29 under 29: Framing the stars of the future

Cathy Wallace reports on PRWeek's annual search for the 29 most promising young professionals in the UK industry. Photos by Martin Usborne.

One of the stars: Tim Hoang of Porter Novelli
One of the stars: Tim Hoang of Porter Novelli

Every year PRWeek identifies the brightest young talent in the UK PR industry. Nominations are invited from agencies and comms teams, then put to a panel of independent judges to choose their favourites. The result is the PRWeek 29 under 29, the ultimate showcase of the industry's rising stars who are aged under 29 years old on 30 May 2009.

This year PRWeek was swamped with nominations, but as you will see from these pages, the 29 young PR professionals selected encompass the energy, creativity and drive needed to shine in a very competitive field.

JUDGES

- Julia Hobsbawm, CEO Editorial Intelligence, and London's first professor of PR at the London College of Communication

- Robert Phillips, UK CEO, Edelman

- Carolan Davidge, Director of PR and brand, Cancer Research UK

- Benjamin Webb, MD, Deliberate PR and a former 29 under 29 finalist

- Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek.

RACHEL ALLEN, 29 (in Sept 2009)

Head of communications, London Overground Rail Operations

This August Rachel Allen joined London Overground, after a stint as internal communications manager at Tube Lines. During her time there she managed a campaign to engage employees and designed a campaign to communicate Tube Lines' technology refresh. The new role came on top of an invitation from the British Association of Communicators in Business to be a mentor to new comms professionals.

'Rachel has been recognised for her dedication to excellence,' says former boss Jeremy Reynolds, regional head of strategy and corporate relations at Visa.

NAOMI ALLSOP, 27

Senior account manager, Storm Communications

In her two years with Storm, Naomi Allsop has made such an impact that clients have sent in unprompted emails singing her praises. The 27-year-old runs a portfolio of clients in excess of £150K and deals with crisis management. She combines the writing skills of a business journalist with a constant drive for excellence, and has driven a marked change to results for b2b clients. Amanda Williams, MD of Storm, says: 'Despite being one of the best operators I have had the pleasure of working with over the past 25 years, Naomi is blissfully unaware of the impact she makes.'

KATIE BAILEY, 28

Head of marketing; group account director, Launch Group

Newly married Katie Bailey is 'truly brilliant', according to Launch CEO Johnny Pitt. Since joining Launch as an assistant in 2003 she has grabbed everything thrown at her with both hands. Neither, says Pitt, are her ambitions for her career alone. She conceptualised and wrote Launch's first ever best practice guide, and is a leading member of pitch teams. 'Katie has that quality that you look for in all good business people - the ability to spot when a creative strategy is right,' adds Pitt.

SHARON BANGE, 27

Associate director, Kindred Agency

At just 27, Sharon Bange is Kindred's youngest ever associate director, after joining the agency as a graduate facilitator. 'All those who know and work with her believe she will be the first facilitator to join the Kindred board,' says Anastasia Scott, PR director at the agency.

Bange leads one of the most complicated, policy-led accounts at the agency and manages to translate policy speak into everyday language and create compelling stories out of challenging material. 'Her clients always request that she stays on accounts as they love her direct approach, strong delivery and unwavering focus,' says Scott. She is unflappable, hard-working and always manages to see the funny side. Scott concludes: 'She is an integral member of the Kindred family.'

CHRIS BROWN, 29 (in Sept 2009)

Head of public affairs, Weber Shandwick Northern Ireland

Chris Brown puts client issues on the political agenda and gains them mountains of media coverage, according to Weber Shandwick NI MD Conall McDevitt. He scooped a SABRE award for a campaign for Ikea, and was a finalist for the NI Young Communicator of the Year. He has just returned from Uganda where he led a client CSR project building a school for 400 children. Outside work he carries out pro bono work for a US-Irish charity. 'This year Chris took a place on the Weber Shandwick Future Leaders Academy after scoring the highest marks across the UK and Ireland in his application,' says McDevitt.

SIMON BURBERRY, 27

Strategic consultant, Chameleon PR

Having started his career at Text 100 and worked at Skywrite Communications, Simon Burberry now heads up Chameleon's global and pan-EMEA communications practice and has become the agency's analyst relations specialist.

'He is all about results that really make a difference to the client's business goals,' says Neil Drake, strategic consultant at Chameleon PR. 'He is a dynamic, thought-provoking team player who is as focused on profitability as he is on generating strategic, on-message campaigns.' Burberry has been integral to business wins worth more than £200,000 and specialises in creating hard-hitting national coverage with 'the wow factor' for clients in publications such as The Times, The Guardian and the Financial Times.

SAM CORRY, 23

Campaigns adviser, CBI

As campaigns adviser for the CBI, Sam Corry co- ordinates comms surrounding the CBI's climate change work in the UK and abroad. He has helped the CBI become a lead voice in the climate change debate, influencing Government, businesses and consumers. His work has helped build a new image for the CBI's climate change work, enabling it to command the respect needed to hold high-level climate change events attracting speakers from top FTSE 100 companies. 'Sam is also a confident speechwriter with a flair for shifting the debate and grabbing the attention of an audience,' says Rhian Kelly, head of climate change at the CBI.

LINDSEY DAVIES, 28

Partner, Open Communications

After a stint at some of Yorkshire's most respected PR and digital agencies, supporting brands including Warburtons and Vision Express, Lindsey Davies and her business partner Emma Lupton launched Open Communications in September 2008. A former CIPR Young Communicator of the Year, her agency now works for Haribo and Make Your Mark among other high-profile brands and organisations. 'She is a genuine inspiration and has a natural ability to identify opportunities for her clients as well as her business. She has relentless enthusiasm and energy,' says Lupton. Davies also works as a Make Your Mark ambassador, helping to inspire other people to embrace enterprise.

JOANNA DRING, 26

Public relations manager, Wells and Young's Brewers

Since joining Wells and Young's, Joanna Dring has introduced a high-quality internal magazine, led a communications strategy for a series of redundancies and generated a marked uplift in media coverage. A recent consumer PR campaign earned the brand its highest campaign coverage to date, including a whole page in The Sun, and saw sales reach record levels.

'Joanna is passionate about PR and her creativity, will to succeed, instinct for stories and relationships with journalists puts her as a front runner,' says Wells and Young's marketing director Chris Lewis.

ALEX FINNEGAN, 25

Consultant, Mandate Communications

Mandate CEO Sacha Deshmukh describes Alex Finnegan as 'a media relations powerhouse'. Clients tend to enjoy an increase in their media profile of more than 50 per cent once he works with them. He has built up such a good relationship with client EDF Energy that it specifically requested he be seconded to work in the in-house team during a buyout of British Energy. He was also one of the select group of Labour Party figures originally invited to advise on setting up labourlist.org.

JAMES FITZGERALD, 27

Director, Firebrand Digital/Social Media Library

After cutting his teeth at Mandate Communications, James Fitzgerald moved into digital PR,working on the Sony Bravia 'Paint' TV commercial's online PR campaign. Together with business partner Graham Lee he launched Onlinefire, a specialist online PR agency, which was bought by Eulogy. Fitzgerald now heads up Firebrand Digital, which launched Social Media Library, a directory of social media sites in the UK. 'James has built two businesses and positioned Firebrand Digital as a profitable company,' says Eulogy CEO Adrian Brady.

SHELLEY FLETCHER, 26

Account manager, Deborah Clark Associates PR

Shelley Fletcher was headhunted from her previous role at VisitCornwall and joined DCA in May 2007. She became an essential part of the team and has taken the lead on key consumer accounts. Last year she was named Young Communicator of the Year in the CIPR PRide awards for the West of England - the first time anyone from Cornwall had even been shortlisted. 'It speaks volumes about Shelley's character that after her win she was determined to give something back to the CIPR and is now working as a representative for the industry in Cornwall and Devon,' says DCA director John Casey.

SIMON HAILES, 28

Media relations manager, BBC

In his short time at the BBC, which he joined from the Government, Simon Hailes has made a huge impact in promoting and protecting the corporation's reputation. He has been tested in crisis management, handling the outcry after the BBC decided not to broadcast the Gaza DEC appeal, and his work has helped shape the debate around Digital Britain. At the same time he has supported other colleagues, helping them to secure promotions. 'Simon can be trusted to handle the most complex issues and is unflappable in any situation,' says Ed Willams, director of communications at the BBC.

GABY HATELEY, 28

PR account manager, COI News and PR

Gaby Hateley was talent-spotted during a work placement at the COI and offered a trainee role. She spent two years promoting the Home Office, Highways Agency and English Heritage, before leaving to join the British Heart Foundation. She returned to the COI and last year was seconded to the Strategic Communications Unit at 10 Downing Street. At the same time, she constructed case study advertorials for the Home Office's neighbourhood policing campaign, and managed an NHS East Midlands alcohol campaign. 'Gaby matches the verve of the private sector with the knowledge, care and propriety needed by the public sector,' says Stuart Baird, regional director of COI East Midlands.

TIM HOANG, 26

Social media planner, Porter Novelli

One of the original co-founders of Twestival, Tim Hoang is Porter Novelli's rising dig-ital communications star, according to MD Jean Wyllie. In PR circles, he is known for creating Wadds' Tech PR blog, which opened the door for him to blog for the BBC about working in PR in London. At Porter Nov-elli, he is part of the global digital team responsible for best practice across the entire 60-country network. He is also a member of the PRCA digital group, helping to develop and implement digital best practice in the PR industry. 'In all stages of his career so far Tim has taken the applications of digital media to PR in new, exciting directions,' says Wyllie.

'He is undoubtedly an enthusiastic, smart, transparent and much beloved member of our team.'

ANNIE KASMAI, 22

Lead consultant, Catalysis

At the tender age of 22, Annie Kasmai is responsible for creating, managing and implementing PR campaigns for clients including Panasonic and Hitachi Data Systems. She has increased the volume of coverage for one client by 73 per cent and taken it out of the technology trade press and into consumer and national publications.

Her organisational skills were put to good use co-ordinating a press trip to Iceland, which was such a success it was extended from UK press only to European-wide. 'The trip was fantastic and she leveraged her media contacts to secure UK briefings with The Economist, The Guardian and the Financial Times as a result,' says Katharine Webb, senior consultant at Catalysis.

LOUISE LLOYD, 28

Head of consumer PR, Cirkle Communications

Louise Lloyd heads up an income stream of £600K and has been instrumental in helping Cirkle deliver double-digit growth in a time of financial gloom. She was appointed to her current role at 27 and boasts the highest client retention levels at Cirkle. This year she has had huge success representing Healthcare Connections in dealing with the swine flu crisis. Cirkle MD Caroline Kinsey says: 'Louise is an exceptional PR consultant with a passion, intelligence and drive that, if it could be bottled and sold, would elevate the profile of the whole industry.'

VERITY LOWE, 26

Account director - corporate, MS&L

From a young age, Verity Lowe knew she wanted to work with the media. She runs MS&L's media bureau and was the driving force behind a recent roundtable debate that secured speakers from the BBC, Sky, the Daily Express and City AM.

Lowe devises and implements media relations strategies for clients across a variety of industries and sectors including FMCG brands and financial services. Her work includes leading high-profile thought leadership and corporate profile-building campaigns. Maud Broda, new business and marketing executive at MS&L, says: 'Verity is hard working, intuitive and her professionalism is hugely appreciated by her colleagues and her clients. But most of all, she is passionate about PR.'

JAIME MARKEY, 28

MD, JAMpr

The MD of JAMpr launched her own agency aged just 25. The result is a successful agency based in Manchester, with an enviable list of clients. Markey herself has been shortlisted for two categories in the North West Women in Business Awards 2009. 'Jaime has a clear vision of producing excellent, measurable results delivered in a no-nonsense, ethical and fun manner,' says her colleague Alessandra Tinio. 'She is an amazing woman and really deserves to be recognised for all her achievements.'

In fact Markey has so inspired her co-workers one even sent in a poem about her - concluding with: 'For an inspirational, creative and client-goal driven youngster, look no further, you've found your winner with this Jamster.'

DAVID MERCER, 27

Account manager, Man Bites Dog

David Mercer took an unusual route into PR, starting with a chemistry degree and working his way around chemicals and engineering companies. 'This training equipped him with a keen analytical mind, invaluable for interpreting reams of research data into compelling business stories,' says Man Bites Dog account executive Mark Doonan. An example of this was a campaign for Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, where Mercer used the credit crunch as a hook for a research-led thought leadership campaign that broke on the front page of the Financial Times.

KATHRYN MILLS-WEBB, 28

Senior account manager, Johnson King

In her four years at Johnson King, Kathryn Mills-Webb has made a significant impact on the company and progressed to senior account manager, which allows her to take responsibility for directing some accounts. She has driven some of the agency's most successful accounts, has negotiated budget increases and campaign extensions for several clients, and has an enviable record in staff development, client satisfaction and growth. 'She has proved her worth time and again,' says Flora Haslam, account director at Johnson King.

OLLIE RICKMAN, 25

Manager, communications and public affairs, Google UK

There are not many 25-year-olds who can claim to have arranged a visit for the Queen. For Ollie Rickman, it is all in a day's work. He launched the Queen's YouTube channel and followed this up by managing her visit to Google's HQ. Rickman also led at Google's annual European Zeitgeist event, with speakers including Lord Mandelson, Richard Branson and three European princes. 'Ollie is always on the money when pitching stories, and regularly steps in as spokesperson,' says Laura Scott, communications and public affairs officer at Google.

JESSYCA SARPONG, 25

Senior account manager, Rich Visions

As a senior account manager at ethnic PR agency Rich Visions, Jessyca Sarpong's talents go unrecognised within the wider world of PR, says Rich Visions MD Mavis Amankwah: 'She displays an outstanding ability not only to communicate with mass audiences but also at a targeted level, taking into account the influence of religion, language, generation and tribal splits.'

Sarpong joined Rich Visions as a trainee and has rapidly moved up through the ranks. The highlight of her career to date was managing a HM Revenue & Customs international food imports campaign in West Africa, where she headed up a 16-strong multilingual outreach team as well as suppliers, designers and production.

KATHERINE SOLOMON, 25

Communications manager, Booktrust

Katherine Solomon's role involves publicising as many as 22 different projects at the same time. Her tenacity has gained Booktrust significant coverage for each project, from flagship literary prizes to government-funded free book schemes. 'When Katherine joined Booktrust in 2006 as a press officer she was fundamental in establishing the publicity department,' says Helen Hayes, head of publicity at the charity. 'She has elevated Booktrust to the position of key commentator within the education, literary and arts sectors.' Solomon has lead responsibility for creating and presenting media strategies for the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

MARIA STEFANOVA, 27

Senior associate, corporate, issues and technology, Burson-Marsteller

Bulgarian-born Maria Stefanova joined Burson-Marsteller New York as a summer intern and whipped through the ranks. She came to London in 2007 and has the skills to address the needs of the global clients she works with. She excels in client and media relations, stakeholder engagement and event and issues management. Chris Cartwright, head of corporate issues and technology, says: 'Maria proves excellence is not just about skills, but also attitude and passion for learning.' Stefanova goes above and beyond the call of duty for her clients. Cartwright adds: 'One client's confidence in Maria was so strong she trusted her with giving her six-month-old daughter a bath.'

HANNAH STACEY, 28

Senior account manager, Athena Medical PR

After nearly two years at Athena, with no previous PR experience, Hannah Stacey has been singled out by MD Steve Carroll as a rising star. 'One day in the not too distant future, I see Hannah running her own healthcare PR agency,' he adds. Stacey is based part-time in Paris in a groundbreaking role. She leads some of her accounts with no account director support, and is rising to the challenge. Internally she has exceptional mentoring skills and several interns have thrived under her guidance. Clients also sing her praises, describing her as 'a remarkable young woman with the perfect combination of efficiency and enthusiasm'.

DANNY STONE, 28

Director, All Party Political Group Against Anti-semitism

Danny Stone is such hot property that in between being nominated and shortlisted for 29 under 29, he was snapped up from his previous role as senior parliamentary officer at the RSPB. At the charity, he helped co-ordinate delivery of more than 300,000 combined environmental NGO signatures to Downing Street in support of a marine bill, and helped organise contact with more than 590 MPs by lobbyists. Outside of work, Stone is a school governor who helps shape the political speaking programme for the school. 'Danny carries out his work with amazing honesty, humour and emotional intelligence,' says James MacColl, parliamentary officer at the RSPB.

SAM TURVEY, 25

Press and communications manager, British Chambers of Commerce

Last year saw the biggest economic story of a generation - and Sam Turvey was at the heart of it. Turvey was responsible for co-ordinating the first report to claim the country was in recession. Conservative press secretary Fiona Cunningham, Turvey's boss at the time, says: 'I was stunned by how he coped with the volume of phone calls from journalists such as Robert Peston.' He also helped the chambers outdo the CBI in terms of coverage in broadcast and print media.

JAMES WARNETTE, 26

Consultant, Octopus Communications

James Warnette is a 'very social kind of guy', according to Octopus MD Jon Lonsdale. He played a key role in winning and managing an account with Cisco and has been at the heart of its transition from a company that sells routers to an organisation that helps people interact. He has also led internal social media development at Octopus, educating fellow colleagues and clients as part of his lead role on the Octopus Web 2.0 taskforce. 'James is an intelligent, fast-thinking and creative media consultant,' says Lonsdale.

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