In a category with entries from a diverse range of organisations and lots of variance in team size and structure, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency stood out. The judges were particularly struck by the creativity evident in the campaign example provided in the entry, backed with strong evidence of impact and consumer behaviour change. Impressive is how the team have made an important subject accessible, newsworthy and engaging for the public. The evidence of investment in continuous professional development for the team really made an impression on the judges.

Mark of Excellence:

  • NFU Mutual

In a strong category, judges were struck by the quality and diversity of the work from NFU Mutual’s small in house team. There is a clear direct link from the business strategy, to the communications focus, to the PR activity, to the results. NFU Mutual is recognised as an expert in the field of rural affairs, supporting and direct impact on business objectives and securing new business. The commitment to CPD for the team, and emphasis on specific training and support tailored to each individual, is very strong and an example of strategic professional development worthy of the Mark of Excellence.


  • Kellogg’s
  • Liverpool Football Club
  • Newcastle City Council
  • Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Skipton Building Society
  • The Royal British Legion

Winner entry:

Number of staff employed – including executive / support staff – and annual public relations budget:

We have 25 communications staff providing media, social, digital, design, marketing, employee communications and stakeholder engagement. Fifteen (60%) are women and 5 (17%) are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Our director and three of our team leaders are women, which is 57% of the leadership team.

In 2018, our inclusion and fair treatment score in the independent civil service people survey was 89%. This is 5% above high-performing civil service teams.

Our annual salaries budget is £1.45m and our activities budget is £0.32m. Our total budget is £1.77m which is 1.06% of the agency’s annual income of £167m.

Business objectives and analysis of team performance against budget over the past three years:

If you take a medicine, use a medical device or are given a vaccine in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will have played a role in making sure it’s safe and effective. Our 1,300 staff have a direct impact on the lives of millions across the UK. Most are medical and scientific experts in their fields. Part of the Department of Health and Social Care, we operate commercially, generating 85% of our income through traded business activities in the UK and globally.

With year-on-year improvements in our performance over the last three years – winning 7 national communications awards – we have a consistent track record of achievement and providing value for money. Our communications and reputation strategy focus on delivering the agency’s mission to protect public health.

Its objectives are to:

  • Communicate timely and clear information to healthcare professionals, industry, patients and the public
  • Show us as a global leader in our field.

We check how we achieve these objectives in two ways:

  1. Every two years we run an independent survey to measure the Agency’s impact and reputation. The 2017 survey comprised in-depth interviews with 30 senior stakeholders and customers and an online survey with 760 participants. It showed that our audiences see the Agency as “improving” and “high-performing with enviable ratings and levels of satisfaction”. Our main business area, the regulator, achieved a “strikingly high” net rating of +88.
  2. All our campaigns, many of them award-winning and all fully evaluated, support the agency’s public health priorities. Our handling of major communications issues, such as medicines recalls, helps enhance our reputation as a trusted regulator. Brexit is having a significant impact on our business because we can longer carry out European regulatory work, resulting in an annual income loss of £17 million. Communications has been at the forefront of meeting this challenge. We quickly refocused our priorities to manage employee communications around a major change programme and developed a new global marketing strategy for our products and services.

A brief overview of business / team strategy:

Our training plan focuses on our development needs. From this we commission bespoke courses delivered cost-effectively in-house by external trainers. We get excellent feedback from our training which is reflected in our 2018 civil service people survey results. Seventy percent of the team said learning and development activities they had completed helped them develop their career. This is 10% above high-performing civil service teams.

Two members of our team have recently passed the CIPR diploma and one is currently studying for it. We have recruited our first PR apprentice who follows a nationally-accredited communications scheme.

A summary of recent outstanding achievements:

  • We developed and led a European-wide social media campaign to increase reporting of adverse drug reactions. This increased reporting across Europe by 11% and 17% in the UK. In 2017 this won the PRCA best health and well-being campaign and was a finalist in the CIPR excellence awards (healthcare category)
  • Our My Story campaign won the 2017 best storytelling campaign at the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC) awards and was a finalist in the PR Week and PRCA awards
  • We won the IoIC best public sector team of the year award in 2017
  • We were finalists in the 2018 PRWeek best in-house team of the year.

And since then we have achieved much more.

Our Shaping our Future employee engagement campaign is supporting our agency through a period of unprecedented change around Brexit, changing financial circumstances and operational change. Over the last year the campaign has seen an increase in staff feeling well informed about change from 51% to 64%.

We have doubled the number of events we run which promote our expertise and good regulatory practice to the pharmaceutical industry. In 2018 over 5,000 attended these events, and we consistently achieve an average satisfaction rating of 90% from our delegates. We have grown income from £600k to over £1.3m in the last four years.

A summary of a campaign you are particularly proud of, including details of the brief, objectives, strategy, tactics, outputs, outcomes and budget:

Our #FakeMeds campaign helped protect the public when buying medical products online. It focused on changing desperate dieters’ behaviour when buying dodgy diet pills.

We partnered with organisations and used an integrated communications approach to highlight the risks involved and easy tips to keep safe. We worked with BBC Radio1, Casualty and Reveal magazine to reach 5.65 million 18-30-year-olds (55% of our target audience) and delivered a 16% increase in desired behaviours – checking if a seller of medicine is legitimate.

The campaign budget was £30k, 80% of which was for in-house hours.

The campaign won the 2018 CIPR excellence award best healthcare category and a mark of excellence in the public sector category. It also won the PRCA 2018 best value for money campaign and a silver award in the Government Communications Service awards.