Inspiring Communicator Awards 2013

In this first year of our Awards, we’ve been inspired – and humbled – by a wonderfully diverse and eclectic set of nominees.

For our judges, choosing the winners wasn’t easy: our ‘honours list’ includes chief executives, comms directors, campaigners, volunteers, operational staff and story-gatherers. Some are digital or social media experts, others excel in written or design skills. They all show high standards and professionalism in their communications, demonstrate innovation, creativity and an ability to make things happen and have a commitment to helping others in the charity sector be better overall communicators. Above all, they share the rare quality of inspiring others.

The winners

This list isn’t just as a celebration of our winners’ achievements but is also what one of our judges called “a gold mine of info on how to do charity comms work well”.

Bertie Bosrédon
Digital media expert

Henny Braund
Chief executive, Anthony Nolan

Gideon Burrows
Director, ngo.media

Matt Collins
Freelance charity digital marketer

Carolan Davidge
Director of communications, Cancer Research UK

Louise Hazan
Climate change campaigns and communications manager, People & Planet

Jenny Heylin-Smith
Senior designer, National Deaf Children’s Society

Myra Johnson
Director of communications, Together for Short Lives

Brian Kilgannon
Life-long Millwall FC fan and Prostate Cancer UK volunteer

Chris Larkin
Regional head of operations, Stroke Association Manchester

Kate McCoy
Social media manager, Sightsavers

Jenni McDermott
Volunteer Girlguiding

Dr Tom Pey
Chief executive, RLSB

Vishva Sodhi
Communications and information officer, VSO

Laila Takeh
Head of digital engagement, UNICEF UK

Joanne Thompson
Director, Millie’s Trust

Bertie Bosrédon – digital media expert

Bertie Bosrédon is one of the heroes of the charity sector in the way he has championed the use of digital media. From his early work at British Heart Foundation, then Breast Cancer Care, and now as a freelancer, he has always pushed the boundaries of what digital media can do for charities.

Bertie is incredibly passionate and evangelical about the possibilities that digital media offers charities

More than that, he has been passionate and forceful in telling, cajoling, inspiring, demonstrating and leading charities to make better use of digital media.

Bertie has never pigeon-holed digital media as a fundraising tool or a communications tool but has seen its potential across the board. This was particularly noticeable in his last staff job at Breast Cancer Care which was in the services team looking at how multimedia can be used in the service delivery context. He has also been a champion of helping the charity digital sector improve, and is a big advocate of charities sharing data for the greater good. He has been instrumental in getting the CharityComms Digital Benchmark underway. Alongside all that he produces regular podcasts interviewing charity leaders and talks in many places and on many subjects about digital media – his presentations always receive high praise.

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Henny Braund – chief executive Anthony Nolan

Leadership and inspirational communications do not always go hand in hand. But Henny Braund embodies the qualities of a passionate leader and an inspirational communicator. It’s hard to overstate Henny’s impact upon Anthony Nolan since she joined as chief executive in 2009.

Thanks to her huge successes at Anthony Nolan, Henny is immensely popular and well respected

By overseeing the development and implementation of an ambitious five-year strategy to double the number of lives the charity saves by 2014 and instilling clear organisational values, she has transformed Anthony Nolan and its communications, both internally and externally – a function which has gone from two staff to six. Henny considers it her role to deliver the charity’s vision, champion its cause, and inspire people to help its lifesaving work. Her style is warm but authoritative; never more at home than when meeting those with personal experience of blood cancer – from those who have donated to save the lives of others to people who have been personally affected. She led a successful and radical rebrand, which gave the charity a new name, look, and voice and contributed to a significant rise in its profile. Henny’s dynamic leadership and inspiring communications has made Anthony Nolan well placed to meet the challenges and opportunities of the next 40 years of saving lives.

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Gideon Burrows – director ngo.media

Gideon Burrows founded ngo.media, his copywriting, editorial and training agency working only with charities, in 2004, after working as a journalist and copywriter for several years.

Gideon is an inspiration to me and thousands of others every day

Gideon has helped hundreds of charities big and small to transform their editorial work. Not only by working with them to produce fantastic annual reviews, magazines, newsletters, brochures, reports and websites, but also by training and providing advice for charities, often for free. This has been a benefit to all charities – and a lifeline to smaller ones. Gideon has built up a huge online library of free advice on good writing, communications and marketing for charities. He’s a very talented writer and an inspiring public speaker and trainer. Since being diagnosed with a brain tumour, Gideon’s writing career has taken a different turn. But he’s still helping and inspiring people. His recent book Men Can Do It! is a guide to equal parenting, and how men can get more involved in childcare. His Bicycles and Brain Tumours blog, where he writes about his brain tumour (and his determination not to get off his bike until he absolutely has to) must be a huge help to others in similar situations.

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Matt Collins – freelance charity digital marketer

Through his work in training charities in digital marketing, Matt Collins makes sense of things that can seem scary. He works incredibly hard to keep his finger on the digital pulse and to share his knowledge with charities large and small.

I have yet to see a freelancer work so hard to understand digital and to connect people in the sector

As a freelancer, Matt works for several charities: he’s a loyal supporter who will happily shout about the good things we all do. His Twitter feed is a constant source of new ideas and skills, delivered in a thoroughly approachable way. One minute he’s helping you understand the latest change to Google Analytics, or live tweeting from a conference, the next he’s sharing cake-based news from the office he’s currently in. Matt’s speciality is helping others in the charity sector be better overall communicators. He invests a huge amount of time in understanding how charities can better use digital to communicate, and he shares this via emails, via Twitter and in meet-ups and workshops.Matt’s enthusiasm and energy for digital marketing in the charity sector and the personable way in which he communicates about all things digital are a source of real inspiration.

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Carolan Davidge – director of communications Cancer Research UK

Carolan Davidge is at the top of her game and much sought after for advice, both professionally and personally. She is very passionate and works tirelessly to achieve results.

Carolan has vision and energy, vital for delivering engaging and innovative communications on sensitive and complex issues

Her role has evolved over the years through grasping every opportunity, whether given or asked for, to learn the most about new areas of work and to be the best – all with maximum enthusiasm and impressive results.

Carolan is a people person and brings everyone on board quickly. She inspires and takes on far too many mentees, with a strong belief in helping other people to develop: she always seems to have time for others. She takes part in advisory and sector-wide organisations that encourage better communications. She can be relied upon to turn up every time with focused and sound advice on any issue. She never panics, and holds her head when others are panicking. She is completely dedicated to Cancer Research UK, volunteering whenever possible. She never takes herself seriously, but is taken very seriously by those she leads and inspires.

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Louise Hazan – climate change campaigns and communications manager People & Planet

Louise Hazan has changed the way British universities look at environmental sustainability and social responsibility through her endless energy and determination in setting People & Planet’s Green League since 2007.

Louise has achieved this because she is an inspiring communicator and an inspired campaigner

The Green League provides a framework for universities to be measured on their use of carbon and other criteria, including activism and their approach to ethical procurement. Each university is awarded a grade akin to a university degree: first, 2:1, 2:2 and so on, depending on their success in meeting the criteria. This in itself is a genius piece of communications in getting the universities’ attention. And it’s worked. In the first year there were two organisations which got firsts: this year there were over 40.Louise has created and driven the Green League since the beginning. She has done this by being a brilliant communicator, by inspiring students to volunteer to measure how their own universities are doing, through effective use of social media and through powerful media partnerships with both the Times Higher Education Supplement and The Guardian. It’s no mean feat to change the way universities see carbon consumption. It’s even more amazing when Louise has done it working with one intern and in an organisation of just 15 people.

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Jenny Heylin-Smith – senior designer National Deaf Children’s Society

Jenny Heylin-Smith is that person who makes you feel really welcome when you start working somewhere new. She’s friendly, popular and social. She’s also a brilliant communicator because she consistently pushes at the boundaries of her role as senior designer.

Jen is a fab communicator and thoroughly lovely person to boot

In the past 12 months, she’s self-taught stop-motion animation skills and video editing, set NDCS up on Pinterest to pilot how it works with the charity’s other social media channels and set up and run a huge internal communications campaign (even though she doesn’t have responsibility for internal comms). Her role is more than ‘drawing and pictures’ – she just ‘gets’ what great communications means and how it can help NDCS achieve its aims. And she writes really well. When she spots something that can be improved, she swiftly proposes a solution then rapidly gets on with it. Jen does all the usual things to get a job done: work late, get in early (blah, blah, blah) but she also spends several weekends at service events to meet more of NDCS’s beneficiaries. Jen is the go-to person for lots of people across the organisation who want advice, guidance and ideas from someone who will give no nonsense, straight-forward answers.

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Myra Johnson – director of communications Together for Short Lives

Together for Short Lives, the UK charity for children’s palliative care, was born from the merger of ACT and Children’s Hospices UK in 2011. In two years, Myra Johnson has transformed the profile of the cause and organisation and driven smart and effective internal communications to build a single approach post-merger.

I have worked with few who are more energetic and creative and who blend such clarity of purpose, drive to make it happen and ability to do it with a smile on their face

She led the establishment and development of a new brand and identity with great energy and in very pressing timescales. Throughout her communications career, she has been drawn to difficult, sensitive or unfashionable subjects, communicating them in a brilliantly simple and accessible way. Her disarming approach is central to taking the sting out of controversial issues and her eye for the key message has distilled complex issues into accessible communications. She is always looking for ways to break into new areas and make use of the latest communications technologies and platforms. She is also selfless in her development of others. She has a great team and always looks to stretch their own development, while offering advice and support to the charity’s volunteers.

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Brian Kilgannon – life-long Millwall FC fan and Prostate Cancer UK volunteer

Brian Kilgannon is a man living with advanced prostate cancer. He’s a life-long Millwall fan and after seeing Prostate Cancer UK’s partnership with Millwall FC this season he got in touch to share his story to ensure other football fans wise up to their health before it’s too late.

Brian and his family have offered to help in any way they can

Brian wrote a piece for the Millwall match day programme which Prostate Cancer UK has since used on its Men United Football website. It was a well written, moving story which struck at the heart of the problem and the messages the charity is trying to communicate. His story was recently read out at a Millwall FC staff meeting where Prostate Cancer UK gave the club’s staff an induction into the cause, the charity and how they could help raise money to support men like Brian, and to get his message across to Millwall fans. Millwall FC is now hoping to make a film about Brian’s fight (if he’s well enough) to show at a forthcoming match day. Despite the fact Brian is starting chemotherapy he’s still trying to help people with some powerful words. And that’s inspiring
communication.

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Chris Larkin – regional head of operations Stroke Association Manchester

For some operational staff, communications can be seen as something scary, or worse, a distraction from their day job. Chris Larkin understands the value of messages, events and stories that reflect the people the Stroke Association represents.

Chris puts stroke survivors at the forefront of what we do and he does it with passion and professionalism

Chris is a born communicator. Although not in a communications role, he is someone who understands the power of effective communication. His approach always starts with how the Stroke Association’s work benefits stroke survivors and he takes it from there. He tells authentic stories, he’s proactive and creative and is an absolute gift to the charity’s media team. Chris creates services to empower stroke survivors through their own digital story telling and poetry, including a successful ‘Introduction to video story-telling’ course for stroke survivors and a poetry group for stroke survivors and carers in Manchester. He nurtures media relationships with zeal, is ready to talk to the press at all hours and is always on message and engaging. Most importantly his communications work has fostered a network of stroke survivors who have a voice and are able to express themselves.

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Kate McCoy – social media manager Sightsavers

Kate McCoy has only been with Sightsavers for around six months but is already an integral part of the 12-strong communications team. Kate joined Sightsavers as social media manager from a digital agency, and has brought huge amounts of energy, professionalism and creativity to the team.

We’re all just so glad she’s part of our team

She is firmly rooted in all communications projects and enthusiastically contributes from the very start, right through to delivery and evaluation. Kate’s knowledge of the latest social media applications has enabled Sightsavers to try out channels such as Storify, Thunderclap, Vine, Instagram and numerous other exciting online tactics with great success. Her creativity and fresh ideas drive the charity to innovate and be much bolder in its communications activity. Kate joins all kinds of organisational team meetings to gather knowledge of Sightsavers’ work. She has a great ability to collect technical, complicated and often dry information about the charity and turn it into engaging, compelling content to share with Sightsavers’ online audiences. Another real skill is her ability to turn technical ‘social media language’ and jargon into layman’s terms that even the biggest techno-phobe can digest and use. In just a few months she’s won enormous respect from colleagues across fundraising, digital, policy and programmes.

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Jenni McDermott – volunteer Girlguiding

Jenni McDermott has incredible enthusiasm and dedication as a volunteer. In her role as a national spokesperson for Girlguiding and as a lead volunteer of her local Guide group, she has shown exceptional communication skills.

Jenni shows how girls and young women can be change-makers by expressing what they believe in clearly and confidently

Jenni is the chair of Girlguiding’s delegation to the British Youth Council – a body that takes the views of young people to MPs, policy makers, key stakeholders and the media. Jenni is responsible for listening to, collating and communicating the views of Girlguiding’s young members and ensuring that these views are heard and acted upon. Jenni sits on one of Girlguiding’s high level national committees, helping to direct the charity’s PR and communications work. Her professionalism and dedication have seen her entrusted with a number of vital spokesperson roles: she played a key role in Girlguiding’s support of the No More Page 3 campaign and was a spokesperson for the recent announcement of changes to the Girlguiding Promise. Jenni not only speaks out about the issues that matter to her, but also helps other volunteers to use their voices. Through her personal Twitter account she shares her guiding experiences with her followers, highlighting the real strength of passion she has for Girlguiding.

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Dr Tom Pey – chief executive RLSB

Since taking the reins at RLSB, Tom Pey has rallied his team of both long-standing and new staff behind an inspiring, ambitious vision for services for blind young people in London and the South East up to 2021.

Tom is frank, honest, highly knowledgeable and funny

He has introduced a new set of organisational values (Trust, Energy, Ambition, Motivation) which form the basis of the team’s work internally and externally. The organisation now has a shared vision and values that everyone understands and is working towards. His belief in RLSB’s mission runs deep and he actively encourages bravery and innovation. Tom speaks at a great many events, giving his informed perspective on the issues affecting blind people and inspiring audiences with his vision for how RLSB can improve the life chances of young people with a visual impairment. Tom has also written several articles on The Huffington Post and his profile as a sector expert and media commentator is growing rapidly, both regionally and nationally. Tom has also been instrumental in bringing together RLSB’s first youth forum, a platform for blind young people to have a voice on a range of issues affecting them, to suggest ideas for improvements and to help guide the direction of RLSB’s service development.

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Vishva Sodhi – communications and information officer VSO

Vishva Sodhi started her professional life in 2006 as a trainee BBC journalist, followed by an eight-month stint overseas funded by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association gathering stories to engage UK audiences with global development issues.

Vishva’s dedication and professionalism are impressive because she is genuinely driven to support the fight against poverty

She joined VSO as an in-house story-gatherer, tasked with organising overseas story-gathering assignments with filmmakers and photographers to help bring VSO’s work to life through storytelling. Thanks to Vishva’s aptitude for identifying a strong story, VSO’s supporters are given a window into its work they’ve never had before – stories of former child soldiers from Northern Uganda, midwives and nurses in Ethiopia, women solar engineers in remote Tanzania and Dalit (untouchable) children in Nepal. In challenging circumstances, she holds together a complex web of VSO staff, partners and volunteers single-handedly and always comes back with extraordinarily moving material. The stories, films and photographs gathered on each tour enable VSO to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds. Vishva makes light work of challenging assignments in tough overseas environments, with tight time constraints in a busy office. Colleagues describe her as an inspiration to work with.

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Laila Takeh – head of digital engagement UNICEF UK

Laila and her digital team at UNICEF are inspiring in the way they continually and excitedly test new and emerging technologies, alongside traditional methods, in order to work out the most effective and efficient way of achieving a desired goal.

Laila has fantastic drive and commitment to everything she does

Laila personally demonstrates how you can effectively combine technical knowledge with creative flare in order to be innovative and push the boundaries of what is possible with digital tools and platforms. She has been instrumental in rolling out a ‘digital first’ strategy across UNICEF – even those who were initially resistant have been gently won over and have become increasingly enthusiastic. Laila has an inspiring effect on those who work with her: she spreads her drive and energy to others and her advice is invaluable as she shares the technical knowledge and experience to progress with the confidence necessary in such a fast-paced environment.

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Joanne Thompson – director Millie’s Trust

Almost 12 months ago Joanne and her husband Dan lost their nine month old daughter Millie after she choked and died at nursery three days after Joanne had returned to work from maternity leave. In December 2012, Joanne and Dan set up Millie’s Trust to raise awareness of paediatric first aid among parents and carers of children.

Joanne is a truly inspiring communicator because she is speaking from the heart and with love, honesty and dignity

Almost entirely established through social media (with traditional print media locally and lots of local community fundraising), Millie’s Trust now has almost 100,000 followers with an incredible global spread. It has established paediatric first aid courses across the UK and further afield, with the first course in Australia soon. Most importantly, through the Millie’s Trust Facebook community there are already numerous updates about children’s lives having been saved either because their parent had been on a first aid course or watched the Millie’s Trust training video. Joanne is tireless, inspiring, dignified. She is brutally open about her grief, her anger and her current mental health issues/depression. Through her heartbreak and honesty she has reached out to so many people, already helped to save many young lives and has done everything with dignity and from the heart – the human touch which has touched
so many others.

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2013 Judges

Keith Bradbrook
Partner, Once We Were

John Grounds
Deputy chief executive, RSPCA

Steve Palmer
Press and public affairs manager, SCIE

Vicky Browning
Director, CharityComms

Donna Holland
Head of fundraising and marketing, Girlguiding

Joe Saxton
Driver of ideas, nfpSynergy