Malala epitomizes great communications

It's not often you can hear a pin drop when you're presenting on stage at the PRWeek Awards, but last night that unlikely feat was achieved when we announced our inaugural Communicator of the Year.

It's not often you can hear a pin drop when you're presenting on stage at the PRWeek Awards, but last night that unlikely feat was achieved when we announced our inaugural Communicator of the Year.

Over 900 people in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City listened rapt with attention as Susan Davis, chair of Vital Voices, accepted the award on behalf of our 2013 recipient Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who risked life and limb to promote girls' rights to education in her troubled country.

Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban in October last year and is now recovering in the UK after miraculously surviving and undergoing extensive medical treatment. It's the start of a long road to recovery for Malala, but she remains even more determined than ever to continue her campaigning.

Her self-effacing video to accompany the award acceptance demonstrated her excellence in communications. While she herself may not recognize herself as such, she has a wonderful way of getting her message across clearly, effectively, and passionately.

Malala has genuinely elevated this crucial debate to a global level at a time when women's rights are increasingly being violated in many parts of the world, including the United States. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and Vital Voices set up the Malala Fund to support the cause.

Somehow it seems to be appropriate to be writing this on International Women's Day - and everyone at PRWeek is exceptionally proud to recognize Malala's achievements. Next year's Communicator of the Year has a tough act to follow.

Our new award was a great way to kick off the highest-profile night of the PR calendar, and it contributed to an even greater buzz in the room than normal, which bodes well for the industry's prospects for the rest of the year.

Cisco and Cohn & Wolfe will have woken up this morning with wider smiles on their faces than normal. The tech giant achieved an impressive turnaround in fortunes over the last 18 months, and this was done in no small part due to an effective and focused communications approach. This achievement won Cisco Large Campaign of the Year, Corporate Branding Campaign of the Year, In-House Team of the Year, and an honorable mention for VP of corporate communications Karen Tillman in the In-house PR Pro of the Year category.

Large agency players such as Weber Shandwick, Edelman, and Ketchum did well, but the 2013 awards also proved you don't have to be one of the biggest names to achieve success. M. Silver Associates and Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lane PR and Redhook Brewery, and Camino Public Relations and Planned Parenthood all took home prestigious awards and proved the depth and breadth of talent and strategic counsel in the PR industry.

It was also a great night for Elise Mitchell, who capped a fantastic year by claiming Agency PR Pro of the Year, and AECOM's Paul Gennaro, who appeared genuinely humbled to receive In-House PR Pro of the Year.

But the moment I will remember most is that complete silence as Malala's achievements were recognized. It put the whole thing in perspective and reminded everyone in the room that, however tough the conditions are that we work in, there are remarkable individuals demonstrating the fine art of communications under unimaginable duress.

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