Danny Rogers: Award winners reflect maturity of UK PR

Glancing through this year's PRWeek Awards winners (supplement with this issue), the maturity of the British PR industry soon becomes apparent.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

There is a pleasing irony in Joanna Lumley being voted Communicator of the Year, for her sterling work on the Gurkhas' campaign, because she once played Patsy in the early 1990s show Absolutely Fabulous - the caricature of a fluffy, aimless 'PR' that the profession has since fought so hard to shed.

In contrast, Lumley's focus, passion and eloquence in supporting the Gurkhas ultimately led to a change in government policy in the name of justice.

Similarly, our PR Professional of the Year is a woman at the hardest edge of this profession. Department of Health comms chief Sian Jarvis (profiled on page 16) is focused on not only curbing potential panic over swine flu but on justifying the very existence of one of the British state's most incredible achievements, the NHS.

The healthcare theme continues through this year's award winners, with the top Corporate PR prize going to the NHS 60th anniversary work and the overall PR Campaign of the Year awarded to the Rarer Cancers Forum. Like the Gurkhas campaign and much of Jarvis' work this year, the RCF tangibly recast public policy, helping to release millions of pounds in treatments for rarer types of cancer.

These, and many other case studies this year, mean that when one hears the old cliche 'well, PR is all about spin and organising parties' - which is still pervasive in some quarters - one can either laugh or despair.

Having started my career as a graduate trainee in PR, and having followed the industry for the best part of 15 years, the transformation is clear.

Comms professionals are so much more focused on tangible outcomes today, and the calibre of the leading practitioners - in-house and consultancy - is so much higher.

There is already an indication that politicians will slash comms budgets in the public sector, including health, because at first glance they look like dispensable 'costs'.

A more thorough look at the best work being done now should encourage them to think again.

Danny Rogers is BSME Editor of the Year

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