CATEGORY: Public SectorEvent

8th Annual Unawards - 1 week on

8th Annual Unawards - 1 week on

It is safe to say that Christmas has well and truly begun, after its festive kick-off at the Unawards on 1st December at the fabulous Everyman Cinema in Birmingham Mailbox.

We look forward to the Unawards every year, but this year was even more special; it was the first time that we have taken part as both partners and judges.

The highlights

Talented teams, wonderful work

From the 450 entries the team of 27 external judges whittled them down to 124 shortlistees, resulting in 13 highly commended entries and 21 winners.

As Darren shared

“There are too many great stories, pieces of work and wins to single out completely here – we’ll do that at the UnAwards Winners Masterclass in spring 2024 (more news on that in the new year).

Local government were the big winners grabbing an impressive 14 UnAwards. For a sector under such extreme pressure it speaks volumes to the teams and individuals plugging away and still delivering quality work.” 

You can see the full list of winners and highly commended entries on the comms2point0 website.

The majority of the 450 entries this year will go into an updated COMMS:FILES via the Comms2point0 website and we are looking forward to reading the entries from the categories that we didn’t have the pleasure of being involved in.

Ben Capper also created a fabulous playlist for the big day which you can also have a listen to.

our photos from Birmingham

Best use of email

We would like to take a moment to reflect on our category winner and highly commended entries. (Once COMMS:FILES are updated with their entries, we will link to them from here too!)


Highly Commended: Surrey County Council - Surrey Life

Campaign objectives

Surrey Matters ( has been the resident facing brand for news from Surrey County Council for over a decade, originally as a printed magazine, delivered to every door in Surrey. It switched to a digital only newsletter in 2017 due to budget cuts and quickly established a large subscriber base. Over the last two years we’ve undertaken a widescale review, looking to refresh and rejuvenate Surrey Matters to make sure it is the most effective communications channel it can be.

We know that e-mail is still one of the most important and potentially effective communications channels there is, and for a council the size of Surrey – 1.2m residents, it’s essential we get this right. Surrey Matters is published on the first of every month without fail and sent directly to around 200k residents in Surrey.

In the newsletter we include links to news stories which are hosted on the council’s website. We write these articles with our audience in mind, making them engaging and informative and structure the content of the newsletter around what our readers want to know about.

Our goal is to make Surrey Matters the newsletter that residents can rely on to read the most up to date news from the council, build a trust in the council and increase subscriber numbers.


• Let residents know the latest news from across the council in an engaging and informative way

• Build trust in Surrey Matters as a brand and the council as a whole

• Increase open rates, article clicks and subscribers

Summary of results

We’ve demonstrated that subscriber numbers alone are not enough for us – we could have simply sat pretty on 180,000 subscribers (sounds good to councillors) without ever knowing how impactful the newsletter was.

We were (and remain) determined to be BETTER! We analysed the data, crunched the numbers, did our research – we took a big newsletter and made it pack a punch.

By looking at every element, and asking the right people for insight (including internal stakeholders, suppliers, creatives), we have made Surrey Matters a recognised and trusted comms channel across the organisation and across the county.

People open it. People click on it. People engage with it. People share it.

Surrey Matters should win best use of email because it is a great example of when you listen to resident surveys and follow the data, you can produce a high-performing council newsletter. Our open rate of 50% is because we are giving residents the information that they need, and our click throughs show that is information that is useful to them. We have also adapted the newsletter to make it more accessible to residents, optimising its use on mobile phones. Email remains one the most important and effective communications channels and we are determined to make the most of it. Surrey Matters can directly reach a huge proportion of our residents with the click of a button. By researching and planning effectively, bringing the right creative design, working with our expert suppliers, drawing in engaging content from across the communications team, and ultimately understanding what our audience wants – we believe we’re leading the way in effective use of e-mail!

Judges’ comments:

“Surrey Matters is clearly an important channel that has been optimised to ensure it delivers for residents whilst giving the council a reliable platform to inform residents directly. The design and content is excellent considering the wide geographical area it caters for.”

“I fully agree with their comment “ we took a big newsletter and made it pack a punch” – by taking onboard resident feedback and focussing on building trust and recognition of comms has made email a key channel and the addition of “special editions” is a great way to grow engagement and understanding of the audience.”



Highly Commended: Dudley - School Admissions Campaign

Campaign objectives

Applications for secondary school admissions open on 1 September each year and close on 31 October. It is a short, intense time for parents and children making such an important decision and for the school admissions team delivering the work.

Decision letters always go out on 1 March and again this is a very intense time for the team, with anxious parents making early enquiries or making contact with the team if they’re unhappy with the outcome.

During both stages, the School Admissions team are usually inundated with calls and emails from parents and this has takes a toll on team resources, The pandemic in 2020 also affected resources and it was vital to support and engage with parents in a new and innovative way, which made us rethink the process and communicate with parents in a new way, something we are continuing to hone and evolve today.

We needed to supply parents with all the information they need so that they don't need to make additional contact and also drive them online as much as possible.

Summary of results

Our primarily e-mail approach has shown that we have managed to drive more parents online for every aspect of the application process. Hits to the website at peak times - March and September/October continue to increase while customer contacts to the call centres have reduced. Those queries which require additional follow-up have significantly reduced due to parents receiving all the information they need ahead of decision day. We have taken pressure off the call centre and admissions team freeing them up to do other work, saving the council valuable staff hours and money by making the process as simple as possible for our residents.

Judges’ comments:

“Using email to support a known customer journey and applied to a situation to alleviate burned on other aspects of the organisation as well as improving the customer experience should absolutely be commended.”

“Having been through the school’s admission process as a parent and understanding the stresses of the situation, this is an excellent campaign which helped to reduce the impact on stretched council resources, but also likely led to a much better experience for parents who were not familiar with it. The reduction in customer transactions. Proactive communications around established customer journeys represents the very best of what can be achieved by councils using email. Well done!” 


Winner: Basildon – Garden Waste campaign

Campaign objectives

Basildon Council introduced a new Garden Waste Subscription Service in 2023. The communications team were tasked with promoting the new paid scheme, which is optional for residents, seeking as many signups as possible before launch.

The new waste service was set to launch Monday 5 June 2023. This new service is optional for residents, and is the first time a paid service had been introduced to any local waste collections. The service is part of a wider programme of modernisation across our waste services, which received relatively negative sentiment across social media. The council would need to achieve 23,000 signups in order to break even on the cost of the service.

To reach the widest audience possible with the lowest cost, we looked toward our email newsletters. This audience was proven to be more engaged with council communications, having chosen to sign up for email communications in the first place, and generating significantly higher link clicks on average than our social media content. Through email, we could share much more detail about the scheme - it's benefits, environmental context, and even alternative options - versus the short form content on social media.

We would target our primary e-newsletter audience (39,000 email addresses) to test messaging; generate interest in the optional scheme; and employ behavioural science to encourage the majority of our required sign ups.

Summary of results

The main outcome was far exceeding the service income target with zero spend, (32,000 at launch against a target of 23,000) by using existing channels to engage our audiences. This led to an improved understanding of how we could use email more strategically for future communications. As this will now be an annual campaign, in order to seek subscription renewals as well as new sign-ups, we will continue to build on what we have learned to best engage with our audience.

Judges’ comments:

“I would actually quote exactly as they said in their entry: In a time when councils continue to be asked to achieve more with less, Basildon Council has shown how existing audiences and existing channels can be used to great effect. Through the garden waste campaign, Basildon Council has generated significant income for a service which was initially received negatively on announcement. By carefully building advocacy and iterating the story as the campaign developed, the council was able to minimise negative sentiment and drive sign-ups to the service – far exceeding service predictions.”


“This is an excellent example of using email to achieve a real-world objective. The campaign plan draws cleverly on scientifically proven methods of persuasion, combating negative PR with consensus and scarcity to drive subscriptions to the new service in a highly effective.

Using earlier emails to iterate on messaging to a wider audience and in social is also highly commendable.

The results are very tangibly superb and will undoubtedly help to improve waste and recycling within the borough whilst generating significant additional revenues.”

Congratulations to all the winners!

Congratulations to all the category winners and highly commended and we would also echo Darren’s thoughts “ Thank you to everyone who entered. Finding the time to enter can be tricky I know but it’s always a useful exercise and opportunity for self-evaluation and reflection in my experience. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there would be no UnAwards without you.“


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