It's the most wonderful time of the year UnAwards 2017.jpg

The UnAwards17 ceremony was a chance to recognise excellence, celebrate success, connect with new faces and say hello to old friends.

by Darren Caveney

The UnAwards have become something of a pre-Christmas tradition with communications professionals from all across the UK converging on the event’s spiritual home, the Everyman Cinema in Birmingham.

Demand for tickets is always high and not everyone managed to bag a ticket this year. But the demand just adds to the special vibe experienced at Friday’s fourth annual UnAwards. What was pleasing to me was that half of the attendees had been to an UnAwards ceremony before. 10 people had even been to all four.

Each year I give the UnAwards a new theme and this year’s was perfectly reflected by all of the winners – being brave, doing it differently and swimming against the tide. Choosing a film for 140 people is always a bit tricky – not everyone would appreciate my ‘potential’ choices of Goodfellas, Rocky 3 or Pulp Fiction. Jerry Maguire was this year’s choice and definitely supported this year’s theme – and many of the audience seated in screen 3 hadn’t seen it.

Winning. Always be winning.

18 winners walked away happy that their work had emerged top against a huge volume of high quality competition. Those shortlisted and highly commended should be mighty proud of their achievements too. We’re a competitive bunch in our industry so those people will undoubtedly have been a bit disappointed not to have won. But they really shouldn’t. And if motivation were needed for the UAwards18 it’s that a couple of people shortlisted last year picked up wins this year, including a home-town win for Birmingham City Council.

The best thing of all about the UnAwards is the chance to spend some quality time with peers and to meet and connect with new contacts. A day out of the office, away from the daily pressures, to do this is really valuable. Is this work, some might ask? Hell, yes. In fact it’s my favourite work day of the year.

Here are some more thoughts and reflections now that the magic dust has settled…

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue equalled Sheffield City Council’s feat from 2015 in picking up three wins. A fabulous achievement and against very stiff competition. You can see their rather brilliant campaign video here. Well done, team.

There was so little to separate the four shortlisted best comms pros, and that really is a title to be proud of. Well done to Ceri Lewis, Rebecca Beck and Albert Freeman and to the winner Melissa Thermidor.

Likewise the winners of best comms team, Enfield Council, who were nominated by someone else and encouraged to enter. A lesson there for sure.

The best low cost comms was the most popular category with 60 entries. A clear sign of the times. Impressive work couldn’t even make the final shortlist but that has to be good in terms of continuous improvement and the raising of bars.

Greater Manchester Police winning the best crisis/emergency comms category will have been celebrated my many. The very least the team there deserve.

It was good to see an increase in the number of entrants and winners from the NHS this year. I hope this continues next year.

And the important category of best ethical communications behaviour and diversity too saw a good increase versus last year’s numbers. Let’s push this even higher again next year.

Having two previous Lifetime Achievement UnAwards winners to hand over to this year’s winner Jill Walden was special. Winning a Lifetime Achievement UnAward guarantees an invite every year so I hope that Jill Walden can join us and do the same in 2018.

The Lifetime Achievement award saw two exceptional police communications leads who have each done so much for their sector over a significant period of time. I thought it was so appropriate that, given some of the terrible and tragic events of 2017, that it was two police communicators nominated this year. It’s almost unfair to call one a winner as both Jill and Amanda Coleman deserve our thanks and recognition.

Talking to colleagues from the emergency services at the event it’s clear that employers have a responsibility to safeguard the mental health of their staff which includes comms teams. Some do. Others from across all sectors? I’m not convinced. I’ve thought and said for a while that I don’t believe we do enough as an industry to provide sufficient support for wellbeing for comms people and teams and this is something which needs greater attention. Comms Unplugged – highly commended in the UnAwards – has wellbeing at its heart and that’s what made it special for those who attended. More on this in future posts.  

Saying thanks

Big thanks to Granicus for being the official UnAwards17 partner and to Alive With Ideas, Perago Wales, the Local Government Association, NUJ PRCC, SocialSignIn, Social Simulator and the Council Advertising Network for sponsoring. It’s a pleasure to work with you all. If anyone from the comms2point0 community would like me to introduce you to any of these fine folk please contact me.


Well done to the 70 on the shortlist and the highly commended entries.

And a big well done to the 18 winners.

You can see the full list of winners here.

Finally, finally, some metrics…

The dedicated website has received over 10k unique since this year’s UnAwards was launched.

And in the week of the #UnAwards17 187 contributors created a reach on 557k of Twitter.

I know, they are vanity metrics. But it’s ok to be a little bit vain occasionally?

Finally, finally, finally…

If you want to look for yourself in the official pics by Nigel Bishop here’s the link (thanks, Nigel)

So the UnAwards17 ends. One of my next tasks is to organise the Masterclass next year to showcase and learn from the winners. Shout if you’re interested in sponsoring this.

And talking of next year I’m already off and running with plenty of new ideas. And there is already a date…

SAVE THE DATE – The UnAwards18 will take place on Friday 7 December.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and organiser of the UnAwards

pic by me

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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