29 under 29: The future is bright

Cathy Bussey reveals who PRWeek has chosen as the 29 most promising young professionals in the PR industry for 2010.

One of the bright young things: Wolfstar's Jed Hallam
One of the bright young things: Wolfstar's Jed Hallam

It is that time of year again - when PRWeek goes on a hunt for the best, brightest and most inspiring up-and-coming talent in the industry.

Nominations were invited from consultancies and in-house teams, and this year we were swamped with very strong entries. These were then sent to our four judges: Nick Hindle, vice-president comms UK and northern Europe, McDonald's; Anne Gregory, pro-vice-chancellor and director, Centre for Public Relations Studies, Leeds Metropolitan University; Sally Ward, partner and MD UK, Porter Novelli; and Daljit Bhurji, MD, Diffusion and former 29 under 29-er.

The judges chose their favourites and the result is this year's PRWeek 29 under 29, the ultimate showcase of the industry's rising stars, who were aged under 29 on 30 May 2010.

The final 29, listed in alphabetical order on the following pages, all have the energy, creativity, ambition and ability to excel in this very competitive field.

LUKE ALEXANDER, 26, Account director, Four Communications Group

'The partners of Four describe Luke as one of the most innovative people they have worked with in the past 25 years,' says Nan Williams, group CEO of Four. High praise indeed, but Williams says Alexander impressed from the moment he joined the agency. Within a few months, Alexander was working on clients such as APACS and the Energy Retail Association, and he was seconded to Dubai to work for Four's largest client at the time, Nakheel. He also helped set up Four's office in Abu Dhabi.

ELLIE BACON, 24, Account director, Aspectus PR

Bill Penn, chairman of Aspectus PR, describes Bacon as 'one of the most remarkable and naturally talented young people I have ever taken on'. Bacon began her career as a junior account executive, but has risen through the ranks at a meteoric pace. 'She seems to have a very rare natural talent for both PR and people management,' says Penn. Bacon works across a portfolio of complex and demanding clients from the financial technology and energy technology sectors. She also helped set up the firm's New York office.

RACHEL BATCHELOR, 28, European PR manager, corporate comms, Sony Europe

Batchelor, who works in the PR hub for Sony Europe's range of consumer electronics, is seen as the go-to PRO for high-profile campaigns, according to Mark Wainwright, senior account manager at Immediate Future. 'From managing a global campaign that encompassed seven football matches in 24 hours, with more than 400 attendees, to organising a 3D movie competition that required an incredibly targeted PR outreach, Rachel has taken it all in her stride,' says Wainwright.

TOBY CRAIG, 29, Head of comms, The Bar Council

'I have seen Toby grow to become one of the leading legal and business comms specialists in the market, in a relatively short PR career,' says Claire Ruckin, chief reporter at Legal Week. More impressively, this is Craig's second career - he qualified as a barrister and worked for MPs and in Congress before turning to PR. While working at Weber Shandwick, Craig's clients included Sheffield United Football Club during a legal dispute. He acted as the club's official spokesman in the sports and legal press.

LAUREN GARNER, 23, Senior account executive, Threepipe

'Since joining Threepipe, with no prior PR experience, Lauren has fast become one of the most important members of the team,' says Threepipe co-founder Jim Hawker. Garner has an instrumental role in several Threepipe accounts, including Vodafone and Reevoo.com, which has requested she spend half a day a week in its offices to attend management meetings. Vodafone's World of Difference first 'Tweet Up' event was her idea. She also leads on pro-bono client, the Florence Nightingale Museum.


Although she is now freelancing, Goldsworthy was nominated when she was director of comms and events at Kidney Wales Foundation. Under her leadership, the organ donation campaign in Wales earned international acclaim and widespread media coverage. She also worked with the Welsh Assembly as it announced a move to an opt-out organ donation system. 'Her passion for campaigning and positive change permeates her professional life,' says Alexandra McMillan, public affairs manager at Gofal.

JED HALLAM, 24, Head of innovation, Wolfstar

As well as being an integral member of the team at Wolfstar, having played a key role in the creation of Wolfstar Labs and the agency's social media influence index, Hallam is also a noted blogger. He was listed by magazine AdAge as one of the world's top marketing bloggers and his blog has been recognised by many influential thought leaders in social media. 'His core focus is delivering for clients,' says Wolfstar founder and CEO Stuart Bruce. These include the Discovery Channel and SunGard Higher Education.

MARK HINDLE, 27, Comms manager, Nokia

'Mark has had a steep learning curve, but risen to the challenge and relished it,' says Anna Shipley, head of comms at Nokia. Hindle's background in traditional PR and digital and social media gives him a rounded approach, 'a great trait for a member of our busy comms team', notes Shipley. He works with colleagues, media and bloggers, building solid relationships quickly, and colleagues describe him as a 'great bloke'. 'He is comfortable in any situation, whether with our MD, board members or media,' says Shipley.

PATRICK HOBBS, 25, Comms manager, Bulldog Natural Grooming

'We have been stunned by the coverage that Patrick has been able to deliver for our under-resourced, start-up business,' says Rhodri Ferrier, co-founder, Bulldog Natural Grooming. In the past 12 months, Hobbs has generated more than 250 pieces of coverage, including the launch of Fairtrade male grooming products, which he strategically delayed to coincide with Fairtrade Fortnight. Hobbs made the final six shortlisted for 'Outstanding Young Communicator' at this year's CIPR Excellence Awards.

SOPHIE HODGSON, 29, Account director, Speed

'In just four years, Sophie has mastered management and client leadership skills that normally take a decade to acquire,' says Speed MD Steve Earl. Hodgson's client portfolio generates an annual revenue in the high six figures and a recent client satisfaction audit gave her the highest ever score of 94 per cent. She led on the integration of staff from five agencies to form Speed, which was so successful the firm was named Best UK Consultancy to Work For 2010 by the Holmes Report.

CRAIG JONES, 28, Media and public affairs manager, Legal Services Board

Jones has worked for children's charity 4Children and as Harriet Harman's ministerial comms specialist within the Cabinet Office. Not bad for someone of his tender years. He now heads comms at the Legal Services Board and set up the comms function of the new body, which regulates lawyers, from scratch. 'Alongside his work, Craig has contributed to the wider life of the comms industry,' says Geethika Jayatilaka, a director at Tower Hamlets Homes.

SABINA KADIC, 26, Director of PR, Axis Media Group

'Sabina has transformed our company's PR division,' says director Paul Murricane. She was also nominated for the 29 under 29 by PRCA director-general Francis Ingham. Clients see Kadic as their 'secret weapon', says Murricane, and her long-lasting relationships with them has seen PR contribution to the firm's income grow from 15 per cent to 60 per cent. Her achievements are doubly impressive considering she came to the UK as a refugee from war-torn Bosnia at the age of nine, speaking no English.

URSULA KELLEHER, 28, PR and public affairs officer, Translink

Since joining Northern Ireland public transport provider Translink two years ago, Kelleher has shown extraordinary commitment. As the sole PR and public affairs officer for NI's sixth top firm, her role spans numerous areas of expertise. In 2009, a campaign for the company in which she was heavily involved won gold in the CIPR PRide awards. Despite a year fraught with many challenges, passenger numbers have remained high. 'Her effective PR has played a central role in achieving this,' says Trans-link comms manager Lynda Shannon.

RAJAN LAKHANI, 26, Senior media relations manager, EDF Energy

At EDF, Lakhani is at the forefront of the Team Green Britain initiative, which ties in with the energy firm's involvement with London 2012 and aims to tackle issues such as responsible energy consumption. His efforts meant last year EDF was the most recalled sponsor of 2012, ahead of global brands. Lakhani also led on EDF Energy's announcement of a price decrease in March, which brand sustainability and external comms director Andrew Brown calls 'one of the biggest announcements an energy firm can make'.

MATT LAMBERT, 28, Head of technology and innovation, Bite

According to Emma Coleman, associate director at Bite, Lambert's passion and enthusiasm for tech PR is such that 'it is hard not to get excited when working alongside him; for him it is more than just a job'. Lambert works on some of the world's biggest tech clients including Microsoft and HP, and won the inaugural Microsoft PR Czar award, presented to just one team member within all Microsoft's agencies. A team player, Lambert is Bite's resident barbecue chef and treats colleagues to a slap-up spread every month.

SARAH MATTHEWS, 27, Campaigns and media manager, British Liver Trust

As the only dedicated PR professional at the trust, Matthews has been involved in influencing policy decisions on alcohol promotion, labelling and pricing, a new National Liver Strategy and a liver tsar. She has managed challenging health campaigns, including the launch of weight-loss drug alli while at Virgo Health. 'Sarah has worked confidently in developing key messages on contentious subjects,' says Imogen Shillito, director of comms at Barking, Havering & Redbridge NHS Trust.

ALEX MYERS, 29, Director, Manifest London

Myers' invention, the digital newsroom, was praised by Twitter founder Biz Stone when the two met, according to Manifest director Nev Ridley. 'Alex doesn't just adopt the latest channels of comms, he builds them,' says Ridley. 'The digital newsroom has since been imitated, but not bettered, by big agencies trying to catch up.'

Ridley adds: 'Everyone who has worked with Alex, as client, journalist or colleague, is treated with total honesty, empathy and understanding, and every one of them would sing his praises.'

CAROLINE PARR, 26, Head of digital comms, Action for Children

Although Parr only joined children's charity Action for Children in June, she 'hit the ground running and immediately made her mark', says director of comms Gregg Vines. Parr's remit covers the charity's website, microsites, intranet, YouTube, e-newsletters and online display, as well as wider marketing and PR management and planning. 'She has impressed all staff and stakeholders with her mature and focused approach,' says Vines. Parr has put together a team of colleagues who are strong ambassadors for digital comms.

ALEX PEARMAIN, 26, Head of social media, O2

A year ago, Pearmain became Fishburn Hedges' first head of digital, charged with bringing the agency up to speed with social media. 'Among other things, it meant telling board directors twice his age what they should be doing,' says director Guy Corbet. Pearmain has now been snapped up by O2 and is established as an industry figure, speaking at PRWeek's PR and Social Media conference in January and often quoted in the press. 'In four years, he has worked on 12 pitches and 11 times been on the winning team,' says Corbet.

SHERYL PLANT, 26, Press and PR officer, Breast Cancer Care

Social media-savvy Sheryl Plant is now at Breast Cancer Care, but was single-handedly responsible for her previous employer's - World Cancer Research Fund - charity presence on Twitter and Facebook, which between them have more than 3,500 fans and followers.

'As well as securing great coverage, Sheryl got involved in the mission of the charity,' says Richard Evans, head of comms at WCRF. Plant was also behind a story about the number of calories in iced coffee, which gained widespread global media coverage.

AARON POND, 28, Account director and digital lead, Aurora Comms

As healthcare agency Aurora's first recruit, Pond freely admits he joined to learn how to run his own agency. 'I have no doubt this will be the case if we ever let him go,' says MD Claire Eldridge. 'He is one of the best hires we have made.' Oxford graduate Pond runs the agency's biggest account for blue-chip client Novartis and works on other leading healthcare brands including Lilly and UCB. Pond also acts as an ambassador for the agency, representing it on live and online forums.

HELEN PROWSE, 27, PR manager, The Sun and News of The World

Formerly at 3 Monkeys, Prowse is the sole PR voice in the two papers' marketing department and runs The Sun's press office. 'She nagivates a myriad of internal stakeholders, often against a backdrop of challenging corporate, legal and legislative issues, to advise on the best ways to promote the paper's content and maintain reputation,' says Jenny Williams, head of marketing for The Sun. 'From Page Three girls to Number 10, she approaches her work intelligently and with a smile.'

ANNABEL RAYER, 26, Founder, Silver Ball PR

Former journalist Rayer set up Silver Ball, a travel and leisure PR consultancy, less than a year ago and already has three staff and clients including celebrity hairdresser Stuart Holmes and Swire Hotels. Rayer has been asked by regional newspapers to train journalists in Twitter. 'She is seen by many in the South West media circle as a PRO who is well-positioned to tutor reporters,' says Cassandra Sananes, head of PR at Chapman Entertainment. Rayer previously worked as press officer to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

JO ROBERTS, 27, Account manger, Team Spirit

'Jo is a one-woman PR powerhouse,' says former colleague Victoria Leyton, PR executive at Confused.com. Before joining Team Spirit, Roberts helped Confused.com restructure the PR team during the transition from relying on agency support to taking press office activities entirely in-house. Roberts also has a real nose for a story - her early call on the implications of the volcanic ash cloud on travel insurance saw Confused.com featured all over regional and national radio.

NEIL SPRING, 29, Senior comms manager, John Lewis Partnership

Having trained at Edelman, Spring was head-hunted to work for Lord Mandelson and other ministers at the Department of Business. At John Lewis, Spring is developing an engagement strategy with government and key audiences, promoting the partnership's employee-owned model. 'Neil will have a key role to play in public policy debates,' predicts Guy Black, Telegraph Media Group executive director and Tory peer. Spring also founded Village Drinks, a community for gay media and public affairs professionals.

MATT STALKER, 28, Comms manager, Institution of Chemical Engineers

As well as heading comms for the international organisation for chemical engineers, Stalker chairs the CIPR's science, engineering and technology group, the youngest to do so. Since he was elected, the group has held a joint meeting with the Royal Statistics Society and staged Meet the Media events, bringing science and technology journalists and PROs together. At IChemE, Stalker manages a campaign that has seen student applications and intake to study chemical engineering double since inception.

STEVE STRICKLAND, 28, Head of creativity, Weber Shandwick

Strickland is the youngest person to hold the head of creativity role at Weber Shandwick. Working across the agency's UK network, he develops creative campaigns to engage, encourage discussion and drive changes in consumer perceptions. He has been integral in winning clients such as EDF Energy and Save The Children. 'Steve recognised the power of social media long before it became the industry buzzword,' says Colin Byrne, CEO UK & Europe, Weber Shandwick.

VICTORIA WEBSTER, 27, Senior consultant, Grayling

Having worked her way up the ranks at Grayling, Webster's specialist area is charity PR. Her accounts have picked up four industry awards in the past year, including a PRWeek Award. She is also vice-chair of the PRCA's CSR and sustainability group, and has begun to undertake speaker opportunities. James Wright, MD of Grayling's CSR sustainability and not-for-profit division, says: 'Victoria injects fun into all that she does. No matter how challenging a situation gets, I trust her to get the tough decisions right.'

SARA YOUNG, 28, Comms officer, Children's Commissioner for Wales

Young is not just good at creating press coverage, although the 514 articles she has generated for the Children's Commissioner proves she does have a talent in that area. 'She has a strategic approach and has created a strong comms strategy for the organisation, demonstrating to staff that they are all advocates,' says Keith Towler, Children's Commissioner for Wales. Young has also built up the organisation's branding, put together a style guide and helped shape and drive digital comms.

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