Welcome to PRWeek's countdown of the UK's best communicators of 2020, compiled by the editorial team for our final edition of the year.
PR professionals are excluded – our focus is individuals from other walks of life, whether that's politics, entertainment, business, or something else.
We're honouring people who have risen in prominence or significantly enhanced their reputations this year due, at least in part, to their comms prowess. Some highly regarded communicators didn't make the cut on the grounds that 2020 was not a breakthrough or standout year; Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, for example.
Sadly, there was no space for some notable business leaders. It's an honourable mention to Jeremy Darroch and Steve Murrells, chief executives of Sky and the Co-op respectively, who pledged to donate some of their own wages to help COVID-19 victims.
Not surprisingly, the coronavirus looms large in the top 20.
So too does Black Lives Matter, with several people involved in or supportive of the movement and its aims making the list. Honourable mentions go to Alexandra Wilson, the lawyer who spurred a discussion about racism after being mistaken for a defendant three times in one day; David Whitely, aka DJ Sideman, who quit the BBC after it defended use of the N-word; and Ashley Banjo from Diversity, who expertly defended his dance group's Black Lives Matter-inspired routine on Britain's Got Talent. Many more could be added to that list.
On the other side of the hotly debated 'culture war', there's an argument to include Laurence Fox, whose 'anti-woke' statements gained much publicity and raised his profile. In September the actor/singer announced plans to launch a 'free speech' political party called Reclaim (with, to be honest, limited success).
Another name worth mentioning is Matt Lucas. The actor/comedian – and latterly Great British Bake Off co-host – showed the power of comedy in communicating messages, whether through his re-working of his Thank You Baked Potato song as a coronavirus public health warning, or his mocking impression of Boris Johnson issuing confusing advice on what to do during the pandemic.
The list is, of course, completely subjective, but we hope it contains a few surprises and plenty to think about.
Today, we reveal entry number three. The remainder will be published in the days ahead, so stay tuned…
3. Naomi Smith
Celebrities may have amplified its message but, at its heart, Black Lives Matter is a grassroots movement. It's fitting, then, that a key figure responsible for popularising BLM in the UK is hairdresser by trade in her early 20s.
Naomi Smith was among a small group who helped organise the Justice For Black Lives demonstration in London's Hyde Park in June.
She became a key spokesperson for the movement that received huge publicity across mainstream UK media, helping propel the issue of racism here up the political agenda even during the coronavirus crisis.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the US was the global catalyst for the spread of the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, but activists gave it extra UK resonance by highlighting tragic injustices closer to home.
This included the story of black rail worker Belly Mujinga, who died from COVID-19 after allegedly being spat at by a man who said he was infected. After an investigation, British Transport Police said it would take no further action.
“I think that is my main reason for this, because she’s black she doesn’t have a voice right now,” Smith was quoted as saying by The Independent. “This is our story, this is a UK story, this is what’s going on right now with us. George Floyd is in America, and we’re here for him as well.”
Smith was named by Vogue among 25 women shaping 2020, alongside fellow BLM campaigner Liza Bilal. The student deserves recognition for organising the Bristol protest that resulted in the toppling of a bronze statue of Edward Colston, who was involved in the Atlantic slave trade in the late 17th century. That produced one of the media images of the year and provided a lightning rod for debate on Britain's colonial past and contemporary racism.
Tomorrow we reveal number 2...