” in the Security Brokers & Dealers category. It was issued by the US Commerce Association in recognition of my achievement. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a gleaming plaque hanging on my wall extolling my achievement? Even better, I could announce this prestigious award to my clients, prospects and the community as a whole.
The problem is I did nothing to earn this award. And if you haven’t noticed, you’ve never heard of the US Commerce Association. This is just one of the many companies out there who create faux awards, events, and even publications to make a business look more impressive than it is. In this case it was determined that I achieved “exceptional marketing success.” I think that means they found me on the Internet.
In the past year or two, I’ve had offers of a DVD that shows me appearing on a morning news program, having my picture on the cover of a magazine, and being the author of a book. The news program only exists in a studio and is never actually broadcast. The magazine exists in hundreds of variations, each with a different person’s picture and feature article in it. And the book…well, let’s just say that it does not require me either to write or even be interviewed.
Last I heard, if you win an award you don’t have to pay for it. Neither has it ever cost me a nickel to be featured in a newspaper or magazine article. And while publishing a book can cost money, usually the author writes it or works closely with a writer to get the story told.
Believe me, this is not unique to the financial industry. Check out the Consumers’ Research Council of America. There healthcare, financial and real estate professionals can be listed in the Guide To America’s Top (fill in the blank). You can even get your school or nursing home on the list.
Before you think that this is just another example of the evils of business, politics gets into the act as well. I’ve been offered by a political party to be part of the President’s Advisory Council. I could have a certificate to hang on my wall and a press release to announce my appointment. The qualifications for this? A donation to the party coffers.
All this may seem funny, but as the recipient of real awards, having been in real publications, and having real designations, I take a bit of offense when others pass themselves off as something they are not. It cheapens the real thing when consumers can’t tell the difference.
So when a vendor, firm, or advisor is trying to impress you with all their accomplishments, do a little bit of homework. Check the organization that gave the award. Check the publisher of the book. Check the circulation of the publication. Ask them what they did to deserve the award and what it cost them to receive it.
Finally, if they have a bunch of initials after their name, check the designation out on the Internet. Some require years of study, days of testing, and annual retraining. Others require not much more than a check.