Edelman, IBM, PayPal among finalists vying for Ragan awards

From video to rebranding campaign, top communication contest finalists reveal a changing industry landscape. Are you keeping up with the industry’s best?

Employee Comms Awards Luncheon

Some of America’s most storied organizations are vying for honors in Ragan’s Employee Communications Awards, offering a snapshot of which channels are hot in a competitive hiring market.

The awards cover the spectrum of activities in a rapidly evolving and highly creative industry, recognizing winners in 42 categories Feb. 28 in New York City.

Ragan Communications has honed hundreds of entries down to a short list of finalists. Among them are communication leaders from The American Cancer Society, The Coca-Cola Co., Deloitte, Edelman, FedEx, GoDaddy, IBM, PayPal and Visa. Check out the full list of finalists.

The contest affords a window into the changing face of internal comms, as organizations prioritize engagement, retention, employer brand and choose-your-own-channel consumption. The wealth of messaging venues—even compared with a decade ago—reflect a new imperative in internal comms: Provide relevant information in the form your audience demands it.

The most popular category, Employee Engagement, reveals the spectrum of organizations that are leading two-way conversations with staffers, rather than relying on top-down bullhorning. They range from hospital groups to the U.S. Labor Department. The category also features Honeywell Aerospace’s “Culture of Speed,” Deloitte’s “Thank It Forward,” and University of California, Davis’s blood drive, among other renowned finalists.

Another hot category, Best Rebranding Campaign, serves as a touchstone in a changing field. Once an afterthought relative to external campaigns, internal branding has become essential, as employers seek to differentiate and define themselves as desirable places to work.

The contest pits finalists such as Mastercard’s “Multi-Sensory Brand Evolution” against McDermott Will & Emery’s “Defining a Firm: Aligning Our Brand with Our Work” and Xandr’s “Our Principles.”

Yet another category reflects the need to brand one’s organization as an employer of choice: Amazing Workplaces has proved popular with entrants, drawing Sony Interactive Entertainment, Cruise Planners and Syracuse University, along with other top competitors.

Reaching workforces everywhere

The awards reflect the growing number of organizations seeking to reach their employees right where the average American spends 5.4 hours a day: that mobile phone tucked in their pockets and purses. Mobile is a key channel to reach non-desk workers, a peristent challenge for communicators who need to inform and engage this employee group. Mobile app applicants included MGM Resorts International, Flagger Force and Fortune Brands Home & Security, among other top brands.

The crowd of applicants in video highlights the importance of reaching the YouTube generation. Our three video categories drew a slew of contenders, including the finalists Manulife’s “Leaders in Loungers Drinking Lattes” and CIBC Mellon’s “Did you get The Message?”

Newsletters, both print and digital, are thriving despite the growth of interactive internal platforms. This field pits a slew of leading organizations against one another, among them Mercury Insurance, NASA Glenn Research Center and Inspira Health.

Those who predicted the demise of print and digital magazines in the era of snackable content might wish to rethink their forecasts, based on the popularity of that category and the variety and creativity of the entrants. Among these were Universal Orlando Resort, FedEx Freight, Scotiabank and others.

Change itself—which has remade the industry at breakneck speed—is the subject of a new category: Change Communication. Entrant GTE Financial is vying for glory against brands such as Hitachi Vantara and Sutter Health.

Staking a claim as a favored employer

Similarly, leaders in corner offices are recognizing the need to jettison the stuffy talking points of the past and cultivate an open, friendly voice when addressing their workforces. Our Executive Communication finalists reflect that: Contestants include “Marc’s Whirled Approach to Employee Comms” from Whirlpool Corp. and Exelon’s “Leadership Engagement for IT.”

There are three grand-prize categories. Overall Intranet drew Sony PlayStation, Kroger, Barclays and other top competitors. GoDaddy, SAP, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP and other major organizations are competing for the laurels as Employee Communications Team of the Year.

In the Employee Communication Campaign grand prize category, Lighthouse, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Marsh & McLennan Cos. are among the organizations jousting for the top prize.

The contests reflect the growth of podcasts; they’re becoming as popular internally as they are externally. Executives are learning to humanize their voices, and on-the-go people find podcasts easy to consume, whether traveling to a sales event or puffing on the treadmill on their break.

Finalists include organizations that are gaining a reputation in the field: Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Newell Brands and Michigan Medicine.

The once-stodgy intranet has been a hub of creativity in recent years, and our contestants prove that. The category Intranet Launch or Relaunch features Red River’s relaunch of The River and Baker Tilly’s “Goodbye CONNECT, Hello Live,” among other finalists.

Join the celebration in New York City

The battle for the industry’s most prestigious prizes will bring finalists to the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan on Feb. 28, affording participants a glimpse into top campaigns, channels and tactics.

The event will feature inspiration from keynoter Carla Johnson, a world-renowned speaker, storyteller and best-selling author. Named one of the top 10 influencers in business-to-business marketing, she has electrified the stodgy messaging of major executives and organizations.

“This is a rare opportunity to learn how cutting-edge organizations successfully deliver results internally,” says Ragan Communications CEO Diane Schwartz, who will address the event. “But more than that, it’s a chance to celebrate the industry, learn from top speakers and schmooze with fellow luminaries.”

Other speakers include:

  • Ellen Gerstein, Pfizer’s director of digital content, with two decades’ experience in content strategy, social media marketing, audience engagement and colleague engagement enablement.
  • Douglass Hatcher, influential co-founder and president of communicate4IMPACT. Hatcher has executive experience with Mastercard and as senior advisor and speechwriter to U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe.
  • Ragan Communications Executive Editor Rob Reinalda, 2019 winner of the coveted ACES Robinson Prize for excellence in editing, and a wordsmith boasting tenures at the New York Daily News and other top newspapers.

Register for the awards luncheon here.


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