Third Sector Excellence Awards 2011: Communications Team - Winner: Merlin

For a team that has worked together to achieve or exceed its targets

Merlin
Merlin

"Last year was one of the worst in memory for natural disasters," says a spokeswoman for the international medical aid charity Merlin.

The organisation's communications team - which consisted of only two staff for the first six months of the year, after which it grew to three - secured significant media coverage for its response to the disasters in Haiti and Pakistan.

The team also took its Hands up for Health Workers campaign to the United Nations General Assembly.

It published two reports and gained 12,000 signatures for a petition - exceeding its original target of 10,000 - by using Facebook and Twitter to contact potential supporters, as well as working with member groups such as the Royal College of Nursing.

Imogen Ward, director of marketing and communications at Merlin, holds the award, with colleagues [l to r] Kate Turner, head of communications and campaigns, Freya Tringham, communications officer, and Kylie Harrison, media officer, with host Reverend Richard ColesAt the UN, Merlin co-hosted an event that opened with its campaign film and closed with delegates raising their hands for health workers.

The team also persuaded Pamela Stephenson, the psychologist and star of TV's Strictly Come Dancing, to support the charity. She accompanied Merlin representatives to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a trip that received widespread coverage in the media, including in Marie Claire magazine.

Merlin was also the beneficiary of a Christmas appeal in a national newspaper that brought in donations worth £220,000 (plus Gift Aid), 2,247 new supporters and more than £150,000-worth of media coverage. The charity also rebranded and launched a new website in 2010.

Awards judge Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said: "The Merlin communications team raised the profile of the organisation, increased the number of supporters and secured lots of coverage in a crowded market."

Another of the judges, Brian Lamb, consultant and chair of the campaign effectiveness advisory board at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "It was an excellent achievement by a small team."

He also said that the communications team had "outperformed against challenging targets and in difficult circumstances".

JUDGING PANEL

Brian Lamb - Consultant and chair, campaign effectiveness advisory board, National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Alistair McLean - Chief executive, Fundraising Standards Board

Leslie Morphy - Chief executive, Crisis

OTHER FINALISTS

Alzheimer's Society

BTCV

Macmillan Cancer Support

Samaritans

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