How to create award winning internal communications campaigns

Huge congratulations to the Department for Transport Internal Communications team for their outstanding success at the recent Institute of Internal Communications (IOIC) Awards! Richard Brown (Head of Internal Communications at the DfT) has been in touch with us to share his tips for creating award-winning campaigns.

On 27 September I had one of the proudest moments of my career so far when my Internal Comms team at the Department for Transport won ‘Best ongoing communication’ at the IOIC Awards 2019. We beat some tough competition and were the only central government department to win a top prize on the night. But more importantly, the external recognition means so much to my team, and to the volunteers across the Department that helped bring this campaign to life.

Our campaign, DfT100, celebrates the Department for Transport’s centenary year. I first became aware that we were turning 100 in early 2018, and our team began thinking about how we would mark the year. We’ve done a huge amount to celebrate the year – from blogs, articles and reflective features on our intranet, to events, competitions, lanyards, a ‘birthday bake off’ and loads more. But rather than tell you what we did, I thought I’d focus on how we did it.

So, here are the four key things we did to turn those early conversations into an award-winning campaign, and on a shoestring.

Think and plan, but don’t be afraid to borrow

We had plenty of brainstorming sessions around what to do. The actual birthday was on 15 August. Perhaps, we thought, a big party on the day would be enough? Or maybe we should do a weekly blog post? 52 articles could cover a lot on our intranet. Oh, hang on… Look over there! DfT ran a brilliant campaign in 2018 called The Year of Engineering. It took a monthly, themed approach and used a network of external partners to amplify the work of a relatively small Comms team…

Engage leaders early, set clear objectives and measure

Once we’d decided on a monthly approach, we took a rough plan to our Executive Committee. We could have taken something more polished, more definitive. But we genuinely wanted their input, and their feedback made a big impact. They wanted us to be more ambitious. They wanted less ‘transport modal’ focus, and a more thematic approach. We worked together to create two clear objectives – to build pride in the organisation, and to involve as many of our people as possible in our celebrations. And, crucially, we could measure the success against these objectives, using bespoke surveys, engagement on our channels, and organisation-wide people survey scores.

Invest in creativity

Once we’d agreed how the year would look, we spent time and worked hard on a creative brief. We went to tender on it and got some great pitches. One team were so good, we could have gone with all three of their ideas. It didn’t cost us a huge amount of money, and we got a brilliant look and feel to wrap the whole campaign. Best of all, the winning team was in fact DVLA’s in house Creative Services, so we kept the programme in the wider DfT family.

Build your army

I mentioned earlier the Year of Engineering’s approach to partners. We replicated that internally, by creating a network of volunteers and asking them to help us shape the year. This was probably the most influential decision we took, and helped us meet that second objective of involving our people. We had about 100 staff sign up to be volunteers, and had a kick off workshop meeting where we asked them to come up with ideas and then commit to helping us deliver them throughout the year. And this is where the campaign became something it otherwise could not. That ‘army’ of volunteers hugely expanded our scope and ability to deliver something that our small internal comms team could never have achieved on its own.

If you want to hear more about this campaign, I will be speaking at the Public Sector Internal Communications Conference on December 10.