Best Impersonation: Weeding Through Some Recent Best of Knoxville Come-Ons

You've probably heard of the Best of Knoxville. It's a readers' poll we conduct each year, putting out ballots through most of March and into April. Then we spend several weeks tabulating the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of votes, another few weeks writing up many of the winners, and then publishing our biggest issue of the year in May with the announcements (followed up by a party the same day). It's a huge amount of work, but it really does provide a democratic index to many of the things we Knoxvillians love about our city. Plus, it's really popular, and we get to sell lots of ads.

But if you're a local business owner, please be aware that we're the only ones who issue true "Best of Knoxville" awards. We trademarked the name with the United States government, so that's officially official. The upshot: If you have recently received a congratulatory letter claiming you have won a 2013 Best of Knoxville award—and it's not actually from us—then it's not a bona fide Best of Knoxville award. Sorry.

We've been receiving gushing press releases from local companies touting their freshly won Best of Knoxville awards—issued by an outfit named "the Knoxville Award Program." A visit to their website uncovers this mission statement: "The Knoxville Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Knoxville area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value." And while that certainly sounds nice, it doesn't really say a whole lot.

For example, the Knoxville Award Program site does not actually reveal how the winners are determined, though visitors are invited to nominate businesses. It also does not provide a list of local winners. When you click on the "Winners" tab, you get a list of "Featured Companies with Display Awards"—companies like, oh, Merrill Lynch and Dollar Rent A Car. Not exactly Knoxville icons. Winning businesses do apparently receive an award code to be entered on the site—maybe to see the award they probably will be asked to purchase?

So, not to rain on anyone's parade, but "winning" one of these awards is probably not worth bragging about to the media or to your customers.

Meanwhile, there's another entrepreneur attempting to sell Best of Knoxville plaques—to the actual winners of our own Best of Knoxville poll. However, we have nothing to do with them, and we've already issued plaques to the winners ourselves (free of charge). Their plaques read, "As published in," which they seem to feel legitimizes the product. In my opinion, not so much.

We're aware of this particular program because we've received 11 e-mails so far from the Showmark company, offering to help us "SHOWCASE YOUR EXCELLENCE" with a plaque commemorating our own Best of Knoxville win (for Best Website). They keep sending us e-mails, perhaps failing to note that our URL is, yes, ""—the very same website credited on all the plaques they're trying to sell.

Now, if there are any winning business owners who really would like a Best of Knoxville plaque upgrade, we do offer (for a nominal fee) a nice, laminated plaque in a larger size than our smaller, unlaminated, free ones. Please contact our sales office at 342-6070 if you are interested.

And so it goes in the highly competitive world of Best of Knoxville awards. Please keep in mind that if it wasn't voted upon by our readers, then it's not really the Best of Knoxville.