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General praises UK communicators’ “warrior mindset”

Military Dinner & Communicators Awards

The Company of Communicators held its annual Military Dinner at the RAF Club in central London on Friday evening (September 22).

The dinner was attended by senior representatives from all three services before a gathering of the communications industry’s leading professionals.

Brigadier General Jay Janzen, Director of Strategic Communications for Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), presented the annual Military Communicator Awards for outstanding achievements in communications by military personal.

The Royal Navy Military Communicator of the Year award went to Lieutenant Charlotte Kertrestel, Information Operations Officer for the Indo-Asia-Pacific at the Permanent Joint Headquarters.

Lt Kertrestel developed a campaign to maximize UK Defence’s effectiveness in the Pacific. Her Autumn Campaign reached hundreds of thousands of people on the other side of the world with positive messaging, achieving high social engagement rates and increasing cross-government collaboration. She also supported a Foreign Office advertising campaign across the Pacific Islands, for which she gained £90,000 in funding.

The RAF Military Communicator of the Year award went to Squadron Leader Abi Bagshaw, who deployed to 83 Expeditionary Air Group in Qatar as SO2 Media Operations in January 2023.

Following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and the outbreak of civil war in Sudan she helped maximise the coverage of UK support, ensuring the RAF and UK were at the forefront in national communications.

The Civil Servant Military Communicator of the Year went to Lesley Woods, head of the Directorate of Defence Communication Campaigns Team where she has spearheaded MOD communication initiatives about events including the war in Ukraine, the death of the late Queen and the Coronation of King Charles.

She has also collaborated with NATO communicators and presented at prominent conferences.

Runners-up awards were presented to: Lt Cdr Emma Smith (RN), Captain Emily Simpkin (Army), and Susie Coulthard (Civil Service)

In his speech, General Janzen said: “I’m encouraged by speaking to the Service people here tonight and to the Strategic Communicators in the UK who have a warrior mindset. My sense is that you have the right mindset to face the coming challenges.

“What I would say to the civilians here with us tonight, the next conflicts will involve all of society. We will have to mobilise industry, mobilise populations and the side with the greatest resilience, with the greatest will, will prevail.

“I would ask each and every one of you today to help convince your nation to remain a leader in this space and to produce more communications capability and make it available to the alliance for when we need it.”

Master Communicator Mark Glover said: “Tonight’s dinner is an opportunity for our thriving Company of Communicators to recognise some of the top communications’ professionals in the UK’s Armed Forces and Civil Service. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, never has their role in promoting the truth been more vital, or our thanks more deserved.”

Guests included Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces.

The event was sponsored by Airbus and attended by Airbus UK Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Strategy Jeremy Greaves.

Earlier that evening, two new Freemen joined the Company:

Cdr Sam Hearn, UKStratCom Liaison SO1 at the MoD’s Directorate of Defence Communication

Sam joined the Royal Navy in 1999, serving in submarines. In 2008 he became Head of Marketing and General Manager for the Cornish Treasure Park before joining the Maritime Reserve in 2009. He has deployed repeatedly to Bahrain as the Senior Media Operations Officer where he developed PR campaigns for Maritime security countering piracy, narcotics, and terrorism. He joined the RN Leadership Academy in 2017 and served in the Standing Joint Commander’s team for both Brexit and Covid-19 receiving a three-star commendation in the process. In 2021 he was promoted to Commander and became Head of the Media Operations Specialism and a Strategic Communications Planner in the Directorate of Defence Communication. Last year he founded the Griffin Leadership and Communications consultancy.

Verity Barton is a public affairs and political campaigns specialist with more than 15 years’ experience in front-line politics and consultancy.

At Instinctif Partners, where she is a member of the UK and Ireland Strategic Communications Management Team, she provides strategic advice on political and Whitehall engagement as well as developing and overseeing public affairs and political engagement campaigns. Before moving to the UK in 2018, Verity was a member of the Queensland Parliament for two terms and served as a political and media advisor to the then Shadow Attorney-General of Australia.

We wish them both a very warm welcome to the Company.

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