Inspiring Communicator Awards 2017

Thousands of amazing, dedicated communications professionals are performing vital work that drives our charities forward. Among them are those whose special qualities make them inspirational to their peers: enter CharityComms’ Inspiring Communicator Awards 2017.

This year’s Awards highlight once again the transformative effect communicators with special gifts can have on the work of their organisations. Just as they do every year, the Awards recognise people with incredible abilities for storytelling, or for helping others to tell their stories – and stories, of course, are the lifeblood of our charities.

We celebrate winners who have managed to turn traumatic personal experiences into actions that save lives, or that help vulnerable people to become aware of critical rights and services. And we acknowledge comms colleagues who have found the courage to face and reach out to potentially hostile audiences.

We recognise innovation, expertise, creativity and leadership, as well as honesty, openness, warmth and good humour. The qualities we find in our most inspirational comms colleagues move us all to achieve great things, for the sake of our beneficiaries.

Congratulations to all our winners and our heartfelt thanks to those who took the trouble to nominate them.

Ali Stunt
Chief executive officer, Pancreatic Cancer Action

Deborah Alsina MBE
Chief executive, Bowel Cancer UK

Joe Bailey
Agricultural manager, RSPCA Assured

Jon Ware
Digital communicator

Juliet Bouverie
Chief executive officer, Stroke Association

Katie Bennett
Head of media, Alzheimer’s Society

Katrina Kelly
Communications officer, Together for Short Lives

Liz Searle
Chief executive officer, Keech Hospice Care

Dr Mike Knapton
Associate medical officer, British Heart Foundation

Rebecca Stinson
Head of trans inclusion, Stonewall

Richard Lane
Head of communications, Scope

Rosalyn Boyce
Why me? ambassador, Why me?

Steven Scott
Connect radio content manager, RNIB

Zoe Amar
Director, Zoe Amar Communications

Vicky Browning
Chief executive officer, ACEVO

Ali Stunt
Chief executive officer, Pancreatic Cancer Action

Inspired and driven by first-hand experience, Ali Stunt set up Pancreatic Cancer Action in 2010, to work for improvements to early diagnosis of the disease.

Ali is an articulate and passionate spokesperson
When she received her own diagnosis in 2007, Ali was 41 and studying for a PhD at Imperial College, London. She had not heard of pancreatic cancer at that time and was shocked to learn that her chances of surviving were just 3%. Luckily, however, Ali was one of the very few diagnosed in time for surgery – currently the only potential cure – which increased her chances to 30%. In her case, the operation was a success.

As an articulate and passionate spokesperson, Ali has done a great deal to raise awareness of this lesser-known cancer through the media, which regularly approaches her for informed comments. She has been interviewed many times on TV, including on Newsnight, Good Morning Britain and Channel 4 News, and has featured in The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail and The Sun.

In 2014 she memorably appeared on TV and in national newspapers to defend the charity’s controversial “I wish I had breast cancer” campaign. More recently, in August this year, she appeared on BBC Breakfast talking about her good fortune as one of the 1% of people who survive pancreatic cancer for more than 10 years. Watched by over two million people, her clear, and engaging account prompted thousands of new visits to the Pancreatic Cancer Action website and enquiries to the office.

Ali is always happy to talk to patients and members of the public, and to answer any questions. She continues to provide hope to many as an inspirational speaker and dedicated champion of her cause.

Back to winners list

Deborah Alsina MBE
Chief executive, Bowel Cancer UK

Whether campaigning for policy change through national and international forums, representing Bowel Cancer UK in media interviews or posting on social, Deborah Alsina is admired by many for her determination, passion and dedication.

Deborah is always there for everybody
Nominated by patients and their families, she was awarded an MBE at the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2016 for her services to the fight against bowel cancer. She is regularly asked to speak at conferences and meetings as a leading international expert on bowel cancer. Through her network of contacts with other charities, clinicians and scientists, she built Never Too Young, Bowel Cancer UK’s flagship campaign for people under 50, which has now also been adopted in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.

Deborah has been named in the Top 30 Charity CEOs at The Social Media Awards every year since it launched in 2013. With a strong presence on Twitter and Instagram, Deborah uses both platforms to engage personally with bowel cancer patients, their friends and families, as well as fundraisers, healthcare professionals, researchers and more.

As one supporter on Facebook put it: “She is always there for everybody, whether it’s to answer a serious question about cancer, to give support, or just to comment on what her Twitter followers are doing in their lives.”

Deborah’s staff deeply appreciate her ability to listen, engage with and support every individual, as well as the regular updates and insights she shares about charity activities. In their eyes, Deborah is the true embodiment of an inspiring charity communicator.

Back to winners list

Joe Bailey
Agricultural manager, RSPCA Assured

Joe Bailey’s driving purpose is to improve the lives of millions of farm animals around the world. She keeps smiling, works all hours and will go anywhere in the world to make it happen.

Joe has a knack for explaining sensitive subjects
Joe’s biggest critic is herself and her standards are high. Always ready to listen and take advice from the RSPCA Assured communications team, she has become an accomplished and reliable communicator for the media, consumers and her charity’s trade audience.

Presenting to farming and other industry audiences around the world, Joe will often encounter people who don’t see why the treatment of farm animals is important and will take time to raise awareness and support.

She has explained difficult issues around male dairy calves shot at birth on BBC Countryfile; appeared on The One Show to describe the difference the RSPCA Assured scheme makes to dairy cow welfare and featured in an RSPCA Assured video to convey the benefits of calf hutches.

Joe uses her communication skills to walk the fine line of being a true champion for animals, while also championing the farmers who care for them. She is diplomatic and has a knack for explaining technical or sensitive subjects to people who initially don’t understand and engaging people who don’t want to understand.

After gauging opinion on her innovative ideas, she will stop at nothing to spread the word and gain support for initiatives that improve animal welfare.

Back to winners list

Jon Ware
Digital communicator

Thanks to his storytelling skills and creative ingenuity, Jon Ware has transformed Anthony Nolan’s social media channels, particularly Facebook, into arguably some of the most successful platforms for a charity of its size.

No meeting is complete without one of Jon’s creative ideas
The charity’s dedicated student support network, Marrow, benefits from his creative, compelling workshops and his daily guidance through social media. He has been instrumental in refining Anthony Nolan’s tone of voice and was the creator of a popular style guide that’s used by staff across the divisions. He’s also passionate about creating educational content that dispels myths about stem cell donation and informs people about the science behind the charity’s work.

One of Jon’s great assets is his ability to take the initiative. No meeting is complete without one of his ideas; not a week goes by without an innovative new approach to engaging the charity’s supporter base. This forward-thinking attitude has led to a wealth of tangible successes, including a 55% increase in donors from organic Facebook posts and a 410% increase in Facebook engagement.

Jon’s CharityComms article Aiming high with our Facebook content strategy is testament to his generosity in sharing the secrets of his success. Off the back of this article, he’s been asked to speak at numerous events. His peers across the sector regularly praise his inspirational talks and many admit to using his advice to inform their strategies.

Jon is kind, sensitive and able to put people at ease even when he is dealing with the most complex and tragic stories. A consummate professional, caring, innovative and dedicated to his work, Jon has been a communications inspiration to colleagues and volunteers alike.

Back to winners list

Juliet Bouverie
Chief executive officer, Stroke Association

Juliet Bouverie is a natural communicator, someone who wants to listen and to share. In her ‘Ask Juliet’ sessions live on Skype every two months, Stroke Association staff are encouraged to ask any questions they like, and Juliet’s open and honest responses encourage ever-more challenging queries. But as well as responding to questions, Juliet is also keen to ask and to listen. She shadows colleagues across the organisation and hosts forums with frontline staff to gain insights on their experiences.

Juliet encourages open dialogue and is a brilliant motivator
As well as making the most of opportunities for exchanging insights and ideas, Juliet regularly produces written and video blogs to convey key messages and share personal reflections from her work. Her content is widely discussed by staff and, following her example, Juliet’s executive team colleagues now all blog too.

Communications professionals at Stroke Association say they are impressed by her ability to speed read, summarise information and form a strategic opinion in moments, as well as by her gift for translating complex policy and research into a compelling and engaging narrative.

Juliet is not afraid to be challenging and outspoken in the media, always keeping in mind the experiences of both the stroke community and her Stroke Association colleagues. A master at making people feel comfortable, someone who encourages open dialogue and is a brilliant motivator, Juliet is most definitely an inspiring communicator.

Back to winners list

Katie Bennett
Head of media, Alzheimer’s Society

Katie Bennett is a rising star, having been promoted twice in her four years at Alzheimer’s Society. Now head of media, she merges innovative, creative media strategies with robust insight and evaluation. Invested in messaging and in integrating communications, she is keen to ensure her team focuses on keeping dementia on the national radar while pulling out regular stories of people joining the movement for change.

Katie is constantly pioneering new ways of reaching people
For the Society’s new brand campaign, United Against Dementia, Katie expertly wove together paid-for publicity with editorial. The result was that United Against Dementia messaging appeared in around 70% of all media coverage of dementia during the campaign period.

Katie is a champion of video content and has used it to powerful effect. One particularly strong video case study set a new standard for the Society’s film-making, reaching 135,000 people on Facebook in one day, with a spend of just £100.

Katie works tirelessly to promote the rights of people with dementia. When Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Joy Watson lost her right to personal independence payments, Katie liaised with the family and used her commensurate media skills, to ensure a happy outcome. A great ambassador for the charity, she also works in a dementia café in her spare time.

Alongside her role, Katie somehow finds time to lead cross-cutting projects, such as the ground-breaking study she recently undertook, looking at the experiences of 1,000 people with dementia.

Constantly pioneering new ways of reaching people, Katie recently created a new animation approach, turning lengthy reports into bite-sized and memorable calls to action for different audiences.

Back to winners list

Katrina Kelly
Communications officer, Together for Short Lives

It can be tough communicating issues such as serious childhood illness and death, but Katrina Kelly has an instinctive and responsive way of communicating with families and writing about their experiences. She puts people at ease, helping them to share stories and finding creative ways to ensure they get the support they need.

Katrina has an instinctive and responsive way of communicating
Katrina is a comms trailblazer, seeking out the latest innovations to help Together for Short Lives deliver its mission. She led a drive for design self-sufficiency, equipping staff with skills and embedding Adobe InDesign across the charity. She was an early adopter of Canva, sharing knowledge and encouraging staff to use this tool to produce engaging digital content.

Katrina aims high, helping to ensure the charity publishes high-quality, robust information for families based on evidence and peer review, meeting the Department of Health’s Information Standard kitemark.

As a great ambassador for volunteering, Katrina supports a comms volunteer and finds ways to share and celebrate the achievements of volunteers in children’s palliative care work all over the UK.

Her finely tuned comms radar picks up every opportunity to get the charity’s messages across. She was quick to utilize last year’s Coronation Street storyline on baby loss, which offered a real opportunity to break taboos.

Loved and respected by everyone who works with her, Katrina is a natural leader, keen to support others to grow and develop. She shares her communications expertise, for example, through masterclasses with Together for Short Lives members across the UK and through her involvement with the CharityComms South West Networking Group.

Back to winners list

Liz Searle
Chief executive officer, Keech Hospice Care

Liz Searle became CEO of Keech Hospice Care in 2016, four years after joining the hospice as clinical director, and soon set about securing a place for Keech Hospice Care in the The Sunday Times: 100 Best Not for Profit Organisations to Work For, 2017.

Liz has raised the profile of the needs of end of life patients
Liz is recognised for her work locally and nationally in raising the profile of the needs of end of life patients. Each week, she writes a blog in an informal and friendly style, which is widely read by the charity’s 250 staff and 1,500 volunteers. Liz is also very active on Twitter, where she promotes the hospice’s work as a leader in its field and communicates with others to share ideas and best practice.

As CEO, she has two main aims: to make sure staff and volunteers know they are valued, and to ensure the organisation listens to and meets the needs of patients and families.

She visits the Houses of Parliament to speak to ministers about the challenges families with life-limited children face, and has been a keen supporter of the Together for Short Lives 49,000 campaign. At two recent events designed to celebrate the work of the charity’s volunteers, she took the chance to tell volunteers how much their efforts are appreciated.

In her first year as CEO, Liz has spoken at a university graduation ceremony, at national conferences, to the local Chamber of Commerce and the Business Network. She is a member of the Hospice UK advisory council and a part of the NHS England steering group looking at how the hospice sector can provide long-term solutions to unnecessary hospital admissions. She is an all-round communicator – a networker, blogger, speaker, listener and campaigner – working in many spheres to help shape the future of palliative care.

Back to winners list

Dr Mike Knapton
Associate medical officer, British Heart Foundation

In some organisations, it can be difficult to convince leading doctors that a Daily Mail headline matters. That’s not the case for Dr Mike Knapton. The British Heart Foundation knows it is lucky to have him.

No private event will prevent Mike from answering a call from the press team
Dr Knapton is continuously on hand to support the BHF’s communications team. No private event – whether a holiday or even an important family celebration – will prevent him from answering a call from the press team and agreeing to explain the devastating impact of heart disease to the media.

In May, he appeared on ITV News and other channels to raise awareness of the urgent need for better stroke treatments. In September he joined Radio 4’s Women’s Hour to discuss what constitutes safe sex for heart patients. As a contributor to the ongoing debate about statins, he has used media opportunities to explain evidence for the efficacy of statins in lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. In the last few months alone, he has been quoted in the media more than 200 times!

Outside of mainstream media activities, Dr Knapton is a regular contributor to the BHF’s Heart Matters magazine, answering questions from readers on their heart conditions. He also fronts internal communications events, including a recent initiative to get BHF staff excited about the organisation’s ground-breaking research into congenital heart conditions. Mike also uses his communication skills as a BHF representative to create partnerships with stakeholders in other like-minded organisations, all to try and help improve the lives of heart patients.

Back to winners list

Rebecca Stinson
Head of trans inclusion, Stonewall

As the leader of Stonewall’s work on trans inclusion, and the organisation’s most prominent trans spokesperson, Rebecca Stinson works in a largely hostile climate. Two in five trans people reported experiencing hate crime in the last 12 months, transphobia on social media is rife (and often particularly vile in tone), and media commentators regularly raise questions about trans people’s rights.

Rebecca’s calm demeanour and deeply human approach are hugely effective
In this context, putting yourself forward for national media work as part of the campaign for trans equality can be a daunting task. Supported by the comms team, Rebecca rises willingly to the challenge. Impressively, she does so with a calm demeanour and deeply human approach that have been hugely effective. Where it is productive, she engages in online debate, helping to move conversations on from places of division into shared understanding.

Whether filming pieces for Stonewall’s social platforms, writing blogs or doing media interviews, Rebecca has a natural understanding of different media channels and the tone and messaging that will most effectively resonate with different audiences. She is also skilled at bringing internal teams together in her work, understanding that using the combined skills of comms, policy and campaigns functions will help Stonewall to change perceptions.

Rebecca deserves recognition for her dedicated work to advance trans equality, through both social and traditional media work, in a challenging environment.

Back to winners list

Richard Lane
Head of communications, Scope

After four distinguished years of service at Stonewall, Richard Lane brought his expertise and passion for equality to Scope in 2015.

Richard is a natural and inspiring leader, encouraging creativity and innovation
His creativity and drive to ensure disabled people have equal opportunities are evident in all his comms activities. He has led the press work for Scope’s flagship End the Awkward campaign for two years running, and oversees Scope’s sector-leading stories and film functions. Committed to helping the media think afresh about the way it represents disabled people, he sat on Channel 4’s 2016 Year of Disability advisory group and he has led campaigning events with other major broadcasters.

His many successes include the Scope for Change programme, which offered extensive digital media, press and other training to a group of 30 disabled 18-25 year olds, enabling them to set up and launch their own campaigns.

He works tirelessly to ensure both internal and external communications are handled professionally and thoughtfully. As the charity embarks on a new five-year strategy, Richard has added managing strategic change and stakeholder communications to his role, expertly navigating the organisation’s transformation project.

A natural and inspiring leader, Richard leads an integrated communications team of 15 people, continually encouraging them to be bold, creative and innovative. He is widely recognised across the organisation and the sector as a champion for disability rights. He has made a significant difference to the way Scope communicates.

Back to winners list

Rosalyn Boyce
Why me? ambassador, Why me?

Rosalyn Boyce has worked as an ambassador for Why me? since 2015, speaking with passion and conviction about her experience of restorative justice. As a survivor of sexual violence, it took her many years to find a restorative justice facilitator willing to take on her case. However, in 2014, in a high security prison, she finally met the man who had attacked her.

Rosalyn shares her story with strength and eloquence
Rosalyn now offers her time to tell the story of how she fought for and won restorative justice, and the transformative effect the experience ultimately had on her life. By conveying her message to members of the public, victims of crime, and justice professionals, Rosalyn helps Why me? in its campaigning work for greater access to restorative justice for victims of crime.

As well as sharing her story with strength and eloquence, on the Why me? website, Rosalyn has given numerous interviews to media outlets, including the Huffington Post, and is always willing to talk to the media on request.

Following a training event at which he heard Rosalyn’s presentation, detective chief inspector Chris Mossop of Greater Manchester Police described Rosalyn’s presentation as: “one of the best things I have heard” and commented that attending police officers had learned about the importance of victims having choice and the right to be informed about the restorative justice process.

Continuing her campaigning work, Rosalyn recently secured a meeting with the head of the parole board and has now been invited to address its victims focus group to help ensure the development of best practice.

Rosalyn’s dedicated and inspirational storytelling has tangibly helped to increase the impact of her charity.

Back to winners list

Steven Scott
Connect radio content manager, RNIB

Steven Scott is a highly competent and personable broadcaster and producer for RNIB. His deep commitment and passion for his chosen profession is clear, and it is matched by a continual thirst to grow his knowledge and share his experience with others.

Steven is a highly competent and personable broadcaster
Steven has been a critical part of RNIB’s Connect Radio for more than 10 years, spending many of those years as the host and producer of a popular breakfast show and a weekly tech show, each with an audience of over 150,000 blind and partially sighted people. Steven is also the technical manager, responsible for maintaining all station broadcasting networking connections. He controls station playlists and is programme manager for a second internet-only station, Connect Extra.

As someone who has had multiple eye conditions since birth, some of which are still advancing, Steven is the epitome of the ethos of RNIB Connect – “by the community for the community”.

In 2016, Steven led RNIB’s expansion into podcasting, which aimed to reach digitally-savvy, visually impaired listeners using a partnership Steven brokered with Audioboom. In the last 12 months, and from scratch, RNIB podcasts have enjoyed 329,552 plays on Audioboom, over and above any other broadcast format. His Tech Talk podcast has become the weekly must-listen for visually impaired people interested in tech. It has also attracted international recognition with a distribution deal in Canada.

Steven actively invites contributions from colleagues, peers and volunteers from across the country, using a variety of methods to source, edit and finalise content to an impeccable standard. No other charity is currently doing anything quite like this, which makes Steven an inspiration.

Back to winners list

Zoe Amar
Director, Zoe Amar Communications

Zoe Amar is a passionate changemaker; a woman on a mission to help charities embrace digital by investing in digital leadership. She spends her time helping to improve the skills of charity leaders, highlighting skills gaps and encouraging leaders to get with the programme on digital.

Zoe is a true champion of digital leadership
Having worked with hundreds of charities to improve the adoption, integration and use of digital, Zoe has a wealth of experience. Before setting up her own company, she worked at the social welfare law and tech charity, Lasa, which sparked her interest in digital opportunities.

She’s a founder of Social CEOs, the third sector award for digital leaders using social media, which has been going strong for five years. The award has become a desirable accolade among third sector leaders, but also serves another purpose, calling to attention the vital role of senior leaders in adopting and developing digital capability.

Last year, Zoe also worked with Skills Platform to map digital skills in the sector, collating the findings in The Charity Digital Skills Report. Although there have been lots of benchmarks of digital maturity in charities, the report aimed to dive deeper, looking at how people felt about digital in their organisations.

More recently, Zoe launched a skills programme for third sector leaders in partnership with The School for Social Entrepreneurs. Bringing charity leaders together with digital champions, the programme allows participants to explore digital opportunities and ways they can transform unsustainable approaches. Zoe is collaborative, entrepreneurial, and inspirational in her work. She sees an opportunity and takes a punt. She is a true champion of digital leadership.

Back to winners list

CharityComms Special Inspiration Award

Vicky Browning
Chief executive officer, ACEVO

To a lot of comms folk, Vicky Browning – formerly director of CharityComms and, since January 2017, CEO of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) – is the people’s charity communications champion.

Vicky worked relentlessly to inspire communicators and wave the comms flag
In her seven years at CharityComms, Vicky worked relentlessly to inspire communicators and wave the comms flag across the sector. From her dedication to the Charity Today project, which seeks to raise public perception of charities, to producing best practice guides, speaking at events and connecting peers, she was at the heart of raising the
standard and profile of communications in charities.

Joining CharityComms in 2010, Vicky took what was then a network of 28 charities and grew it to a gobsmacking 562 charities, 369 individual members and 86 corporate partners.

She provided comms professionals with the ammunition to make the case for comms as a strategic and vital element of a successful organisation. She connected comms people with each other, helping them to create their own networks of support and inspiration. The energy she brought to the organisation’s events never failed to raise the mood, even on a sleepy Thursday morning.

She is a person who listens, understands and cares, which makes her not only an extraordinary leader for the sector, but a dream boss too. Creating a positive, open and relaxed working environment, her leadership approach at CharityComms was about coaching staff to find their own answers, but offering pearls of wisdom when they were struggling.

Vicky simply personifies the Inspiring Communicator Award criteria, but to be fair, she did write them!

Back to winners list

2017 Judges:

Adeela Warley
Director, CharityComms

John Grounds
Chair of trustees, CharityComms

Gemma Ellis
Senior communications officer, Bliss

Adam Petrie
Director of communications and marketing, Shooting Star Chase

Donna Holland
Director of fundraising and development, The Mix

Jess Abelscroft
Digital workplace lead, Citizens Advice


#InspiringComms