Work and an industry to be genuinely proud of

The 2021 PRWeek Awards winners reflect an industry that really stepped up to the plate and demonstrated its effectiveness after the country was poleaxed by COVID-19.

PR is demonstrating its ability to drive demonstrable change through award-winning work such as The CROWN Act.

PR professionals have traditionally been looked down upon in some quarters because their detractors say there are insufficient ways to measure the value of earned media.

They point to the metrics used by marketers in their discipline that supposedly link directly to sales data and other hard criteria.

They pour scorn on PR’s traditional reliance on advertising value equivalence and media impressions to justify their existence.

In the past, some of those accusations may have been justified. PRWeek has long insisted that entries to the PRWeek Awards should include genuine business and organizational outcomes to demonstrate the effectiveness of campaigns and initiatives.

And, while we still get submissions littered with crazy claims about an activation achieving two billion earned media impressions and other such nonsense, the winners, honorable mentions, shortlisted entries and many other case studies that didn’t make the finals in this year’s Oscars of the PR industry really demonstrate the value PR brings to the table.

The collective work, teams and individuals honored yesterday in the virtual PRWeek Awards 2021 ceremony are a stunning tribute to the achievements of the whole PR industry over an extraordinarily difficult past 12 months. It makes me proud of all of you and proud to be EIC of PRWeek. The profession has really come of age.

The winning campaigns and honorees had diversity at their core, with women (Hyatt’s Kathy Krenger, Webster Bank, Sarah DeFilippis, Kathleen McManus), LGBTQIA+ (Microsoft’s Be the One) and ethnic diversity (Meharry Medical College’s From Marathon to Sprint, Crayola Colors of the World Crayons, Detroit Youth Choir, Agency Professional of the Year Lisa Osborne Ross and Young Professional of the Year Déron Marques) as central themes.

In a panel discussion during the ceremony with GM's global head of comms Craig Buchholz, Marques and his shortlisted peers showed the next generation of the industry is in good hands and will only build on the increased effectiveness and impact of earned media.

The work achieved genuine legislative and social change. They dealt effectively with crises (Clorox and Ketchum). They increased sales.

They demonstrated authentic brand and business purpose. They were genuinely integrated activations (Milk PEP’s Got Milk?). They utilized the incredible reach and potential of social media in its most positive ways (#GettyMuseumChallenge).

And they looked after America during one of the worst health pandemics in a century (Johnson & Johnson’s The Road to a Vaccine, Budweiser’s #OneTeam, Ford On the Line, Yelp data impact) and helped heal the country after 2020’s fundamental reckoning around race.

Our Communicator of the Year, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, was a worthy addition to our stunning roll of honor in this category. Her humble acceptance speech spoke to the incredible work the organization does – and continues to do – to address the growing issue of food insecurity in America. The coronavirus pandemic only served to exacerbate the crisis. You can watch an in-depth interview with Babineaux-Fontenot here.

Our awards show also featured great work being done to help citizens during COVID-19 by Lasagna Love, Mott Haven Community Fridge in the Bronx, and Dr. Ala Stanford’s pioneering efforts in the hardest-hit communities of Philadelphia through her Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.

PRWeek’s Campaign of the Year, The CROWN Act by Dove and Joy Collective (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), resulted in the passing of a bill in several states to outlaw hair discrimination and its continuing consideration in others. The work tackled an important topic that particularly impacts Black people in various aspects of their life and made real demonstrable change.

Unilever’s Dove brand also prompted legislative change and scored in Best in Influencer Impact for Men+Care’s Pledge for Paternity Leave, in partnership with its agency of record Edelman. After a Dads Day of Action the House passed legislation granting 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all civilian federal workers.

People often look to the Cannes Lions for the case studies that represent state of the art marketing and communications that will shape best practice. My contention is that the work honored and shortlisted in the PRWeek Awards is on just as high a level and bears close analysis and scrutiny for anyone wanting to excel in communications and storytelling.

This is a fantastic industry with amazingly talented and hard-working people within it. The 2021 PRWeek Awards demonstrated that in depth and in detail. Take a bow everyone!

* Listen to the latest edition of The PR Week podcast for the PRWeek editorial team's reflections on the 2021 PRWeek Awards.

* Join us at The Marcomms Club on Clubhouse at 7pm ET on Monday to discuss the awards, winners, work and impressive performance of the PR industry over the past 12 months.

* Register here to watch the PRWeek Awards ceremony on catch-up and access all the content on the platform, including case study videos of the best work.

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