Strangest PRWeek UK Awards ever – but the sector's brilliance shines through

Huge congratulations to the winners of the PRWeek UK Awards 2020. While all should feel proud and delighted, there is inevitably a bittersweet feeling this year as the annual celebration moved online.

Winning campaigns (clockwise from top left): 'Greggs x Stormzy – Original VIP'; 'Pizza Hut – Delivering for Britain'; and 'Lucozade Sport – The Movers List'. Bottom left is Brands2Life, Large Consultancy of the Year
Winning campaigns (clockwise from top left): 'Greggs x Stormzy – Original VIP'; 'Pizza Hut – Delivering for Britain'; and 'Lucozade Sport – The Movers List'. Bottom left is Brands2Life, Large Consultancy of the Year

Regular attendees of the gala evening know it's about much more than dishing out accolades and recognising brilliant work (click here for this year's winning entrants).

Perhaps the only time the cream of UK PR gathers in one place, it's a prime opportunity to catch up with old friends, ex-colleagues and rivals; to celebrate with your teams and chew the fat (literally, or otherwise) with your peers.

It's also a milestone in the industry calendar – before the Christmas run-in – to reflect on the year so far and raise a glass in convivial surroundings.

And without disappearing too far down a nostalgic rabbithole, the PRWeek Awards are also a poignant reminder of important milestones in our own careers. In my case, it was the first major industry event I attended after joining PRWeek in 2014. It was also my first as UK editor, 12 months ago. I'm sure it triggers memories for many of you reading this, too.

But the lack of in-person celebration takes nothing away from the incredible achievements of all this year's winners. I would argue that the recognition is worth even more in the COVID-19 era, given the increasingly competitive landscape and the need for a morale boost.

It's an opportunity to show employers and budget-holders the incredible value that good comms can have when times are tough.

Reading this year's winners' profiles is an uplifting reminder of quite how much value the industry can bring, and how many strings there are to the sector's bow these days.

Excellence

I can't flag up all the great achievements here – I strongly recommend reading profiles of the winning and highly commended entries. Nonetheless, I would like to spotlight a few examples. First: the two-time winner 'Original VIP' by Taylor Herring for Greggs, in which a creative idea exploded into a national talking point thanks to clever, witty and ballsy execution and the star power of Stormzy.

As usual, ideas based on sound research excelled. Take 'The Movers List' by The Academy for Lucozade Sport, which uses smart influencer involvement and insights into how people exercise for an effective campaign.

It's not all consumer, of course. Outstanding examples of corporate and financial PR, public affairs, internal comms and more are also on show, encompassing numerous sectors, scenarios and strategies.

FleishmanHillard Fishburn's campaign for Noluma on 'light-protected' milk is a great case study in targeting very specific influencers and b2b audiences to relay a relatively obscure but important message. 'Corpsumer' campaigns also make an appearance – look at Headland's excellent activities for Just Eat on 'cleaning up the UK takeaway industry'. I marvel as well at The AA's public affairs work to improve safety on highways.

Special mention goes to winners in the three coronavirus-themed categories: the campaign by Talker Tailor Trouble Maker for Leon, to help get hot, fresh meals to NHS workers; the Big Partnership's work to encourage consumers back to garden centres; and the barnstorming activities by Greenhouse PR for Fareshare's food crisis appeal. All three demonstrate the pivotal role played by the industry as the crisis deepened – as well as PR's importance in 'purpose'.

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 featured in several winning entries. One that caught my eye was Hanover's internal comms work with Pizza Hut, which expertly navigated the challenges associated with a customer-facing franchise business operating during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, profiles of the winning agencies and in-house teams provide a salient reminder of the underlying strength of our sector as the crisis hit. We hope, and believe, this puts the industry in a good position for the challenges ahead.

I raise a glass to your incredible achievements over the past year. I don't know when we'll be together next, but I know the Champagne will taste much sweeter when it happens.


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