PRWeek Awards reflect an industry that's come of age

From an inspiring Communicator of the Year to a deep bench of incredibly inspiring campaign work, the PRWeek Awards prove the profession is not just part of the conversation - it's starting to lead it.

It’s quite possible that I say this every year, but I genuinely think last night’s PRWeek Awards represent a high water mark in the communications industry that bodes well for the profession.

Our Communicator of the Year, United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz, said it best when he came on stage to receive his honor. He commented that the turnaround he has led at the beleaguered airline was not just something that needed to be communicated – it was all about communications.

It’s telling when a major CEO from a $36 billion global company recognizes the value of communications, not as a promotional tool or part of a strategy, rather as a fundamental strut through which the business is built.

As I wrote last week, Munoz’s humble and empathetic approach has bypassed the choppy headwinds surrounding the airline and set United on a positive path for the future, with an engaged workforce checked in and on board.

No longer is PR begging for crumbs from the table, it is playing a full and active role at the head of it.

The range of excellent campaign work that won or gained honorable mentions was if anything even more impressive.

Our Campaign of the Year, Golin and McDonald’s All Day Breakfast people’s launch, utilized smart data analytics and research to signpost where the industry needs to go in terms of running campaigns. It also won Best Consumer Launch and Best in Social Media and helped McDonald’s to a 25% stock rebound and strongest quarterly same store sales in almost four years.

MullenLowe drove interest and likeability in JetBlue Airways in a very competitive sector, generating 3 million video views for its Reach Across the Aisle campaign and increasing brand buzz.

DeVries Global helped Pantene gatecrash the Super Bowl with a series of Pantene Dad-Do videos that garnered 45 million views and 250 million social media impressions. It was named among the top Super Bowl commercials despite the P&G brand not even running an ad.

Edelman and REI’s groundbreaking #OptOutside campaign had already taken top honors at Cannes last year and followed up with a well-deserved PRWeek gong too.

Ketchum posted its usual strong performance with an eye-catching campaign to redefine Adapt Pharma’s Narcan nasal spray that took the medication to a majority of the market share in just six months.

It wasn’t just the big PR firms that won recognition either. Exponent helped USA Swimming increase swim team registration by 15% and September became the first month with 100,000 registrations.

In another swimming initiative, Approach Marketing helped Goldfish Swim School increase awareness of water safety, change behavior, and build business.

Camino Public Relations aided a fight back by Planned Parenthood against an inaccurate attack on the women’s health clinic by anti-abortion activists, which reached as far as Congress, state governments, and top-tier journalists.

And I loved funky agency Braya U.S.’s work with Heineken’s Mexican beer brand Tecate, which bravely took on the topic of Donald Trump’s wall in a very creative manner.

Glover Park Group, Allison+Partners, FTI Consulting, and M Booth also scored, for United Airlines, Kampgrounds of America, Shire, and Campari respectively.

I particularly liked Ketchum’s Care Counts work for Whirlpool, which got students back into school who were being bullied and mocked because their clothes were dirty.

I haven’t even mentioned a strong WPP performance including Cohn & Wolfe and The Swedish Number, Ogilvy PR sand Covered California, and Burson-Marsteller’s wins for Valspar and Bank of America.

Then there was MSLGroup and Netflix and threepeating Agency of the Year Weber Shandwick and Gilead Sciences.

Honestly, it’s an amazing roster of work and I’m sure you’re going to see several of these campaigns vying for honors at Cannes in June. I also recommend checking out the honorable mentions and shortlisted work, because there are some gems in there as well.

It’s great to see the work backing up the hype around the revitalized PR and communications sector, which is demonstrating its business value, changing behaviors, building enterprises, and tackling important social issues.

Long may this continue and congratulations to everyone involved – it makes me proud to be able to play a small part in convening this showcase of best practice from the amazing professionals that work in the PR industry.

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