PRWeek’s 30 Under 30 is an annual celebration of the best of young talent in the UK comms industry. The list itself and the individual profiles offer insights into what makes these 20-somethings rising stars, and what makes them tick.
To get a deeper understanding about their views on key issues, the 30 completed a questionnaire asking how much they agreed with four statements, on a scale of one to five (one being "strongly agree" and five being "don’t agree at all").
It shows, firstly, that this year’s contingent is generally very optimistic about the sector’s future. To the statement, "I’m confident UK PR will thrive in the next five years", the average score was 1.7.
Rebecca White, head of European PR, internal comms and social media, at Sony Professional Solutions Europe, says: "Certainly the media landscape is shifting, there’s greater access to data and new technology and business models are being disrupted… plus, throw the political climate and competition from other disciplines like advertising into the mix and you’ve got sea change. But change is inevitable and PR pros are well versed in change. PR must embrace new technology like AI and integrate with digital marketing and social to thrive."
Chris Smith, associate director at Ketchum, puts it this way: "I see talented people everywhere, ready to help drive the success of the industry."
Others are more circumspect. Joe Rankin, senior account director at MSLGroup, is "neutral" on the question, pointing to the "considerable challenges" in the short to medium term.
"From Brexit fallout to zero-based budgeting, economic pressures will impact upon revenues and could curtail investment. Firms are likely to continue to pursue acquisitions or otherwise merge brands to deliver growth, but in doing so risk increasing homogeneity and stifling investment."
He says scandals such as Bell Pottinger’s collapse "affirm negative stereotypes and breed distrust" of PR, while technological advances such as AI "threaten to make certain functions redundant".
Meanwhile, the 30 are optimistic about career progression. The average score for the statement "PR offers good career opportunities" was 1.5.
"I started out as a receptionist at a tech PR agency who told me if I worked hard I could get a spot on their grad scheme," says Alexandra Neale, account director at Antidote Communications. "Having that kind of opportunity within arms’ reach gave me a strong drive from the get-go."
Not that it is easy. Georgina Purdy, senior account manager at Ogilvy, says: "It’s a hardworking industry; no one is going to give you anything for free. There is amazing opportunity in the industry if you’re willing to go get it and work for it."
Opinion was completed divided over the statement: "’Millennial’ PRs are subject to unfair negative stereotypes." The average score was 3.1, with as many strongly in agreement as opposed.
"Claiming that if we’d just stop indulging in smashed avo’ on toast at brunch we’d be able to get on the property ladder is definitely not helping the feeling that we’re being negatively stereotyped," bemoans Sony’s White. However, she believes negative stereotypes of millennials at work "largely collapse" under scrutiny.
The right attitude
Third City group account director Lauren Westmore says: "It’s fascinating how many brands want to win over the millennial market but are not prepared to listen to millennial PRs in order to do so."
Others are less convinced. "Work hard and others won’t stereotype you," says Four account director Alexander Nicholson. "That said, I suspect every generation looks on the next with judgement."
Matt Gurr, senior account manager at Common Industry, states: "I’m not aware of any stereotypes around young people working in PR. People with the right attitude and with good ideas will always do well – no matter how ‘millennial’ they are."
The final statement was very straightforward: "I love my job." The answers were resoundingly positive, with an average score of 1.5.
"I’ve never felt restricted in what I’ve wanted to achieve," says Common Industry's Gurr. Four’s Nicholson states: "I love being challenged, so being part of an agency is great."
Sony’s White enthuses: "Working in tech for a company where innovation is at its heart makes my job a privilege. I love the global outlook at Sony."
Finally, Neale of Antidote Communications reflects on a situation that remains a big problem: "I love my job but I wish there was an easier way of explaining to my parents and friends what I do. It’s the eternal conundrum for the PR person."
Entry on to the 30 Under 30 was subject to nomination by a colleague, client or industry peer, with these nominations scrutinised by an expert senior judging panel.
Each judge gave a score for every entrant, and the 30 individuals with the highest combined score were chosen for the list.
Entry was open to any UK-based PR or public affairs professional aged under 30 on the date of publication, working either in-house or agency-side.
In a change to the process this year, every entrant has automatically been put through to the Young PR Professional of the Year category at the 2018 PRWeek Awards.
The three entrants with the highest scores also received free entry to a PRWeek Breakfast Briefing over the next 12 months. They were, in rank order with the top scorer first: Erin Salisbury, senior account director, Ketchum; Emma Gorton, associate director, Hanover; Matt Gurr, senior account manager, Common Industry. Congratulations to them.
PRWeek would like to thank our panel of judges: Elizabeth Bananuka, freelance PR consultant and founder, BME PR Pros; Clara Biu, head of PR and events, Just Eat; Rachel Friend, CEO, Weber Shandwick UK; Francis Ingham, director general, PRCA; Charles Lewington, CEO, Hanover Communications. Thanks also to Hanover for hosting the photo shoot.