Inspiring Communicator Awards 2014

CharityComms' Inspiring Communicator Awards recognise and celebrate inspirational communicators in the charity sector. This year’s winners are experts across the full range of communications specialisms, including brand, PR, marketing, media, story-telling, digital and more.

But what makes a person an inspiring communicator?

The roles and responsibilities of our 2014 Award winners vary widely, but similar personal qualities shone through in the nominations that caught the judges’ attention.

Adjectives like innovative, transformative, dedicated, creative, engaged, committed, driven, effective and enthusiastic ran through all the winning entries. Mix those attributes together, add a large dash of personality and passion and perhaps you’ve created the perfect recipe for an inspiring communicator.

Well done to all our winners and thanks to the nominators who were inspired to share their stories.

Clarissa Baldwin OBE
Chief executive, Dogs Trust

Sarah Birkett-Wendes
PR and communications manager, The Anaphylaxis Campaign

Hilary Cross
Director, marketing and communications Macmillan Cancer Support

Zoë Grumbridge
Head of fundraising and communications, Refugee Action

Dave Hancock
Volunteer, Meningitis Now

Caron Kipping
Training co-ordinator, The Dash Charity

Nick Radmore
Head of social marketing and brand, British Heart Foundation

Ernest Randriarimalala
Communications officer – Voices from the Field, WaterAid

Andrew Regan
Communications manager, P3 Charity

Paul Stancliffe
Media manager, British Trust for Ornithology

Sally Wrench
Brand and marketing communications manager, Plan UK

Clarissa Baldwin OBE – Chief executive, Dogs Trust

Clarissa Baldwin OBE has transformed the public profile of this once-small charity. Throughout a remarkable 40 years at Dogs Trust – 28 of them as CEO – she has never lost her PR touch or her commitment to channelling the power of the media to do good.

Her dedication to charity PR and comms has been an inspiration across the charity sector, in the halls of Westminster and across news desks

She began working life as a journalist and model before joining what was then the National Canine Defence League on a six-month contract to give the charity a PR boost. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dog-related TV or radio discussion without her on the panel.

No-one over the age of 30 – and very few people older than six – will be unfamiliar with the phrase: “A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas” which Clarissa coined in 1978, to highlight the problem of puppies being abandoned after being handed out as festive gifts.

Part of a far-reaching PR campaign, it has become one of the most well-known charity slogans of our time, translated into 20 languages and displayed on over three million cars. Today, fewer than two per cent of dogs are given as gifts, down from 20 per cent in 1978.

Clarissa retired this year, having seen Dogs Trust grow to become the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. She will be missed by some 1,000 staff at Dogs Trust rehoming centres throughout the UK, who have come to appreciate her regular visits, usually with a journalist or MP in tow. Despite 28 years as CEO, Clarissa is still a PR girl at heart.

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Sarah Birkett-Wendes – PR and communications manager, The Anaphylaxis Campaign

Sarah Birkett-Wendes has brought a knock-out set of comms attributes to a small charity with budgets to match. She has a fearless attitude to conquering new technologies, outstanding creative abilities, brilliant interpersonal skills, a knack for building bonds, and a cool head.

She really is a communications Wonder Woman!

Always on the lookout for new trends, she is ever-ready to give things a go, encouraging input from the whole team. Through embracing digital, she has grown the Anaphylaxis Campaign’s flagship fundraising event, Orange Wig Day, from hundreds of participants to thousands, in just two years.

She has also developed a strong internal comms plan to keep staff and volunteers in touch and engaged with what’s going on day-to-day.

Some of that involves helping warier colleagues to get on board with electronic diaries and other sometimes-scary digital stuff. The result has been a more confident, better-informed and inspired team – more knowledgeable about all functions of the organisation and better able to help patients.

Sarah constantly has her finger on the pulse. As an early adopter of Twitter and a driving force for getting publications online and more interactive, she has marched the Anaphylaxis Campaign into the 21st century. Whether it’s shouting about the charity’s projects on her own social media, or attending events to show her support, Sarah is a true champion of the cause.

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Hilary Cross – Director, marketing and communications, Macmillan Cancer Support

Hilary Cross has a golden rule: take on whatever comes your way, even if you’ve never done it before – you’ll learn from your mistakes. Maybe that’s how she came to develop a brand and a communications function that are the envy of many in the charity sector.

Anyone who spends time with her can’t help but go away feeling fired up about the potential of communications to change the world for the better

Far from seeing the job as done, she continues to work tirelessly at developing Macmillan Cancer Support’s bold, recognisable and clear brand, so that more and more people affected by cancer understand the breadth of Macmillan’s help and support.

When confronted with a thorny comms issue, many charity people have asked themselves: “what would Macmillan do?” – and praise doesn’t get much better than that.

As well as being massively effective, Hilary is full of passion for her work and about the charity sector at large. She is patient, tenacious, calm, open – and alongside all that, she’s great fun, always relishing the prospect of ‘wine o’clock on a Friday’ with her team as a chance to socialise, unwind and share successes.

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Zoë Grumbridge – Head of fundraising and communications, Refugee Action

Undaunted by the often toxic rhetoric we hear around asylum seekers, Zoë Grumbridge has been instrumental in bringing Refugee Action a confident and compelling new tone of voice.

She’s developed an entirely new tone of voice and brand positioning that puts refugees at the very heart of the organisation

Her simple but incredibly successful approach has been to put the voices of refugees at the very heart of the organisation, beginning with a powerful new strapline for the organisation: “We survived. Help us live.”

Zoë makes sure the homepage of the website is full of refugee voices and has developed a national network of refugee spokespeople; she gets senior managers out spending time with beneficiaries, and she ensures supporters are supplied with plenty of clear and tangible ways to help. Thanks to Zoë’s efforts, regular giving has increased by 200 per cent in six months.

Refugee Action saw no campaigning at all for three years. But in the past 12 months, Zoë has led three campaign actions, creating opportunities for asylum seekers to speak to MPs, get interviewed on national media and hand in petitions to government ministers. Inspired by Zoë’s relentless energy and commitment, her team have found themselves firing on all cylinders: from clinching the charity’s first-ever corporate partnership when it won charity of the year for the Bristol Half Marathon 2014, to micro-level fundraising for a baby’s cot needed by one refugee family from Sierra Leone.

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Dave Hancock – Volunteer, Meningitis Now

Dave Hancock has become an inspirational voice for Meningitis Now since his own battles with meningitis robbed him of a career he loved.

He can hook an audience of any size or age-group within seconds

His enthusiasm for getting “out there”, whether in person, by phone, email or social media, knows no bounds. He has developed a particular connection with those often hard-to-crack male audiences – employing the assistance of ale as needed – and shares best practice on what works for him as a speaker and communicator.

A community ambassador for Meningitis Now, he speaks from the heart, reinforcing the support that’s available and giving first-hand feedback on how the charity helped him turn his life round.

He connects with fundraisers via social media, publishing blogs on training and fundraising, and providing support to those who might begin to wonder what they’ve signed up to. To forge links further afield he sets up different Facebook groups for volunteers. He also runs awareness stands in hospitals, taking messages to patients, doctors and other staff – all while balancing the demands of being a stay-at-home dad.

Other supporters are so inspired by Dave’s work and dedication to the cause that they often ask him to speak at their events – and blog about him afterwards.

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Caron Kipping – Training co-ordinator, The Dash Charity

Caron Kipping’s amazing ability to engage with the victims and survivors of domestic abuse has made a phenomenal difference to many lives.

Caron inspires audiences, drives passion for the cause and develops people’s understanding

She regularly shares her insights with key professionals, provides training for all The Dash Charity’s staff and volunteers – and many other individuals and organisations besides – and creates initiatives to help improve the support vulnerable women receive. Sometimes it’s a simple idea with tangible impact, such as when she devised a safe way for women in a local hospital to signal for help without abusive partners becoming suspicious. At other times her focus is on raising standards of support through ongoing team work.

A highly creative communicator as well as an empathetic listener, Caron weaves drama into her training sessions to bring abusive tactics and behaviours to life – and she has produced a conversational video used by new staff joining the charity, which you can find on YouTube.

She is someone who dedicates time to bringing out potential in her colleagues, helping them develop their ability to communicate with a range of audiences and client groups. Based on the insights they’ve gained from Caron’s training sessions, a number of other organisations have also created domestic abuse polices to protect their staff at work.

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Nick Radmore – Head of social marketing and brand, British Heart Foundation

Everyone Nick Radmore works with gets a taste of his creativity, passion and unwavering commitment to the cause.

Good is not enough for Nick. He’s always pushing for more

He has run some of the most effective social marketing campaigns in the charity sector – a great example of which is the Hands-only CPR life-saving campaign with Vinnie Jones, which has pulled in over 4m viewers for Vinnie’s CPR lesson online.

Nick is a catalyst for change at BHF. He defined its new Fight For Every Heartbeat brand approach; and he is also engrossed in its internal channels – championing comms and collaboration all over the charity so that teams are working together more effectively and engaging with projects on a deeper level.

His ambition and vision for BHF are driving forces, which he handles in a sharing and positive way. His dedication to the sector extends to other charities too – one notable example being when he completed the Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge, raising £7k for the Dreams Come True charity.

Nick has an outstanding habit of inspiring successes, but he’s not someone who enjoys taking credit. Instead he is one to spread the glory across the charity, motivating everyone to go the extra mile.

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Ernest Randriarimalala – Communications officer – Voices from the Field, WaterAid

As someone who grew up without proper access to water and sanitation, Ernest Randriarimalala is passionate about sharing the experiences of people in Madagascar who struggle as he did.

Ernest inspires me because of his limitless enthusiasm and passion for his work. Everything he does is from the heart

He goes well out of his way to listen to people’s stories and document them accurately, giving people a voice through WaterAid. It’s clear that the communities and people he meets trust him as a natural and honest communicator who looks out for their needs.

When Ernest began working for WaterAid two years ago, he knew a little bit about photography and how to use a video camera. But he has since applied himself conscientiously to developing his skills; his photography is now of a professional standard and his film work has been used for WaterAid’s most successful fundraising appeal to date.

Ernest continues to amaze everyone with his limitless enthusiasm – even running lunchtime Zumba classes at WaterAid’s Madagascar office!

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Andrew Regan – Communications manager, P3 Charity

Andrew Regan is known for his innovative, fresh approach to developing communications and his caring attitude to clients, staff and volunteers alike.

He is supportive and encouraging, passionate and driven

One of his major inspirations has been to create animated characters for the P3 website, while taking steps to ensure that it points clients more directly to the services they might need. This friendlier, more helpful approach has brought a doubling of traffic to the site.

Research suggests Andrew’s changes to the P3 brand have created a much more positive and impactful message about the work this charity does through its social enterprise and community support services.

He has also worked to improve internal comms: introducing a weekly chief executive’s blog, which ensures staff and volunteers are recognised as well as kept well-informed; tirelessly supporting and promoting P3’s “VIP” clients’ conference and encouraging the use of Yammer and Asana to build an online community.

Andrew can be relied upon to exploit every possible medium for communicating P3’s main annual fundraising event, the Big Sleepout – and throws himself into making the most of relationships with partner agencies such as Amber Trust, YMCA and the Rugby Portobello Trust.

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Paul Stancliffe – Media manager, British Trust for Ornithology

Some lucky people get paid to throw a lifelong passion into a full-time job. Paul Stancliffe is one of those people; but then, those he works and communicates with are just as fortunate.

We are immensely fortunate to have such a talented and knowledgeable communicator championing our work

Completely unstoppable, never off duty, living and breathing his work, Paul’s fascination with birds is infectious – and inspiring. He has an uncanny ability to put people at ease, whether they are staff, volunteers, celebrities, journalists or members of the public. His immense knowledge and talent for communication make complex theories, scientific results and policy documents come alive. At the same time, crucially, he can be relied upon to retain British Trust for Ornithology’s impartial stance even when tackling the most controversial subjects.

Paul’s efforts have seen British Trust for Ornithology’s media profile sky-rocket even as its scientific reputation grows. He’s the go-to man on anything bird-related for journalists, editors and researchers. He has developed fantastic external relationships with important collaborators like BBC Springwatch and has taken British Trust for Ornithology’s YouTube channel to over 600,000 views with his series of bird identification tutorials.

Paul is the first to volunteer for local community events and regularly gives talks to clubs and societies. He works tirelessly with British Trust for Ornithology’s own volunteers, and supports others to share their stories, preparing them well and providing back-up.

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Sally Wrench – Brand and marketing communications manager, Plan UK

Taking a highly sensitive and complex issue like female genital mutilation (FGM) to a mass audience requires a formidable combination of abilities. Thankfully, Sally Wrench demonstrates those abilities in abundance.

Sally’s deep dedication and creative approach have been inspirational to our team and wider organisation

Through Plan’s #fgmrose and #faceup media campaigns, Sally stepped up to the challenge of portraying need without stripping vulnerable people of their dignity; of explaining the facts about FGM without offending either the public or those affected by the practice. All this while managing a team of volunteers and coaxing agency teams into learning the nuances of communicating about such a difficult subject.

Sally is a consummate professional, with a steely resolve and a (sometimes gallows) sense of humour. She’s never afraid to use her inimitable enthusiasm and passionate communication style to champion the cause, be that through writing a tweet, handing out roses to the public at Farringdon station at 7am or in a 30-second conversation with a celebrity outside the back door of a theatre at 11 at night.

Best of all, she’s forever got a smile on her face, is first to suggest a drink and is always ready to laugh.

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2014 Judges

Henny Braund
Chief executive, Anthony Nolan

Myra Johnson
Director of communications, Together for Short Lives

Gail Scott-Spicer
Director of marketing and communications, The Scout Association

Vicky Browning
Director, CharityComms

John Grounds
Strategic marketing and communications consultant and CharityComms chair of trustees