CATEGORY: EventBest practice

Unawards Masterclass: One week on

Unawards Masterclass: One week on

“There were too many highlights from the 10 presenting winners to single out people individually but there were noticeable traits which ran through all of them - strategically smart and creatively clever. Add to that huge passion, clear commitment and always a set of SMART objectives and that really confirmed to me what it takes to win a coveted UnAward.”

I had to start this piece by quoting Darren Caveny, Comms2point0, because there is no better way to put it. It was an informative and inspiring day which gave us all the opportunity to learn both about the practical and personal experiences of the award winners on the journey to success.

photo montage of the everyman cinema

“Don’t hire talented people and then tell them what to do…”

We would also echo the comments of Karen Pagett of the Can Digital team, another of the event’s key sponsors.

“What pleased us the most was the number of times winners said they felt senior managers and members trusted them to do the right thing, without the need to micro-manage or second-guess public opinion.”

And there are a number of ways that the winners have built that trust and then with that trust were able to push the boundaries and not only have amazing results, but also become award winning.

Hannah Bryan and Alex Porritt of Durham Constabulary presented at the masterclass event after picking up UnAwards for both best low-cost comms and best video for the powerful “Three Lives Lost and One Changed Forever”.

The video focuses on a motorway incident caused by an HGV driver using a mobile phone at the wheel which achieved 5.6 million views on social media, features on BBC News and the channel’s own documentary and the video’s use in road haulage training. The sensitive, yet ‘real’ way that this incident and aftermath was portrayed is a credit to the team having touched many lives and likely saved many more.

So, their advice to public sector bosses: “Don’t hire talented people and then tell them what to do.” Their advice to comms professionals is not to overthink what the audience reaction might be in advance but use your own internal compass.

a selection of the official photos


Our key takeaways

Make a plan and stick to it

Whether it is scenario planning and practising, which best crisis comms and best collaboration - Louisa Dean talked about in relation to the passing of the Queen, or having your comms plan signed off by senior leaders and sticking to it, as both best small team winner, Rob McCleary, Gedling Borough Council and best young comms pro, Jack Grasby, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

Also, use your plan and the requirements of your plan to defend against unplanned or incoming requests. That is not to say that these requests are always going to be denied, but their impact on resource mean that there is likely to be a “not at the moment” or “let's review this and look at your objectives to see if this is the right approach”. Comms is a professional discipline and has a valuable voice in delivering outcomes.

Use data and evaluate everything

Whether it is engagement, public perception or a specific digital outcome “without data you are just another person with an opinion”. Use the science of marketing to both inform your future actions and to demonstrate your effectiveness to the organisation and senior team. Several of the winners mentioned frameworks like OASIS that was crucial in their campaign planning.

The 5 steps you need to create a campaign using OASIS are:

  1. Objectives

  2. Audience/Insight

  3. Strategy/Ideas

  4. Implementation

  5. Scoring/Evaluation

And the CORE role of government communications:

  • C – Changing behaviours that benefit society

  • O – Operational effectiveness of public services

  • R – Reputation of the UK and responding in times of crises

  • E – Explanation of government policies and programmes

The OASIS campaign planning guide provides government communicators with a framework for preparing and executing effective communication activity. Within OASIS, Objectives and Scoring are especially important for the purpose of evaluation and demonstration of effectiveness.

Never stop learning

Think of learning as a constant process. It doesn’t need to be something you do by yourself but with the help of people around you as well. It’s about going beyond one’s own perspective. You can also become a mentor just by helping or sharing your insight/experience. It’s about constantly evolving and knowing there is always something new out there for you to discover.

“Continuous learning isn’t just about you.” Lifelong learning helps develop your leadership skills which then translates into fostering lifelong learning in other individuals, by encouraging them to do the same. You will also end up not only nourishing your mind but those of others as well by sharing your knowledge.


Get a seat at the table

When Cristian Marcucci, Assistant Director for Communications at Staffordshire County Council – who won the public vote for best comms team in last year’s UnAwards – presented the top 5 tips he’d recommend to his peers, “get a seat at the top table” was first on his list. Not only so you find out first-hand the priorities of senior leaders and have a chance to shape how they are communicated, but so you can be your own PR – emphasising again and again the value you add.


Get recognition

Time to enter the UnAwards! Rob McCleary of Gedling Borough Council – winner of small team of the year – said in the masterclass wrap-up Q&A that an award speaks volumes to senior leaders. He makes sure the comms2point0 logo is on everything he presents to SLT. notably on his comms quarterly performance reports. This is one great way to gain that extra trust to be consulted early on major projects. Rob himself now has a place on SLT. Go Rob!

The 8th annual UnAwards will take place on Friday 1 December so pop that in the diary now.

Entries will open in September so you have plenty of time to deliver that work that can propel you into the comms spotlight.

We’ll be there, it would be great to see you too. 

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