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Inspiring Communicator Awards 2021

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.

Judging the ICAs is one of the highlights of the year. It’s emotional and energising but most important of all, it reminds us that great communicators help make our world a better place.

Heart, strength, and ambition – these words come from one of our nominations, they capture the qualities which shone through in all of this year’s Inspiring Communicator Award (ICA) winners.

Over yet another challenging 12 months this year’s winners, like those who have gone before, have been shining lights in the comms community. They have gone above and beyond, working with boundless energy, enthusiasm, and a determination to get things done.

Our winners demonstrated their compassion and empathy and have acted as brave, confident voices for our sector.

We hope you enjoy reading about this year’s amazing winners. A huge well done and thank you to all the people who took time to nominate. We couldn’t do this without you.

Adeela Warley
CEO, CharityComms

Winners

Eleanor Newland
Senior content manager, Marie Curie
Emma Gibbons
Media and communications officer, Young Lives vs Cancer
Hermione Clulow
Head of communications, Scouts
Lauren Mealor
Brand and content manager, Sustrans
Mikki Phipps (nee Riddell)
Professional development coordinator, Macmillan Cancer Support
Nana Crawford
Social media manager, British Red Cross
Nikki Wrench
Founder, Furloughed Fundraisers Chat
Patricia Muirhead
CEO/ Founder, Ashdon Jazz Academy
RNLI Comms Team
Entire comms team, RNLI

Eleanor Newland

Senior content manager, Marie Curie

Ellie’s unrivalled energy and positive outlook make her a truly inspiring communicator.

Always actively seeking out opportunities to reach new audiences and tell stories that inspire people to give time and money to Marie Curie’s cause, Ellie is unflappable in the face of time and resource constraints.

Leading the Marie Curie content team since 2019, Ellie has been at the helm right through the pandemic. She spearheads projects that aim to get the shocking disparities in end of life care on the political and news agenda, as well as raising money and awareness to continue the charity’s essential work providing care and support for dying people.

Seen as an anchor of the content team Ellie’s expertise and dedication to comms always shines through. She played a vital role when Marie Curie launched Talkabout in 2019, helping this online magazine packed with features, podcasts, stories and reviews that aim to get people talking about dying, death and bereavement grow to the point where is reaches thousands of people every day. Delivering compelling content throughout the pandemic, Ellie and her team provided invaluable support for those grieving in isolation while also answering audience questions around the ever-changing rules of the pandemic.

Ellie is dedicated to consistently delivering content that drives the conversation about end of life, sparks debate and encourages people to start planning and preparing. Something that shone through in 2021, as Marie Curie led the first National Day of Reflection in the UK – a designated moment to stop and remember those lost during the pandemic whether from coronavirus, or from any other cause. Ellie’s drive and vision helped the team deliver a campaign that struck a chord with the nation, with prominent politicians, the Royal Family, Marcus Rashford and other major figures all lending support. A campaign that encouraged people to acknowledge the complex grief they were experiencing as a result of pandemic – something everyone will feel the repercussions of for years to come – Ellie helped make it happen.

On top of all this Ellie is also an expert at nurturing young comms talent, finding opportunities for junior colleagues to train and build on their experience and skills. Ellie fosters a supportive and caring environment and those she trains often go on to great things. A real team player Ellie always makes sure everyone involved in a project is acknowledged and her unrivalled energy and positive outlook inspire all those around her.

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Emma Gibbons

Media and communications officer, Young Lives vs Cancer

Unflappable, thoughtful, creative and passionate Emma shines in getting to know the people Young Lives vs Cancer supports.

An unflappable, thoughtful, creative and passionate media officer it’s hard to believe Emma started her career in the comms field during the pandemic. Joining Young Lives vs Cancer in April 2020 – a challenging time when the charity’s income plunged while demand for services surged – Emma has already formed excellent relationships across the charity and with the families and young cancer patients it supports.

Emma inspires all those around her with her unwavering professionalism and determination to do whatever it takes to support children and young people with cancer. Working tirelessly with the charity’s fundraising and policy teams, Emma brings creative and PR skills that help maximise publicity and fundraising. During Covid19 this hard work led to Emma securing a live broadcast on BBC Breakfast of a teacher completing his 1000th km of running after his pupil was diagnosed with bone cancer – coverage that boosted fundraising by £3,000.

Where Emma shines though is in getting to know the people Young Lives vs Cancer support. She builds their trust and comes up with ideas for them to have wonderful experiences, while also raising vital funds and awareness. For example thanks to Emma, a nine-year-old cancer patient called Esme has had a chance to create and name her very own nail varnish for Barry M – with funds from its sale going to the charity. This opportunity arose after Emma shared the story of #EsmesManicureChallenge which encouraged people to paint their nails – something which can be an important ritual for young cancer patients – and post their images on social media.

A comms professional through and through, Emma truly is a people person. During the filming of Young Lives vs Cancer’s first film and photoshoot to take place since the start of the Pandemic she stepped in at the last minute after a colleague had to self-isolate. She juggled looking after three families; ensuring great content was gathered and interviewing children on camera about their experiences of cancer. She also entertained an energetic four-year-old by singing Old McDonald Had a Farm, complete with actions.

Above all though Emma also believes in empowering others. She has given media training to fundraising teams, sharing tips on preparing for interviews and writing press releases and she always supports and encourages young people to share their stories. From assisting with Instagram takeovers to helping our youngsters get over their nerves before performing live – like they did at a celebrity dinner in Claridges – Emma is always there for the young people Young Lives vs Cancer support.

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Hermione Clulow

Head of communications, Scouts

Hermione is a go-to, can-do problem solver - patient, kind, diplomatic, efficient and effective always.

Overseeing all communications for over 150,000 adult volunteers and 250+ staff Hermione has made an incredible impact through one of the most challenging times in the Scouts’ 114 year history.

An invisible but foundational part of enabling Scouts to support young people through the pandemic, Hermione has ensured volunteer leaders across the UK had the information they needed to support young people throughout. Her hard work and dedication has helped deliver results like 80% of Scout groups meeting online. She has also been instrumental in Scouts raising £1.3 million for groups and communities in need, and in so doing, managing to save 500 Scout Groups from closure.

At every turn, Hermione has helped make sure volunteers could navigate ever-changing lockdowns and the unpredictable, chaotic nature of the pandemic. Under pressure she epitomised Scout values of integrity, respect, care, belief and cooperation, working closely with senior colleagues and volunteers to innovate and use new systems that made strategic decision making possible. All of which has helped Scouts listen to volunteers, address their most urgent concerns, and give young people the support and connection they needed.

Beyond admirably dealing with the flux and high workload of the pandemic, Hermione is also a lynchpin for team productivity and morale. She has supported the team through three Directors of Comms over 9 months and the loss of valued colleagues due to cost savings measures. Throughout the emotional rollercoaster of a restructure she steadied the ship for her direct reports, showing characteristic compassion, empathy and wisdom.

Above all Hermione is a go-to, can-do problem solver. Always patient, kind, diplomatic, efficient and effective, she never gets it wrong, nor lets her smile drop, and always delivers. Her work is the bedrock of what sets the team free to imagine and create effectively, to support our 360 thousand young members: she creates the environment that makes big campaigns and happy wins possible.

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Lauren Mealor

Brand and content manager, Sustrans

Lauren shows compassion, support and energy that is truly above and beyond the norm.

With unbounded professionalism and enthusiasm Lauren is an inspiration to all those around her. Nominated by not one but all three of her direct reports Lauren was hailed for showing compassion, support and energy that is truly above and beyond the norm.

Lauren never stops thinking about how Sustrans’ content can inspire lifestyle choices for individuals. Her knowledge and expertise in content creation is second to none and her team never stop learning from her whether it’s about SEO to brand, inclusive language to analytics. She is dedicated to brand management, accessibility and inclusion, and consistently holds Sustrans’ content to the highest standards.

One quality which sets Lauren apart is her passion for UX. Even when ensuring that content is optimised to reach target audiences, Lauren reminds her whole team that if Sustrans work can change just one person’s life for the better, “then our work is done”. This approach elevates Sustrans’ work to being about so much more than just championing the work of the charity, it’s actually delivering our charitable mission.

Above all though Lauren truly is a people person. She recognises when external advice is needed, commissioning important and inspiring stories in partnership with people with lived experience. Recently these have included ‘Menopause Support’, the authors of ‘Gears for Queers’, and ‘Bristol Steppin Sistas’, a walking group for women of colour.

An inspiration to all around her Lauren also makes sure her team knows they are totally trusted, and their work and worth as individuals is championed – making them braver, more innovative and more sensitive content creators as a result. She achieves the incredibly difficult feat of telling others how to improve content, delivering critiques with care and respect, whilst praising their efforts and retaining their absolute respect. Lauren’s approach enables others to craft stories with confidence and creativity, without fear of harsh judgement or poorly explained changes to work – something her team agree is a rare and special quality in a manager. Imparting so much of her own hard-earned knowledge to those around Lauren’s time is also given freely for networking, learning and professional development while her effervescent conversation is our heart and our glue.

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Mikki Phipps (nee Riddell)

Professional development coordinator, Macmillan Cancer Support

Mikki’s voice has been influential in achieving change for people living with cancer during the pandemic.

A phenomenal communicator Mikki has used her voice to create real change during the pandemic. As a volunteer Campaign Champion and Advisory Group Member she lives with heart, strength, and ambition. Whether she’s telling it like it is to politicians, hosting hundreds of people at online events, rallying her followers to take action on social media, influencing policy development, raising her voice in the press, fundraising, or sharing her story to elevate what life has been like for people living with cancer and coronavirus.

Having joined at the beginning of the pandemic Mikki influenced Macmillan’s initial pandemic response by helping them to understand the impact of coronavirus on people living with cancer. From then on she has strategically advised in the development of new communications and supporter engagement tactics for the Forgotten ‘C’ campaign, connected supporters with MPs in ‘Tea With Your MP’ virtual meetings, and raised awareness around the vital care and support that cancer nurses deliver.

Aside from being a skilled communicator Mikki also has the ability to harness the power of her own story to help others. When supporting Macmillan’s Telegraph Christmas Appeal Mikki was really open about sharing her story, the impact of the pandemic, and how Macmillan supported her. And when hosting 100 campaigners from Macmillan, Cancer Research UK, Pancreatic Cancer UK and the Catch Up With Cancer campaign it was her warmth, compassion, and personal experience that helped campaigners with cancer connect with one another after a difficult year of shielding and uncertainty.

Mikki is a true inspiration and shows us all that we have a part to play in making change happen, and that we can gain strength from each other. She has used her personal experience to highlight the profound impact of the pandemic on people living with and affected by cancer by speaking at a Patient Roundtable with the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth. She has written an account of what it was like being diagnosed with breast cancer during the pandemic, and how not being able to access tailored support and information from cancer professionals affected her health. And her story has formed a central part of Macmillan’s response to the Government’s consultation for its new Women’s Health Strategy.

Above all though it is Mikki’s ability to talk about deeply personal, sensitive issues around sexual and reproductive health that helps to break down stigmas. These personal accounts are so powerful in making the case for personalised cancer care to policy makers and her voice has been influential in achieving change for people living with cancer during the pandemic.

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Nana Crawford

Social media manager, British Red Cross

Nana has huge energy – and she uses it to drive positive change, no matter what she is doing.

With multiple nominations Nana clearly inspires all those around her as she strives to make a positive impact to both people’s lives and the planet. She epitomises the very essence of being an inspiring communicator and is not only a highly talented social media manager but also a diversity champion; sector innovator; mentor to many; a charity trustee; and a true team player.

An award-winning creative professional Nana is a joy to be around. Utilising her social platforms to make a change to society for the better she is heavily involved in empowering and educating people on topics including the Black Lives Matter movement, racism, white privilege and much more. Even when conversations are not easy, and they’re uncomfortable, Nana is passionate that we have to have them. She is a true champion of the need for the charity sector to be more diverse and to be seen by people of colour as a place for them. She has worked with colleagues at the British Red Cross to diversify communications – with a huge emphasis on staff of colour, diverse social influencers and audience-focused content. Most significantly, she also spearheaded a major national campaign to increase confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine among Black and Asian British communities.

Currently at the British Red Cross Nana has transformed the way the charity engages with the public and followers on social, and under her leadership the social media team has won many awards and gained a reputation as being best in class. During the pandemic her team turned the charity’s channels into a place of sanctuary and fun – providing support on mental health, public health messaging and myth busting about vaccinations, all with huge creativity.

Nana just has huge energy – and she uses it to drive positive change, no matter what she is doing. She brings her expertise to a wide range of projects and was heavily involved in creating the world’s first aid chatbot – utilised by thousands of users, and she contributed to creating an impactful climate change filter that enables people to absorb themselves in locations severely affected by wildfires, drought, heatwaves and flooding. On top of all this she also recently found time to host the first work Virtual Assemblies session, presented to hundreds of people as part of a Digital Fundraising Hub and supported numerous organisations and individuals in the charity sector throughout the year.

Always bringing energy and positive vibes Nana also cares about helping others shine. She has run development sessions with individual charities, including RNLI and Citizens Advice; acted as a trainer for TikTok’s NGO Elevate training platform; spoken at many third sector conferences and workshops and personally mentored individuals through the CharityComms mentoring scheme.

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Nikki Wrench

Founder, Furloughed Fundraisers Chat

Although furlough has come to an end the community that Nikki built with 'Furloughed Fundraisers Chat' is only just getting started.

An empathetic and inspiring communicator Nikki showed a strength and resilience during the pandemic that saw her help others get through a truly challenging time. When the furlough scheme was announced in March 2020, Nikki, like many others, got the call to say that her role was being furloughed – a call that ultimately led to her creating something wonderful for others.

Nikki knew that many fundraisers across the UK would be feeling the same way that she did during furlough – emotional, rejected and useless, but also willing to offer their free time to any charity that could use their skills. So she took action. To support fundraisers in the sector, Nikki set up the Facebook Group ‘Furloughed Fundraisers Chat’ so that anyone affected by furlough could communicate together. The group quickly grew to over 2600 members, and over time it changed from offering peer support to individuals and a space for charities to recruit furloughed fundraisers, to providing training, wellbeing sessions, and when the time was right, recruitment advice and support.

Thanks to Nikki creating a space for the furloughed community people were able to connect in new ways. The fundraising sector were able to come out in force and give their time, experience and expertise to the group, which helped so many people rebuild their confidence, get back into work, and prepare themselves for fundraising life after COVID. And the group was also featured in The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation & Inspiration (SOFII), in Fundraising UK Ltd & Civil Society’s Fundraising Magazine and members have spoken about it’s success at conferences and on podcasts.

While the majority of the group Nikki helped create are no longer furloughed it is still going strong as a community. When Nikki recently shared a poll asking if the time was right to close the group, the answer was an overwhelming “no”. Although furlough has come to an end, the group will continue and the community that Nikki built is only just getting started.

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Patricia Muirhead

CEO/ Founder, Ashdon Jazz Academy

Patricia has used opportunities to communicate her own journey to effectively explain pain and how this can be used positively for others.

Patricia works tirelessly to help others, passionately explaining the needs of vulnerable young women and the types of interventions that are likely to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Having set up the Ashdon Jazz Academy in 2015 – a year after the tragic death of her daughter who ended her life aged 14 and who the charity is named after, Patricia inspires all those she meets. Her vision is for vulnerable young women to be heard, accepted and nurtured in honour of Ashdon (who liked to be called “Jazz”) who struggled with peer pressure, peer aggression at school and lacking confidence about being herself in a society that pressurises young women to be and act a certain way. Patricia ensures 120 vulnerable young women a year receive mentoring, weekly drop-in sessions and access to other events, creating safe spaces for them to be themselves. 

Under Patricia’s leadership the charity now has 40 trained female volunteer mentors and two part time staff working across four London boroughs – an amazing achievement from when the charity began. Inspiring all the young women who come into contact with her through the charity’s referral and assessment process Patricia really is a shining light.  The young women consistently feedback that they value having someone who will listen, be non-judgemental and offer guidance on a range of wellbeing issues.
During the lockdown, Patricia ensured the charity’s important work continued mainly using video calls. This meant the value young women got from hearing from others going through similar difficulties, and the opportunities they had to ask questions and learn about effective coping strategies was not lost. The services the charity provides make these women feel less alone and the experiences they are troubled about become more containable. And many young women approach the charity as they have heard positive things from their peers or are introduced by a friend (e.g. at a drop-in session). 

Patricia is a driving force for change, getting out to the communities where young women that come to the charity come from. Speaking to schools, youth services, local councillors, local authority commissioners and other voluntary organisations, she uses opportunities to communicate her own journey as a bereaved mother to effectively explain pain and how this can be used positively for others. This powerful sharing has recently been used on social media as Patricia relayed more about her experience and her memories of Ashdon in a podcast called “About My Ash”.

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RNLI Comms Team

Entire comms team, RNLI

The RNLI team are 'absolute legends'.

Described as “absolute legends” the RNLI team have navigated a particularly hard 12 months with strength and dignity.

Having already faced multiple public attempts to bring them down in recent years from certain sections of the media, and a new attack from Nigel Farage accusing them of being ‘a taxi service for migrants’ they emerged stronger than ever. They took the accusations they faced and turned them into an opportunity to demonstrate the life-saving work their volunteer crews carry out was truly inspiring. Responding in a thoughtful, considered and inspiring way the comms team came out with a video on social media that drove home RNLI’s mission and inspired all who saw it. This strong and clear response capitalised on the increased interest in them and led to unprecedented increases in fundraising income and spike in enquiries about volunteering opportunities. 

Despite the considerable stress and workload the RNLI team have experienced, they have always held firm and continued to clearly articulate their message for all. Their messages are so closely aligned with their mission of saving lives at sea and they act with integrity to do that so it’s hardly surprising there is so much love for them in the sector and beyond.

The spirit of pulling together as a communications team shines through everything RNLI do. They embody the power and impact our work as comms professionals can have and we could not love them for it more.

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Judges

Adeela Warley
CEO, CharityComms

Chrystyna Chymera-Holloway
Trustee, CharityComms

Nick Radmore
Trustee, CharityComms

Scott Roberts
Internal communications manager, Bliss

Amelia Chambers
Marketing and Communications Manager, St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice


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