15 Jul 2016

TUC Communication Awards 2016

It’s the time of year when the TUC give out their awards for the best use of communications amongst unions. I’m always interested in the digital categories to see how unions are developing their websites and other tools.

There is one big change this year. Previously there were two digital categories – best website and best e-communications.

This year, they have been merged into one: ‘best membership communication – digital’. I think this is a shame. It reduces the proportion of the awards focused on digital at a time when unions should be encouraged as much as possible to grasp the inevitable shift from paper-based communications to electronic.

The winner of the new ‘best membership communication – digital’ is UNISON’s VOTR2015 web app. This clever tool was aimed at voters in last year’s general election, providing a novel way to engage people with the implications of the policies of the main parties.

UNISON's VOTR 2015 Web App[/caption] Using a ‘tinder’ style swipe mechanism to select the policies you like and don’t like is a brilliant idea. It’s engaging, provides a simple interface whilst tapping into popular culture.

The ‘web app’ format works well too. It allows platform independence, so anybody with a mobile, tablet or desktop can access it. The ‘highly commended’ runner up is BALPA’s 2WAY App. This is a members’ only App that provides easy access to useful features and contact details.

As I’m not a BALPA member, I haven’t been able to see what the features are, but I assume the big advantage of making this an App rather than a website is that members can access it offline – very useful if you’re job involves flying planes.

These two tools are great examples of the innovations unions are making in technology. I do hope they reintroduce the ‘best website’ category next year though. The judges have rightly focused on some innovative technology, but as a result, the awards have lost their focus on a unions’ single most important communication tool - their websites.

Nick Scott     July 18

Hi Simon

I have to say I think the changes the TUC made this year were exactly right. I think the danger of categories that focus on format or channel is they miss strategy and objectives, the core of all good comms. They also forget that much of the best digital communications nowadays are cross-channel and cross-format.

This year’s awards actually had a massive increase in digital entries, it felt to me, because digital entries were no longer siloed but accepted in everything except the best journal/print category.

Most of the entries that didn’t win the ‘best membership communications – digital’ were websites. So there is still a place websites can enter, but perhaps this year wasn’t their year.

I have to say I’m not convinced that websites are the ‘single most important communication tool’ unions have. There are strong arguments for others: the reps and activists themselves and their face-to-face conversations; or the CRM perhaps and its role in connecting the web, post, email and social media to member insights? Broadly, I wouldn’t want to glorify one tool or channel over another, and I think that is what the TUC category changes help to ensure does not happen.


Simon Parry     July 18

In reply to by Nick Scott

Thanks Nick. Good points. I’ve not seen the full range of entries in the other categories, but interesting to hear they include a number of digital.

I wouldn’t categorise reps or activities as ‘tools’, and so while things are changing we are still some way off websites being eclipsed. They are still at the fulcrum of most email and social media strategies, and most unions still have much more they should be doing with websites. For example, better membership data tools for reps or integrating with their internal systems for things like members’ legal cases.

With regards to the award categories, there is still a ‘print journal’ award where in reality far more people will read content placed on a union website. Also, as you mention, many of the runners up in the digital were websites. Maybe this is because it wasn’t their year, but I suspect that Apps were seen as a bit more ‘sexy’ by the judges, and that websites will stay in the shadow under the current structure. I’d be happy to be proved wrong though.

Congrats on the VOTR web app BTW. It’s a great idea that’s been well executed and delivered in a way that is accessible on every web-enabled device. Exactly the sort of thing the awards should be highlighting and encouraging other unions to do.



Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Enter the characters shown in the image.