Read on for the penultimate instalment of PRWeek's countdown of the UK's best communicators of 2021, compiled by the editorial team. PR professionals are excluded – our focus is individuals from other walks of life, whether that's politics, entertainment, business or something else.
The list is, of course, entirely subjective, but we hope it contains a few surprises and plenty to think about. The winner will be published tomorrow, so stay tuned...
2. Pascal Soriot, chief executive, AstraZeneca
British-Swedish pharma multinational AstraZeneca has become an unlikely household name this year thanks to its role in developing an effective vaccine to counter COVID-19. The development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine – and making it quickly and cost-effectively available to much of the world – is arguably the finest moment in the history of the company, and one that has boosted the brand’s reputation in the eyes of the public, decision-makers and the business community. However, the vaccine has not been a money-spinner for the pharma company, because of its apparently ethically driven decision to sell the shots at cost, rather than making a profit like its vaccine-producing rivals Pfizer and Moderna.
At the head of this corporate success story sits Pascal Soriot.
Read: Communicators of the year 2021 (numbers 20-16)
Read: Communications of the year 2021 (numbers 15-11)
Read: Communicators of the Year 2021 (numbers 10-6)
Read: Communicators of the Year 2021 (number 5)
Read: Communicators of the Year 2021 (number 4)
Read: Communicators of the Year 2021 (number 3)
AstraZeneca’s chief executive has navigated the company through a row with European countries after the European Medicines Agency declared a link between the vaccine and rare blood clots, despite the agency continuing to recommend its use, and the European Commission threatened to sue AstraZeneca for delaying delivery of the vaccine.
In continental Europe, where vaccine scepticism and distrust of the AstraZeneca jab, in particular, is higher than in the UK, Soriot has pointed to low uptake of its vaccine as a reason for rapidly rising case numbers.
Meanwhile, Soriot has said he has “no regrets” about not making a profit from the vaccine so far, and that he was proud it had saved “millions of lives and hospitalisations, mostly in emerging markets”.
He defended a decision to move away from selling the jab at cost and toward “modest profitability” on orders next year, as COVID-19 enters what he described as the “endemic” phase, during which “we’re going to have to learn to live with it”. However, Soriot has promised that the company would offer tiered pricing for its shots, depending on a country’s ability to pay.
As if being at the helm of one of the most talked-about companies in the world because of its impact on the pandemic were not enough, Soriot has also shown that he can appreciate the wider picture for humanity. At the G7 summit held ahead of this year's COP26, he said: “The climate emergency is a public health emergency, for which there is no vaccine and no one is immune.”
The quote was not only a hard truth – and timely, as the attention of the world turned to the imminent COP26 meeting – but it also asserted Poriot’s position as a corporate leader who understands that his company does not exist in a vacuum.