Enduringly engage your readers

Chantal Smuts summarises what judges will be looking for when judging the Communication category. She is a new judge, but not new to the competition. She has been an entrant of the competition for 17 years and now finally joins the panel of judges.

When a publication’s content, words and design are woven together seamlessly, the reader is immediately – and enduringly – engaged. That’s good communication, and your publication becomes a page-turner.   

Some essentials the judges look at …

  • The publication’s objectives, and if they’re being met: Whether you aim to inform, educate, build a common corporate culture and shared purpose, grow staff morale, celebrate success, or recognise individual excellence and initiative (ideally, it’s all that and more), it should reflect across the publication.
  • The target audience and its demographic and educational profile: Knowing your readers ensures that the word choice, language level and presentation are appropriate and clear.
  • The balance of content: Keeping the reader engaged needs a good mix of more serious corporate must and need-to-know to lighter nice-to-know and gosh-that’s-interesting articles. That, combined with a good blend of longer and shorter formats and info boxes keep the pages turning.
  • The messengers and messages: A trusted publication needs to go far beyond being just a management tool, and include the expression of opinions from people across the organisation. As much as success is worthy news, so too are challenges or failures.
  • Two-way communication: Measuring reach and impact means inviting reader participation, through feedback, commentary, suggestions, news tips or a lively letters page that allows valid concerns or complaints to which management responds. Competitions, giveaways and puzzles also keep staff in contact and engaged.


… and some things that can bring down the scoring

The communication judges do not see the scoring given for writing or design/photography, but those two aspects are integral to good overall communication.

Be aware (or beware) of:

  • corporate jargon and business buzzwords. The best writing is plain, clear and easy to understand. If you lose your readers’ attention through difficulty in understanding or boredom, your publication loses its reason for being.
  • excessive ‘management speak’. Too much talking ‘at’ staff and not about staff throws off the balance and creates a perception of top-down instruction rather than communication.
  • lacklustre content, writing or design, even if it’s just one out of the three.

We wish all entrants the very best. This competition exists because of you, and your hard work and passion in this critically important industry. The standards and quality of corporate publications entered have soared over the years, and new arrivals never fail to excite. We urge you to use the feedback as a valuable opportunity to keep doing things right or improve on areas that may be lacking. That’s precisely what this process is about. To those who will be dazzling us this year, a huge early hats-off!