King of the roads: Edmund King enters PRWeek UK Hall of Fame

The AA’s Edmund King is one of the great professional communicators of his generation and a pre-eminent campaigner.

The 2020 inductee to the PRWeek UK Hall of Fame is AA president Edmund King – a tireless and effective campaigner on road safety and motoring issues for three decades.

This year alone he has masterminded a brilliant campaign to make ‘smart motorways’ safer – which won PRWeek’s Public Affairs Campaign of the Year award – and during the first wave of the pandemic set up a scheme that rescued 8,500 NHS staff and ambulances.

King has been AA president since 2008. Before that he spent eight years at the RAC as executive director, winning PRWeek PR Professional of the Year in 2000. In 2016 King was awarded an OBE for his contributions to road safety. He has long been a fellow of the CIPR and the PRCA.

Back in the 1990s when he was running campaigns for the British Road Federation, the organisation was rated among the UK’s top three most powerful lobby groups by Campaign magazine. King says his biggest achievement there was “getting the A11 dual-carriagewayed all the way up to my beloved Norwich City FC, which I still follow with my two sons, COVID allowing”.

But it is at the AA that King has done his most impressive work. In 2014 he launched the award-winning ‘Think bikes’ campaign with former Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman. The simple sticker campaign, based on an idea from an AA patrol, and video featuring a naked cyclist has been replicated in 26 countries.

In 2017 King was runner up with his transport economist wife, Deirdre, for their submission on ‘Road Miles’ in the Wolfson Economics Prize.

And then came the tumultuous 2020 when, during the first lockdown in the spring, the AA set up a scheme to offer free breakdown services to NHS staff.

Taking to the media airways, King and his team attracted 24,000 NHS staff to register for help, and he arranged for AA patrols to help the ambulance service get more vehicles on the road. At the height of the crisis some 260 AA patrols were helping out and helped put 600 ambulances on the roads.

Meera Naran, whose son, Dev, was tragically killed on a smart motorway in 2018, told PRWeek in November: “Having campaigned alongside Edmund earlier this year for safety measures to be implemented on smart motorways, he is so passionate yet thoughtful and genuinely cares about the outcome. Our campaign will help save lives and this award is incredibly well-deserved.”

Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of PRWeek UK & EMEA, said: “I’ve known and admired Edmund from my first days editing PRWeek back in 2005. Not only is he a class act and one of the UK’s pre-eminent campaigners, but anyone who meets him instantly warms to him because of his energy and humanity. He is one of the great professional communicators of his generation.”

On the award, Edmund, said: “Being inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame really is the pinnacle of my career. Winning the 2000 PR Professional of the Year was brilliant, but this is extra special as it recognises the many important campaigns we have conducted in the last two decades. I reckon I’ve featured in about 10,000 television and radio broadcasts since then, but my enthusiasm for making our cars and roads cleaner, safer and smarter is as strong as ever. I am proud, humbled and very happy to join the PRWeek Hall of Fame.”

Previous PRWeek UK Hall of Famers:

2019 – Sue Garrard

2018 – Jackie Cooper

2017 – Alan Edwards

2016 – Lord Bell

2015 – Matthew Freud

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