Hughes was presented with the award and a £500 cheque tonight at the PRCA Public Affairs group's Christmas party, held at Weber Shandwick's offices.
The award was established in honour of Doug Smith, the former PRCA chairman and "lobbying legend" who died almost a year ago, and the event was attended by his widow.
Five entrants were shortlisted on the basis of a short essay about the future of public affairs and a supporting statement from a colleague, and had to answer questions from the judges.
The judges included Weber Shandwick account director Simon Pugh, who praised Hughes' essay for going beyond the assertion that the discipline needed to be more digital.
She also shone in the Q&A session, according to another judge, PLMR deputy MD Elin Twigge.
"She nailed the curveball questions," said Twigge.
Hughes, whose previous political experience includes volunteering on Ed Balls' Labour leadership campaign in 2010, was joined at the party by several of her Whizz-Kidz colleagues.
Among them was director of comms Pauline Hughes, who praised her namesake for having "transformed our public affairs" through initiatives such as an MP champion campaign, which has recruited 152 MPs to support its mission of helping disabled children fulfill their potential.