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The UnAwards19 was my best work day ever. I’ve been reflecting on why…

by Darren Caveney

There are so many highlights from the UnAwards19, too many for one post, but I wanted to share some reflections post-event.

The UnAwards soak up my time. They are not-for-profit and so as a self-employed team of one it is a pressure at a busy time of the year. But I am very fortunate and very proud to be able to run and host them. And, of course, I don’t run them alone – there are a team of people who put a lot of love and passion into them too, from the sponsors who make it even possible, to the 140 attendees who travel from all parts of the UK to celebrate.

As my friend Georgia Turner said “it’s a true feel-good event which hits you from the moment you walk into the venue”

Thank you, thank you, thank you

The UnAwards are special and for so many reasons. From seeing the joy on the winners’ faces to seeing people connect and have fun at the end of a very busy year.

There are so many people to thank so I made a little video here.

So many highlights…

The aim of UnAwards day is simple – to celebrate the people in our wonderful industry and that whether you win or not you have a fun day with friends old and new. Simple.

But, of course, there have to be some winners too and there many highlights this year.

Jude Tipper picked up best comms pro, and best guest post, for the second year running. She tells me that her home has high ceilings so she has room for a few more winners certificates yet. Can she do the treble in 2020?

Doncaster Council have in my opinion set the bar for best in class social media over the past couple of years so I thought their win in the best social media account category really was deserved. But there are a chasing pack of brilliant accounts after their title next year. Game on.

Two top comms leaders moved into new jobs at exactly the same time – Donna Jordan at Derbyshire Constabulary and Julie Odams at Derbyshire County Council – had to collaborate really early on in the new roles and handle the Whaley Bridge comms. They came out on top and that was great to see. Their award for best crisis comms was testament to good people, working hard together and just simply plying their trade based on years of experience and many skills. Bravo.

The Local Government Association do so much to support the sector in what has been a pretty traumatic last 10-years. Picking up the best collaboration UnAward was a fitting way for them to sign off the decade.

Seeing the Office of the Public Guardian pick up their first ever comms team award in the best internal comms category was a joyous thing.

Tower Hamlets Council’s comms team and been rebuilt in recent years by director of comms, Andreas Christophorou. The team there picked up an UnAward win for the second year on the trot. That kind of consistency really does point to a high performing team so well done to all.

The most entered category was – no prizes for guessing – was best low-cost comms. 50 entries hit my inbox. Wow. If you hit the shortlist here you did some exceptional work. The winners – Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority – picked up the win, having had an 11-hour journey to even make it to the big day. Two more lovely and deserving winners than Anna MacLean and Joanne Ford you’d struggle to find.

And Jo Bland – huge congratulations on joining a very small band of comms people who have picked up the prestigious Lifetime Achievement UnAward. That’s something to be really proud of.

Health and wellbeing

This year for the first time I launched the ‘best support for health and wellbeing’ UnAward. I won’t lie, I was slightly nervous about the kind of response it might get but I shouldn’t have been. There were 19 entries, which was brilliant to see.

Network Rail claimed the inaugural UnAward in this category and I’m hoping they will come to the UnAwards Winners Masterclass to tell us more. The judges raved about it.

Spare a thought…

Spare a thought for the brilliant small but perfect comms team at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, run by head of comms Alex Mills. Winners in 2018 and 2019 they were shortlisted in no less than four categories. They were so close to another win picking up a highly commended. I’m sure they’ll be back in 2020.

Spare a thought too for people like Sally Northeast – individually and in teams nominated in a mighty four categories, and for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead nominated in three. I genuinely great return, and more wins are surely on the cards next year.

I was impressed with so many of the shortlisted entries. If you made the shortlist for best social media account and best social media campaign you are delivering truly exceptional work.

If you made the shortlist for best low-cost comms work then congratulations. That’s where real creativity shines through. Bravo to you.

And then there was the takeover. Rascals, including Sally Northeast, Georgia Turner, Louisa Dean, Ben Capper, Holly Bremner and many of the Comms Unplugged gang took to the stage to give me an UnAward. Something about being a superstar or something. It was a total shock. I was really chuffed and appreciated it very much – thank you to you all. You’re a lovely lot.

Well done to all of this year’s winners – you can find the full list here.

Get your diaries out

A diary date for you – the #UnAwards20 will take place on Friday 11 December 2020 when we can do it all again and I can spend three month’s worrying about film choices.

The importance of giving

This year the official UnAwards charity was mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin’s Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma initiative.

You raised over £300 on the day so thank you for that and thanks too to Harriet Small who pulled together some great raffle prizes and to Comms Unplugged for offering up a two-night stay as the top prize. Well done to Kath Middleditch for winning that little treat.

Pulp Fiction – what a film

Choosing a film for 140 people is always tricky. There isn’t a film which everyone will love. In previous years I have chosen movies based on themes but this year I just wanted to treat a room full of brilliant, creative people to a brilliant, creative film. Launched in 1994 wow Pulp Fiction still packs a punch. In my view it’s much copied but still peerless. Many of the room hadn’t seen it before and even more not on the big screen.

2 hours 34 minutes of creative genius.


I’m so grateful to get to run and host the UnAwards but even better than that is the chance to spend the day with a room of amazing people, some who I have come to value as friends. Thank you for making this the best UnAwards yet.

A good friend of mine had some brilliant and important news just hours before the vent and this really was the icing on the cake.

Some final, special mentions…

Luke Williams, Ben Caper, Adrian Stirrup and Nigel Bishop thank you for all of your help. You are a pleasure to work with and a talented bunch.

To the attendees, thank you for giving up a busy Friday in December. I hope you had fun.

To everyone who submitted the 350 entries thank you for allaying my annual fear that one year no one will enter because you’re all so busy.

The UnAwards remains a not for profit event and I am so grateful to the official partner Granicus, and the official sponsors Orlo, CAN, NUJ PRCC, the Local Government Association, Alive With Ideas, Ineo Digital and Perago-Wales – without your kind support the UnAwards would not be possible.

I shall be asking you all very nicely if you’re able to support the UnAwards Winners Masterclass too, which I will make happen in the spring of 2020.

Until next year…

p.s. If you’re interested in being involved a sponsor for the UnAwards Winners Masterclass in the spring and/or the UnAwards20 please shout me – I’m on

Darren Caveney is organiser of the UnAwards, creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

pic by Nigel Bishop

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

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