A great night to celebrate the incredible scope of modern PR

Reflections on a fantastic night of PRWeek Awards - the Oscars of the PR industry.

As stated last year, the 2014 Communicator of the Year at the PRWeek Awards had a tough act to follow in Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

Malala went on from being nominated as PRWeek’s 2013 Communicator of the Year to an audience with President Obama and a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, amongst much other high-profile recognition.

This year’s awards were presented at the Grand Hyatt in New York City on Thursday night and we mined the other end of the age spectrum for our 2014 Communicator of the Year. Gay rights campaigner Edie Windsor epitomizes the power of communications to effect historic change.

The 84-year-old’s fight to achieve equal rights to federal protection after the death of her partner in 2009 went all the way up to the Supreme Court and led to a landmark ruling that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

It was the first time the US had officially recognized marriage between same-sex partners, and Edie’s campaigning and communications skills led one judge to comment that she is "the epitome of PR’s power to persuade."

Once again, the presentation of this award to Edie (accepted on her behalf by Cathy Renna) was the only time on PRWeek Awards evening that the room fell properly silent - such was the fun the assembled 900-plus crowd was having. The award was welcomed in the room with genuine enthusiasm and emotion.

Another heartwarming piece of excellent communications awarded was Team Sarah’s work to get federal policy changed so 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan could get the lung transplant she desperately required in the face of a policy that dictated children could only receive donated lungs after all available adults had declined them.

Research, strategy, petitioning, and smart media relations took the story global. The policy was temporarily changed; Sarah eventually got her new lung; and other children are set to benefit. In a delicious turn of fate, yesterday, on the day of the awards, it was announced that the policy is set to be extended indefinitely (with a few minor amendments.)

These two examples are excellent case studies of public relations changing legislation and producing truly life-changing outcomes for individuals and wider communities. But the awards also demonstrated the incredibly wide scope and effectiveness of communications: from moving the needle on sales, building high-profile CPG brands, expanding boundaries with social media, leading on integration, and pushing innovation.

Winners ranged from big brands and big players such as Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, Airlines for America and Ketchum; Text100 and British Airways; Cohn & Wolfe and Nokia; March of Dimes and MSLGroup; FleishmanHillard and AT&T; Porter Novelli and Timberland; to the Seattle Police Department; Zillow; KYNE and Roll Back Malaria Partnership; and Spector & Associates and Older Adults Technology Services.

Size and scale of an organization, brand, or agency is not the determining factor in winning a PRWeek Award – it’s all about effectiveness, creativity, smart strategy and execution.

Congratulations to our PR Professionals of the Year, the two Davids: McCulloch and Senay. And big props to our agency winners Beekeeper Group, ReviveHealth, Olson, and FleishmanHillard – especially Olson for winning overall Agency of the Year.

It was a great night and thanks to everyone who attended. The Book of the Night represents an excellent snapshot of the very best in modern PR and communications – and we look forward to continuing to champion this best-in-class work over the next 12 months.

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