A vintage year for trade union communications, says Brendan Barber


Equity’s members’ magazine has won the coveted best journal/magazine prize at the TUC’s annual Trade Union Communications Awards, sponsored by TUink.

The range of articles on the work the union does for its members and the breadth of coverage of Equity greatly impressed the judges, who also enjoyed its overall layout, feel and design. The strong campaigning tone and highly professional writing of the Musicians’ Union’s The Musician also won high praise.

Usdaw scooped the best feature award in what was a very difficult category for the panel to judge this year as the standard of entries was so high. The judges praised Usdaw’s feature on male cancers for its honesty and content, as well as its dynamic and lively layout.

Also commended were ATL’s feature on the unfairness of government policies on individuals, noted for its use of casework and pictures, and UNISON’s Southampton members show the way, a well-conceived article giving a grassroots perspective on the reality of the cuts, which impressed the judges with its strong, positive message.

The CWU and Prospect shared the honours in the best use of a photo or illustration award, which this year saw entries more evenly divided between photographs and illustrations than ever before.

This is the second year running the CWU has won this category, this time with a graphic collection of images of postal workers’ injuries from dogs. However, Prospect’s exuberant Roy Lichtenstein-inspired pop art poking fun at the Prime Minister equally delighted the judges and they couldn’t choose between the two entries.

The EIS Music publication wowed the judges in the best one-off publication category. It was a clear winner with its beautiful and classy design and feel. The MU and NASUWT were also praised for their Play newspaper and Did you know? cards respectively.

Not surprisingly, pensions dominated the entries for the best campaign category – but this year’s winner was the CWU‘s tightly-focused, low-budget and effective campaign to save a local nursery. It was closely followed by UNISON, whose highly commended work mobilised its members to fight against the cuts, and BALPA and NASUWT were also commended for their excellent efforts.

This year’s best website award was picked up by Equity for its bold and eye-catching site, although Prospect ran them a close second with its newly revamped website, and the EIS also won a commendation from the judges.

UNISON scooped the award for the best use of electronic communications, with its smart critique of the commercialisation of the NHS. BALPA was not far behind with its excellent video from airline pilots, and UCU’s live blog of the pension strikes was also commended.

The judges for the TUC’s 2012 Awards were Julie Elliott MP, Just a Ball Game? campaigner Lindsay England, Nautilus International Head of Communications Andrew Linnington, journalist Catherine MacLeod and Blue State Digital Political Director Gregor Poynton.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘It’s been another vintage year for the TUC Communications Awards, with the entries once more displaying the excellent and diverse work of unions.

‘With more unions submitting in more categories, the competition has become even fiercer and standards are higher than ever. The biggest growth has been in the website and e-communications categories, showing unions are facing up to the challenge of communicating effectively through new media.

‘The best journal or magazine was again the most popular and most keenly contested category – and remains the most difficult to judge with its diverse range of styles and formats. Reaching out to members in ways that both entertain and inform is a difficult balance to achieve, but this year’s entries demonstrate once again the skill with which unions have found the right mix.’

2012 Trade Union Communications Awards judge Julie Elliott MP said: ‘We were all impressed by the variety and quality of the entries this year. It is difficult for union communications to appeal to ordinary members as well as activists but the entries all handled this very well.

‘The high standard of the entries show that unions take their campaigning work very seriously, and we hope the competition will continue to grow and inspire excellence in communications in the years to come. Well done.’

The full 2012 Award winners are:

  • best journal/magazine – Equity’s Equity (winner), the Musicians’ Union’s The Musician (highly commended);
  • best feature – Usdaw (winner), ATL and UNISON (both commended);
  • best use of a photo or illustration – CWU and Prospect (joint winners);
  • best one-off publication – EIS (winner), MU (highly commended), NASUWT (commended);
  • best campaign – CWU (winner), UNISON (highly commended), BALPA and NASUWT (commended);
  • best website – Equity (winner), Prospect (highly commended), EIS (commended); and
  • best use of electronic communication – UNISON (winner), BALPA (highly commended), UCU (commended).

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