Five top tips from an awards judge

On the hottest day of the year so far, in a secret London location, the room is abuzz with chatter, music and coffee cups a-clanking.

It can mean only one thing – the annual gathering of the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) National Awards judges.

Today I’ve got a guest post from one of my fellow judges, Jo Hall, Head of Internal Communication within Roche’s Pharmaceutical division.

She’s here to share what we heard last week and five top tips we can all learn. I’ll hand you over to Jo…

The secret life of a judge – 5 top tips we can all learn

Like many things in life, judging the awards is shrouded in mystery, so I wanted to share my insider learnings from the rigorous process that underpins the prestigious IoIC awards.

Whether you’re an award entrant, or an aspiring one, I hope these tips will help you improve internal communication within your business.

1. Have a clear purpose

Why would you want to enter for an award? To win? Quite probably. To be recognised across our industry for great work? Highly likely. To get valuable feedback from experienced communicators? Yes, that too.

There is always an underlying purpose behind what we do, or rather, there should be.

In a small number of entries, sadly, it wasn’t explicitly clear why they were producing their communication.

  • What was the strategic business driver behind the campaign?
  • What was the business challenge that comms was going to help address?

My take-away: Be crystal clear on why you’re doing something and how it’s going to improve or support the business before you extend any efforts, no matter how creative, innovative or fun to do.

2. Align and measure

Most of the awards I was judging were truly brilliant. It’s inspiring to see the work of fellow communicators and see their passion, ideas and hard work come to fruition. But without doubt, the one thing that sets the best apart from the rest is measurement.

And in business, if you don’t measure you won’t be taken seriously. 

If you’re clear on your outcomes and comms objectives, and they’re aligned to the business strategy, you can demonstrate, through measurement, how you made the right impact with your communications or campaign. You can show the value of internal communication.  And, you can gain the gift of feedback to improve or inform what you’re doing in future.

My tip: Always measure and gain feedback on what you’re doing.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to measure communication.

3. Understand your audience

Looking through the lens in the opposite direction, we have to understand our audiences to ensure our communications reach and resonate.

There were some inspiring entrants who had clearly walked in the shoes of the employee to effectively inform and craft their campaigns. Nothing beats getting under the skin of an organisation than truly understanding its people.  And in doing so, I believe, it helps you better connect your strategic comms objectives to the campaign efforts in a really meaningful way for your audience.

My tip: Be curious and walk in the shoes of your colleagues.

4. Get others involved

The beauty of IC, is having the excuse to connect and involve others. There were some great examples in the award applications of communicators involving colleagues from across the business to improve communication and engagement. From employee stories, to staff guest editors, focus groups to testimonials, employee networks to comms champions.

Involvement produced, in my view, more authentic communications.

My take-away message is that you should never do Comms alone. 

5. Believe in yourself

Let’s be clear, you don’t always need a big budget to deliver a really impactful campaigns.  Some in-house entries were really strong, proving that if you use your own expertise, networks and resources to gather best practices and ideas, you can do a damn fine job. These entrants had some innovative ideas, knew their business objectives and delivered impactful comms themselves.

Being in-house, with an amazing team working with me, I have first-hand experience of knowing it can be done.

It just takes some self-belief and self-awareness to know what your capabilities are and how best to use them. 

My last tip: If you’ve got it, don’t be afraid to use it.

Post author: Jo Hall. Having started the IC function from scratch, Jo’s global team at Roche now act as business partners to senior leaders giving them all the great comms support, counsel and intelligence they need to drive the business. She is hugely passionate about IC, having recently completed her Masters degree in the subject and being actively involved in supporting the IoIC. You can find her on Twitter @JugglingJo.

Thank you Jo. I hope you found her advice useful to help you prepare future award entries. Best of luck if you are entering an award.

Want even more advice?

See this article I wrote a few years ago: How to enter comms awards and its accompanying infographic:

Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 30 May 2017.


  1. […] in the year. If you’re thinking of entering awards, do check out our previous blog posts: Five top tips from an awards judge, Insider tips from an awards judge and How to enter comms […]

  2. […] you’re thinking of entering awards, do check out our previous blog posts: Five top tips from an awards judge, Insider tips from an awards judge and How to enter comms […]

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