PRWeek Awards: Be among the best

The public relations industry's recent troubles will all be forgotten on one magical night at London's Grosvenor House Hotel this autumn. Gidon Freeman invites those all-important entries for the PRWeek Awards 2004

With the public relations sector emerging from the most difficult and challenging business environment many practitioners can remember, it is more important than ever to make sure you stand out from the crowd.

Whether you work for or run a PR consultancy, an in-house communications department or are a freelance consultant, achieving cut-through is a sure-fire way to win and keep business and realise your PR goals. Like no other event in the industry, the PRWeek Awards offer you the chance to do just that: to be recognised as the best by a distinguished panel of judges from your peers, colleagues and the media.

Despite the challenges of the past few years, PROs have continued to create groundbreaking campaigns, manage reputation issues and, against the odds, launch and run successful public relations consultancies and departments.

The PRWeek Awards 2004 provide an opportunity for the industry to celebrate sustained growth and success, to fete those who continue to push the boundaries of creative and strategic thinking about communications, and to celebrate the crucial importance PR plays in both marketing and corporate reputation programmes.

Winning an award is also tremendously important on a personal level.

Altruistic motives about promoting best practice in the industry aside, there is little to top the thrill of beating your peers at the PRWeek Awards ceremony at Le Meridien Grosvenor House.

Winning an award feels good at the best of times, so it probably feels even better when the industry is facing tough challenges. There's no doubt a PRWeek award is a valuable addition to your CV, at a time when exciting new roles are scarce. A trophy in your office is still a useful way of making sure the headhunters don't miss you on their rounds.

So how do you get your hands on one of these coveted trophies? Simply use the entry form, which you will find in this issue and available to download at www.prweek.com.

It is 18 years since PRWeek handed out its first award, and both process and event have undergone a number of key changes during this time. This year, the categories remain broadly the same as in 2002.

Among the tweaks we have made to them is a fresh focus, within the internal communications category, on the use of creative executions to spark employee brand engagement. The feedback we had from previous years has encouraged us to mould this category to better fit the aspirations of those at the cutting edge of best practice - we hope we have done that.

As in previous years, we have gathered more than 40 leading industry experts, who will judge all the entries in two rounds. This panel will be chaired by Will Whitehorn, director of corporate affairs and brand development at Virgin Management, the company that owns or licenses the Virgin brand to firms in countless business sectors. As well as being a major decision-maker within the ever-growing Virgin empire, he is also a senior adviser to that most media-friendly of business people, Sir Richard Branson.

But what will the PRWeek Awards judges look for? At the top of the list will be creative approaches to communications problem-solving, an understanding of the importance of defining your target market before embarking on your PR campaign, and an appreciation of the role PR is capable of playing in achieving business goals.

Creativity will, of course, be at the top of the list. This doesn't mean wild and wacky stunts (though they may be part of it), but an imaginative response to the communications issue at hand, which met the organisation's core objectives in a structured and planned way with clear objectives, demonstrable results and proof of effectiveness.

As ever, the final thing we need to remind you of is the most obvious of all - if you don't enter, you'll have no one else to blame but yourself if you don't win. Good luck.

CHAIRMAN OF THE JUDGING PANEL

Will Whitehorn is brand development and corporate affairs director of Virgin and a member of the group's management board.

He is responsible for the corporate image of Virgin, public affairs, global brand development and new business development. In addition, he acts as Richard Branson's spokesperson. Aged 44, he joined Virgin Group in 1987 as head of corporate PR. Previously, he was an account director at Lombard Communications, where he worked on numerous flotations and bids for firms as diverse as Chrysalis Group, Ward White and Grampian Holdings. Before entering PR, he worked for British Airways as a helicopter crewman in the North Sea, was a graduate trainee with Thomas Cook Group and market intelligence officer for the TSB Group flotation. He was educated in Edinburgh and graduated from Aberdeen University in 1981 with an honours degree in history and economics.

THE CATEGORIES

Specialist and technique

Research

Issues and crisis management

Public affairs

Broadcast

Product and promotion

Healthcare: Ethical

Healthcare: OTC/consumer

Marketing communications: Consumer

Marketing communications: Business

Technology

Corporate and public categories

Financial

Public sector

Not-for-profit

Internal communications

Corporate publications

Corporate communications

People and agencies

Communicator of the year

New consultancy of the year

Specialist consultancy of the year

Solo practitioner of the year

Young PR professional of the year

Gold awards

Campaign of the year

PR professional of the year

Public sector department of the year

Private sector department of the year

Consultancy of the year

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