Britain's got talent

Despite gloomy economic times, British PR is brimming with creative, ambitious, and above all, young, talent. Alex Black gives the lowdown on the fastest-rising stars (Photos by Martin Usborne)

Alex Black
Alex Black

Once a year we put the call out to find the 29 brightest stars in the UK PR agency aged under 29, and this year’s crop is the best yet.

Their backgrounds are both in-house and agency, and stretch from healthcare to public sector, from
the oil and gas industries to music PR and the voluntary sector. Their work takes them all over the UK, and in some cases, all over the world.

To sift through the 100 or so submissions, we assembled an objective panel of experts.

 

Judges

Trevor Morris - Westminster University’s visiting professor of PR

Lucy Jackson - Teenage Cancer Trust director of comms and former 29 under 29 finalist

Stuart Wilson - MS&L CEO

Alison Stokes - Cisco Systems’ European markets corporate PR manager

Alex Black - PRWeek features editor had the casting vote on tied entries.

 

So here, in alphabetical order, is some of the best young talent in the industry today.

Komel Bajwe, 26

Associate manager, APCO Worldwide

With a degree from Brunel University behind her, Bajwe joined APCO in early 2005. Her colleagues describe her as ‘extremely dedicated, hard-working, innovative and responsive’, and she has shown all these qualities in rising rapidly through the ranks from project associate to associate manager.

One of Bajwe’s most notable accomplishments has been for a well-known (but, at the insistence of APCO’s management, unnamed) airline catering company account, where she has successfully developed the company’s media reputation, and has grown it from a moderate-sized account into one of the largest in APCO’s London office.

She was recently invited back to Brunel University to deliver an annual seminar to its Public Affairs Masters students.

Anna Beaumont, 28

PR manager, ICE marketing and communications

One of Beaumont’s early accounts at ICE was the Department of Health’s National Healthy Schools Programme, on which she spent only three days a month in retainer time, and yet in eight months achieved more than 40 articles, equating to media space worth more than £105,000 advertising equivalent.

Her client on that account, comms manager Dee Brecker, recalls how she was approached by colleagues in central government, all asking her why Healthy Schools was suddenly everywhere.

DH doubled the budget and re-awarded the contract to ICE, helping the agency’s PR team grow in two years from just Beaumont to five full-time specialists.

Tom Bowden-Green, 27

Senior consultant, Trimedia UK

Bowden-Green was elected last year as the vice-chair of the CIPR in the West of England. He chaired and organised the CIPR’s Young Communicator Conference in February 2008, has recently begun a CIPR mentoring scheme for students in the region, and spends his weekends teaching the CIPR Diploma.

He has established himself as a serious player in the South West region, and those who know him believe it is only a matter of time before he starts to make a name for himself at a national level.

Scott Bowers, 26

Account director and corporate co-head of UK Sports practice, Weber Shandwick

When the International Olympic Committee inspectors were in Sochi, Russia, along with more than 300 journalists, Bowers recommended to the Kremlin that President Putin went skiing with children who would be inspired by a Russian
Winter Games. This was a masterstroke in the eyes of the IOC members, who subsequently awarded Sochi the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. He is now part of the team for Tokyo’s bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.

Rachel Bremer, 28

Senior director, SPR Europe

In the past six years at SPR Europe, an offshoot of Spark PR, Bremer has single-handedly opened offices in London and Cape Town and managed approximately £1.5m in revenue. This has involved securing office space, hiring candidates, budgeting, liaising with lawyers, and even conceiving the agency name.

This is in addition to managing her own profit and loss responsibilities and media results for clients such as Index Ventures, Moo and viagogo. In just one year she brought in 15 new clients worth more than £550,000. Bremer’s next plans are to build and manage a series of self-sustaining global offices.

Lorna Cuddon, 28

Associate partner, College Hill

Cuddon has helped win more than 20 new clients in three years and built a portfolio generating more than £500,000 gross profit a year, making her the top performer in College Hill’s Life Sciences sector team. In addition to winning new business, she has grown existing accounts, such as GE Healthcare, which has increased by more than eight times in value. Sue Charles, managing partner of the Life Sciences team, comments: ‘In my 20 years in the PR industry, Lorna is one of a handful of stars I have had the pleasure to work with. She is by far the youngest to have achieved so much.’

Carolyn Dealey, 28

Manager, corporate, issues and technology, Burson-Marsteller

Since joining Burson-Marsteller four years ago Dealey’s rise through the ranks has been meteoric. She is the youngest manager in the London office and one of the youngest in B-M’s international network. This is a result of her management of some of the agency’s largest and most important client relationships, including Accenture, Shell and SAP.

Dealey recently returned from an 18-month secondment to Burson-Marsteller’s San Francisco office. There she built an industry coalition and ran the SMB division of the HP account, managing a team across three states and a six-figure budget.

Phil Drew, 24

Account manager and head of musical talent, Unity

Drew’s phone is full of artists’ numbers, from Paul Weller to Graham Coxon, and over the past two years he has persuaded many of them to do good deeds for charity.

Razorlight performed in front of a jet for Friends of the Earth. The Enemy and Dirty Pretty Things played Pentonville Prison to highlight the number of suicides among young men.

Always seeking a challenge, Drew gave up some holiday this year to work for the PR team behind Boris Johnson’s mayoral campaign pro bono.

David Hamilton, 28

Corporate comms manager, Fenland Council

When Hamilton joined Fenland Council it had a difficult relationship with the media. He tackled this head on, challenging journalists and editors over their coverage and briefing them on the council’s positive initiatives.

As a result, positive press coverage has increased by 20 per cent. The council has won 35 national awards over the past 12 months and 83 per cent of staff say they are proud to work for their council, compared with just 38 per cent nationally.

Alisdair Haythornthwaite, 26

Director and co-head of the oil and gas team, Pelham PR

When Haythornthwaite joined Pelham the firm had three oil and gas clients. It now has 25 and, according to the Hemscott adviser rankings tables, is the leading oil and gas comms adviser in London. With annual revenues of more than £1m, the division now makes up a significant portion of Pelham’s revenue.
Haythornthwaite has been central to this growth. As the company’s youngest board member he is heavily involved in business development and recruitment.

Emily Highmore, 25

Senior press officer, E.ON UK

Taking on the PR role for a number of power stations was always going to be a challenge for a woman in her early twenties. Even E.ON admitted the male-dominated workforce could be suspicious of PR.

However, Highmore responded to the challenge brilliantly and her colleagues report that the station managers now view her as an equal.

This was put to the test when Greenpeace broke in and tried to close down Kingsnorth power station. Highmore drove the three-and-a-half hours to Kent and handled the majority of the national and local broadcast interviews.

Sarah Jones, 28

Client service director and deputy MD, iseepr

In the past year Jones has secured 26 non-paid-for speaking opportunities at conferences for key spokespeople, for her client GlobalPlatform. She has also set up 42 endorsement agreements and achieved coverage worth a total PR value in excess of £500,000 AVE.

Her client, executive director Kevin Gillick, says she is ‘the best in the business’. Her MD, Lee’ann Kaufman, is so confident in this 28-year-old that she will leave her to oversee all operations at iseepr while she takes six months of maternity leave at the end of 2008.

Olly Kendall, 28

Senior account manager, Insight Public Affairs

A former deputy press secretary to then leader of the Lib Dems, Charles Kennedy MP, Kendall made the transition into public affairs in 2006. Heading up the agency’s new business and marketing drive, Kendall has helped to grow Insight to a 12-strong team.

John Lehal, MD of Insight PA, says: ‘I have always been struck by Olly’s commercial drive and hunger for new business. In the past year, we have picked up substantial work from the Institute for Travel Management, Enviro-fresh and Harrah’s Casinos. None of this would have been possible without Olly’s determination and his comfortable manner with clients.’

Kirsty Kitchen, 26

Account director, Amazon PR

Kitchen joined issues-based agency Amazon PR as an account executive in April 2006. She is now an account director, reporting directly to the board. One of her clients, Kate Gare of MOVE Europe, describes her as quick to identify, and meet, the needs of her clients. ‘I have found her to be inspired and inspiring,’ adds Gare.
Another client, Hayley Carter at Dimensions, adds: ‘Kirsty’s support has been invaluable. She works hard to get us real results and we can trust her.’

Graham Lee, 28

Joint MD, onlinefire

Within five years of beginning his career as an account assistant, Lee has become a major player in the digital comms market, and has already founded and sold onlinefire, one of the UK’s first online PR firms.
His innovative strategies have won him fantastic brands, and he now has a portfolio of blue-chip clients, including Becks and Virgin Media.

He sold the business to Eulogy in April this year, and will see him apply his entrepreneurial streak to the digital comms marketplace in the years ahead.

Hanna Madalski, 27

Account director, Tetra Strategy

Having begun her PR career working with Burson-Marsteller in Warsaw and Brussels, before moving to the European Commission, Good Relations Political, and then joining Tetra Strategy, Madalski has in just five years worked with many of the world’s biggest global brands.

Fluent in Polish, French and English, she has contributed to clients such as Honda and Serco Defence.

She has also found time to introduce a mentoring scheme to Tetra and provide pro bono public affairs advice to Dance UK.

Oli Marlow, 24

Online digital manager, Outpost

At just 24 Marlow has already worked on high visibility online campaigns for Red Stripe, ckone, and The Big Chill, as well as a host of cutting edge music projects. He has the rare ability to work closely with musicians, rappers and DJs on one side, and senior brand mangers on the other.

His understanding of digital and online culture, and his engagement with blogs, virals and social networking, is rapidly building Outpost’s online division. His colleagues confidently predict that before long Marlow will be winning and managing even higher budget digital campaigns.

Natalie Maule, 27

MD, africapractice East Africa

Maule joined africapractice, a comms and public affairs consultancy dedicated to supporting responsible investment in Africa, in October 2004. She was promoted three times within two years, transferred to Nairobi in 2006 as senior consultant, and was named managing partner of africapractice East Africa, all by the age of 25.

Often in environments of social unrest and post-election violence, Maule has had to find innovative solutions to deliver for multinational clients such as Microsoft, Orange, Nestlé and Diageo Africa.

Tom McLaren Webb, 27

Campaigns co-ordinator, Action for Children (formerly NCH)

In his former role as internal comms officer McLaren Webb injected creativity, humour and warmth into this children’s charity’s corporate messages. He has carried this into his new role as Action for Children’s first campaigns co-ordinator, and this has brought success, most notably around the Growing Strong campaign. This focuses on emotional wellbeing, and has received more than 500 pieces of media coverage.

Melissa Ng, 24

Media manager, Outside Organisation

At just 24 and having been at Outside Organisation for just 12 months, Ng was the driving force behind Bon Jovi’s 2008 European tour. Paul Korzilius, Bon Jovi tour manager, even commented: ‘Melissa met and exceeded the challenge.’

Penny McDonald, MD at Outside Organisation, adds: ‘The fact that Melissa is just 24 means either she’s lying about her age or we’ve struck gold. Having seen her passport, I’m going with the latter.’

Nicki Oldham, 24

Account manager, Cow PR

Oldham joined Cow PR as a graduate trainee just two years ago, but has packed in a remarkable amount since then. She achieved 188 pieces of coverage about the Happiness Index for training provider City & Guilds. She promoted a series of podcasts fronted by ‘sexpert’ Emily Dubberley. She launched the Vauxhall Insignia, complete with a UFO-style crash site in London.

She has also sat on the PRCA Frontline committee, has taken part in a number of university careers fairs and talks, and has implemented Cow Wow, a new evaluation system.

Sarah Rathbone, 28

Associate director, Siren

Rathbone was one of Siren’s first recruits. In the six years since she joined the company she has worked her way up from an account executive to an associate director working on clients such as Motability, Royal Caribbean, MFI Corporate, Star Cruises and Travel 2.

Jo Rzymowska, associate vice president and general manager of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, says: ‘Sarah is always one step ahead of us. She is not afraid to challenge, but importantly she drives results though a unique blend of intellect, tenacity, creativity and humour.’

Sophy Silver, 28

Head of PR, ITV Consumer

Silver has left a positive impression on many of the people she’s worked with in her PR career so far. Michael Stephanblome, CEO of AdJug, managed her at Gumtree when he was MD and she was head of comms. He says: ‘Sophy is an exceptional PRO. She can build relationships in a fast and meaningful way, with anyone, and has the ability to stay calm and provide counsel in all manner of situations.’

Kelly Teasdale, 28

Global client and affiliate engagement and development, Chandler Chicco Companies (CCC)

Over the past seven years, Teasdale has made a significant contribution to the healthcare comms industry, working on some of the largest brands such as Pfizer’s Viagra, GSK’s Cervarix, and Abbott Vascular’s Xience V.

In 2007 she became head of policy and market access at CCC in Europe. Within nine months, she refocused CCC’s healthcare policy and public affairs service, reinvigorated and doubled the size of the policy team, and grew related business by 300 per cent.

In 2008, Teasdale moved into a global client and affiliate engagement and development role for CCC.

Sarah Todd, 27

PR manager, Gentoo Group

In her two years with Gentoo Group, Todd has managed the comms surrounding its rebrand from Sunderland Housing Group, and improved a previously poor relationship with the local media.

However, perhaps her greatest challenge came when a group of people set up a website about the organisation and its staff. Gentoo’s PR department says the content was ‘scurrilous, threatening, and full of lies’, but it cost the organisation millions of pounds worth of business, and unsettled some staff.

Gentoo spent a year getting the site shut down, and then a further two years securing the UK’s largest internet defamation payout. Todd worked with reputation specialists, lawyers and the media to manage the company’s reputation.

Georgina Vincent, 24

Senior media officer, NHS Employers

Vincent began working at NHS Employers in 2007 and has already established herself as a highly valued member of the team. As part of the NHS 60th anniversary campaign she organised the successful launch of the campaign by Gaby Roslin at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London last May.

By developing strong working relationships with a number of key journalists in the professional press such as Health Service Journal, Nursing Standard, Nursing Times and Personnel Today, she has been able to promote the work of NHS Employers through a series of features and columns.

Katharine Webb, 26

Senior consultant, Catalysis

With skills in Spanish, Greek and Italian, Webb is responsible for Catalysis’ European Services division, and in just four months co-ordinated PR activity at CeBIT in Hanover, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a local customer event in London and an annual partner summit in Rome.

At the Rome event she achieved a 62.5 per cent increase in media attendance on the previous year and more than 100 pieces of positive coverage.

Danielle Whitney, 29

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) client leader, Biosector 2 (B2)

Whitney began working on the J&J Velcade account from B2’s New York office, and was rapidly promoted to lead the account. She then led the pitch for the global account and won it. Last year she managed Breathe, a theatrical drama, which won J&J’s ‘Best Global Marketing Activity’ award. All this has resulted in her growing the J&J account by 200 per cent. Following her secondment to the London office in 2006, she has been integral in solidifying relationships between the NY and London offices.

Ben Wilson, 28

Senior comms officer, Church of England

Handling the media relations for a high-profile religious organisation is a challenging role in itself, but Wilson has also had to manage the media arrangements for the Walk of Witness in March 2007, an event to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. He also launched Live Life Love Lent, which encouraged people to undertake acts of kindness each day during Lent.

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