Inspiring Communicator Awards 2019
Who would want to walk in the shoes of the Inspiring Communicator Awards judges? It’s a joyous experience to read such incredible nominations and a heart-breaking job to have to choose between them. But choose we must.
This year’s winners are truly exceptional and range from founders, CEOs, digital experts, frontline staff, scientists, campaigners and even a charity comedian. What unites them is their ability to lead by example and bring people together for positive change.
Working from the local to the global, driving a vision of cities where people and nature thrive, tackling life-threatening diseases, changing the conversation around mental health, and the need for a more diverse and inclusive sector, their bravery and passion shines through.
We hope you enjoy reading their stories. A huge well done and thank you to all the people who took time to nominate. We couldn’t do this without you.
Founder and campaigner, National Park City
Dr Ava Easton
CEO, Encephalitis Society
Dr Emily Burns
Head of research communications, Diabetes UK
Digital communications manager, Sarcoma UK
One of the #CharitySoWhite founders
External affairs and advocacy manager, Voluntary Services Overseas
James Gadsby Peet
Director of digital, William Joseph
Cancer information officer, The Eve Appeal
Head of communications and public affairs, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
Head of communications – neglected tropical diseases, Sightsavers
PR officer, Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice
Director of communications and campaigns, YoungMinds
Senior digital content officer, YoungMinds
Taking a fresh and innovative approach to campaigning and communications, Daniel Raven-Ellison is passionate about making our cities greener, healthier and wilder.
These were questions troubling Daniel. Six years ago, he came up with an answer – to create National Park Cities.
Since then, Daniel has inspired and worked with communities, businesses, and local, regional and national government to put National Park Cities on the agenda.
The idea for National Park Cities has expanded from London to other UK cities and has generated interest from around the world. Daniel has brought people and professions together to drive change, working with them to co-create National Park Cities and helping them decide how they fit in. His #UKin100seconds film is one example of his thought-provoking and debate-changing communications.
The concerns Daniel is tackling are not new – the need for greener streets, air that’s safe to breathe, local play spaces for children and more imaginative design and development by planners, developers and architects. But what he does is approach them in a fresh way, which allows people to take part in ways that work for them.
In July 2019, the National Park City Foundation launched a Universal Charter for National Park Cities worldwide and London became the world’s first #NationalParkCity.
Over the past 20 years, Dr Ava Easton has gone from encephalitis support worker to renowned, global expert and leading charity CEO.
Ava champions excellent communications, always prioritising engagement. She creates strong campaigns that have a huge impact, like the recent ‘Give encephalitis the red card’ for fans travelling to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Ava founded World Encephalitis Day, which launched in 2014 and is now the global flagship campaign for brain inflammation. In 2019, it reached 49.5 million people and won the Third Sector Communications Campaign of the Year Award.
As well as appearing many times on TV as an encephalitis expert, Ava worked as a consultant for Channel 4’s soap opera Hollyoaks when it featured an encephalitis storyline.
She regularly shares her expertise and her published academic research shapes the way experts look at encephalitis. Ava’s book Life After Encephalitis provides a unique insight into the experiences of those affected by the disease and advocates for using patient narratives in medicine.
One of Ava’s strengths is her accessibility. She greets every new follower on Twitter and asks whether they have a personal connection to encephalitis. If they need support or information, Ava either helps them personally or signposts them to the right person. She also inspires all her staff and volunteers on a daily basis.
At Diabetes UK, staff and volunteers are confident to communicate about research and the impact it has on people’s lives – thanks to Dr Emily Burns.
Emily’s passion for science has a ripple effect. She knows it’s just as important to connect her colleagues with Diabetes UK’s life-changing research, as it is to inspire hope and belief outside the charity. It’s why Emily recently took 40 colleagues on a lab tour to illustrate science in action. She helps researchers tell the story of their science in a way that captures and excites, working closely with the charity’s fundraisers too.
Emily goes the extra mile to explain the science behind headlines. She cuts through sensationalism, gives people advice they can trust and makes sure content uses people’s stories in the best possible way.
Confident, clear and passionate, whether she’s on a TV breakfast sofa or the phone to a journalist, Emily is a dream spokesperson for her media team. She’s a proactive contributor to research content and loves vlogs, blogs and Facebook Lives. She whips out her phone without prompting to give live reports of cutting-edge research findings the second an embargo lifts.
Emily sits in the research department, but makes sure there’s no divide between her team and the rest of marketing comms. Her team says: “She’s one of us, and we value and trust her completely.”
Master storyteller Enda Guinan is using his passion for communications to raise awareness of sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
Enda supports colleagues to learn new social media skills, most recently helping the community fundraising team to set up a dedicated Facebook page for inspiring fundraising stories. He’s also a CharityComms mentor and loves being able to give back and support other people working in digital comms.
Having led the past two Sarcoma Awareness Weeks, Enda used social media to galvanise supporters. He has encouraged them to keep speaking up about the disease and educated people on why the charity’s new policy and campaigning work is so important. During Sarcoma Awareness Week 2019, Facebook engagement alone was up 450%.
Enda puts his ideas into practise. He’s recently self-produced the charity’s first-ever podcast series, which launched in October 2019. He travels from the far reaches of Scotland down to Essex to get his stories and recordings. According to colleagues, he loves his role and has even been known to call it his “dream job”.
Fatima Iftikhar is making sure difficult conversations about diversity are happening across the charity sector.
She has spearheaded efforts to hold large charities accountable for the ways in which they portray and work with people of colour. Her work with #POCIMPACT has inspired people to share information and materials, creating a collection of vital community-led resources. With the #CharitySoWhite campaign, Fatima has helped to build a community, where marginalised people can share experiences and opportunities, and find solidarity.
Fatima has made sure this has all been done in an accessible way, sending clear and straightforward updates about a new vision for the sector. The nature of this campaigning work means those involved can be targets of an extraordinary amount of scrutiny, pressure and discrimination, and Fatima is no exception. But she has channelled her energy into constructive conversations, pushing for profound change, which has required an incredible amount of bravery.
Fatima and her team’s communications have been far-reaching. They are crucial for challenging charities to go beyond the basics and do the work that is going to make a sustainable impact on diversity in the charity sector.
An inspiring communicator is someone who lives and breathes the values of their cause, effortlessly bringing others along with them. Heather Alcock’s colleagues say this describes her to a tee.
As well as shaping VSO’s external positions on important issues like disability and gender-based violence, Heather has pushed for cross-sector alliances which benefit the whole sector. For example, she has helped make research available on how to communicate with hard-to-reach groups, and made sure key messages cut through and drive support for international development.
Heather has an encyclopedic knowledge of messaging and a real passion for the cause. But what makes her such an inspiring communicator is her dedication to making sure other people in the organisation share that understanding. She goes to other teams’ meetings and runs quizzes on impact statistics. She volunteers her time freely beyond work hours to train members of the public to have the confidence and skill to speak passionately in defence of UK aid. According to colleagues, Heather is the person you go to if you want to vent, but you always leave the conversation feeling positive again.
Heather commits her immense energy to championing the voices of others. She has personally lobbied organisations, including the United Nations, to make sure people from developing countries have their voices heard at the highest level.
James Gadsby Peet has been contributing to better charity communications for over a decade, working at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Cancer Research UK and the Variety Club. Now he’s supporting organisations across the sector with creative agency William Joseph.
He’s a massive advocate for psychological safety (the belief that the best work happens when everyone understands each other and feels safe to contribute) when he works with clients like Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity and Brake.
James’ incredibly positive, warm tone in person is matched on social media and in his writing. He believes in strong relationships and takes time to build trust with his internal team, clients and sector friends alike.
James is dedicated to his work and has an ability to make things happen. He shares his knowledge and experience at events like the Institute of Fundraising Convention, which he has volunteered his time to organise and host for the last three years. He also helps to organise Product Tank, a Meetup that brings together local product communities in over 150 cities across the globe.
James regularly helps charity professionals who want to be better at their jobs. He’s an ambassador of the online community CharityConnect and mentors several people in the sector, helping them with soft skills like how to work better with others and hard skills like product management. Respected figures in the sector draw huge inspiration from James’ work.
Writer, comedian and information officer Karen Hobbs is using her personal experience to open up the conversation around gynaecological cancer, in imaginative and unexpected ways.
Karen now fights to challenge stigma and dissolve taboos, while supporting people to navigate their own experiences of gynaecological cancer.
As cancer information officer, Karen provides individualised cancer-related support and advice for those who need it most, through one-to-one conversations, phone calls and emails.
Her exceptional communication skills have supercharged the impact and reach of The Eve Appeal’s primary care project Ask Eve – a nurse-led information service dedicated to raising public awareness of the five gynaecological cancers.
Karen and the Ask Eve team have engaged with over 600 health professionals through conferences, talks and presentations.
Karen’s characteristic humour, personal experience and technical understanding bring clarity and levity to an often overwhelming subject. Her flair for creative communication builds connection and community.
Her flair for comedic storytelling and her unflinching accounts of personal medical treatment demystify cancer treatment, and combat the sense of isolation and shame that often accompanies a gynaecological cancer diagnosis. As she puts it: “Cancer is gross, unfair and scary, but I’d rather laugh than cry”.
Not one, but six of Kate Sanger’s colleagues nominated her for an Inspiring Communicator Award. Here’s why…
As well as working with politicians, volunteers, health organisations, the media, trustees and all-party parliamentary groups, Kate oversees work with over 600 media volunteers. She makes sure they feel supported and informed enough to speak out about their experience, always remembering to check in when they have big things going on in their life.
Likewise, she puts her team’s wellbeing first, often taking care of out-of-hours enquiries so that they can relax at the weekend. Above all, Kate empowers the entire organisation to do better. Recently Kate and a colleague revamped the charity’s tone of voice and steered communications to be more inclusive, supportive and sensitive.
She brings creativity and innovation to campaigns, but never forgets that Jo’s is primarily there for support. For this year’s #SmearForSmear campaign Kate focused on recognising that the test isn’t easy for everyone, including survivors of sexual violence and women with disabilities. The inclusivity of the campaign messaging helped people feel listened to and supported, and encouraged more positive conversations online. The campaign reached millions of people and was even covered in Prime Minister’s Questions and Scottish Parliament.
One nominator said: “Jo’s is a small charity of 23 people, yet we are consistently told people think we’re bigger, have more resource, and get more funding. Kate is the driving force, the motivator and the decision-maker that gives this little charity a big voice.”
The diseases Rebecca Mintrim works to eliminate are called ‘neglected’. But she certainly won’t let you forget they exist…
Rebecca has also been a crucial element in several game-changing projects. One stand-out example is when she travelled to Nigeria in 2017 to celebrate seven-year-old Dorcas receiving the one billionth Sightsavers-led NTD treatment. This included a community celebration as well as a long-standing NTD communications campaign.
Thanks to Rebecca’s invaluable communications expertise and guidance, Sightsavers had Professor Stephen Hawking talk at an event in Cambridge to mark the one billionth treatment.
A film Rebecca led on won a Bronze award at the 2019 Charity Film Awards. The amazing breadth of content she gathered is used across the charity’s comms and fundraising activities.
Rebecca has a unique way of rallying support. Since starting at Sightsavers two years ago, she has elevated NTD communications to such a degree that she has single-handedly created a new team dedicated to the cause.
Rebecca’s manager chose these words to sum her up: “If Rebecca were a footballer, you’d say she has the full package. She’s a combination of creative and strategic, she has great drive and determination and is also a natural leader who inspires the trust of all her colleagues and communications peers in partner organisations.”
Skilled communicator Sian Floyd is dedicated to raising awareness and changing attitudes to hospice care.
She has a remarkable ability to take people on a safe and supported journey from sharing their story through to featuring in city-wide campaigns. As well as achieving significant results for the charity, crucially, her efforts have made people feel immensely proud to be involved.
Sian connects easily with very different audiences. She has invigorated internal communications with a warm and light-hearted tone, helping increase staff engagement and securing an Employee Engagement Award.
Not only does Sian have great ideas, she knows how to get people on board. She’s turned shy nurses into confident media spokespeople who enjoy being interviewed for TV and radio.
Skilled at connecting with businesses and influencers, Sian routinely gains good coverage in key publications. Her sharp application won the hospice a Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce award for its contribution to the community. This helped broker an influential relationship between the Chamber and the charity.
Following a recent rebrand, Sian has been central to developing a fresh tone of voice for the charity. She’s developed guidelines and supported volunteers and ambassadors to be confident in talking and writing about the hospice’s services and values.
Sian is highly regarded at all levels for her responsiveness and her achievements. Her colleagues say she’s warm, funny and self-deprecating, and genuinely lights up their day.
From partnering with the creators of the Beano comic to influencing Ofsted school inspections, Tom Madders has had a huge impact on YoungMinds’ work.
Tom has been the charity’s biggest advocate for digital transformation, seeing untapped opportunities to solve problems and pioneer digital solutions. He’s even responsible for starting to develop a bold new digital product to engage young people in mass co-creation and participation something that has not been done in the youth mental health space before.
He’s so passionate about putting young people’s voices at the heart of all our comms that he brought the youth engagement team into the comms department – making sure they never miss an opportunity to collaborate with young people. According to his colleagues, young people love Tom because his passion for fighting their corner is infectious. And he’s a maestro at running engaging workshops.
Under Tom’s leadership, YoungMinds won the Third Sector Communications Team of the Year Award in 2019. Over the last year, engagement, brand awareness and media hits have skyrocketed. Impressive campaign wins include making a new law and changes to Ofsted inspections to help schools prioritise emotional wellbeing.
Tom has continually inspired his team to succeed. He has created an honest and open culture by encouraging people to share their struggles, as well as their successes. He inspires self-belief by empowering colleagues to all be decision-makers, creators, and strategists. Leading by example, Tom represents YoungMinds at every opportunity, championing the charity in the media and his own social media.
Renowned for wearing a huge banana costume for YoungMind’s #HelloYellow campaign, Zoe Guy brings an infectious enthusiasm to everything she does.
Everything Zoe has worked on since she started at YoungMinds has been a success. She helped create the 360 Schools’ Community, a network of teachers that receive bi-monthly e-newsletters full of creative and practical wellbeing tips and activities. The community has gone from strength to strength, with over 10,000 teachers signing up in just over a year.
Zoe is pivotal to the success of YoungMinds’ flagship fundraising campaign #HelloYellow. Not only does she bring her digital expertise to the campaign but she consistently thinks of new and creative ways to get schools interested, driving her team to improve the campaign every year. From just £6,000 in its first year, #HelloYellow is now set to raise over £200,000 in its fourth – much of that is down to Zoe.
On top of the projects she works on, Zoe’s everyday role managing the website, blogs and e-comms for YoungMinds has become “an absolute art”. They are now reaching more young people than ever before with quality support and information.
Zoe never sees a quiet month or dip in users as a failure, but as a chance to be better next time. To make sure she is creating the most relevant and empowering content, Zoe works closely with young people including their voices in everything YoungMinds does.
“On top of Zoe’s outstanding ability, she is loved by everyone,” says a colleague. “All members of staff find her exciting to work with, caring and hilarious.”
Lead ambassador, corporate partner and volunteer fundraiser, St Luke’s Hospice
Digital marketing manager, The Children’s Society