PRWeek UK Communicators of the Year: who (narrowly) missed out?

Narrowing down all of the UK's best communicators over a year to just 20 names has been a daunting task.

Clockwise from left: Melanie Sykes, Richard Ratcliffe and Tyrone Mings (all pictures via Getty Images)
Clockwise from left: Melanie Sykes, Richard Ratcliffe and Tyrone Mings (all pictures via Getty Images)

As always, the limit on numbers means some deserving individuals are excluded.

Among them are Shani Dhanda, the prominent disability campaigner and founder of the Asian Disability Network, who has continued to highlight injustice this year. And through media appearances for his book Jews Don't Count, comedian and author David Baddiel has put forward a powerful case for how society fails to take antisemitism seriously.

Similarly, Sathnam Sanghera has helped kickstart discussions about the British Empire with his book Empireland and TV series Empire State of Mind (as a journalist, Sanghera is excluded from the list, which is for people who don't work as journalists or comms professionals*).

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)

Read: Communicators of the Year 2021 (number 2)

Read: Communicators of the Year 2021: The list in full

There was a case to include more footballers in the top 20. Contenders included Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, for his vocal support of LGBT rights and of taking the knee; and Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings, for his statements on racism, and especially the defender's takedown of Home Secretary Priti Patel, who he accused of hypocrisy after black players were subjected to racist abuse after the Euro 2020 final.

In the end, we decided to limit the number of people from football in our list to two (namely Gareth Southgate and Marcus Rashford).

It's noticeable that no politicians make the top 20 this year – 2020's list included Sir Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and Andy Burnham.

Frankly, few UK politicians stood out as having a breakthrough year for their communications skills in 2021. That said, possible contenders included Alok Sharma, Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and President of COP26, whose tears at the news that the summit's environment deal had been watered down after late interjections from India and China seemed to summarise the mood of many.

And Labour frontbencher Jess Phillips has continued to be an effective communicator on the topic of domestic violence against women, as well as taking the government to task on PPE 'cronyism'.

Among campaigners from 'ordinary' backgrounds who could have made the list are Ian Russell, father of Molly Russell. He received a lot of publicity after accusing Instagram of contributing to the death of his daughter, and has since campaigned for social networks to do more to take down content promoting self-harm and suicide.

Another citizen who has engaged the media in a personal campaign with wide ramifications is Richard Ratcliffe, husband of the Iranian-British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in Iran since 2016. Ratcliffe held a 21-day hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in London in October and November, which led to a debate in Parliament.

A late contender for the list is Melanie Sykes, the TV presenter who has received plaudits and a lot of coverage for how she has discussed her recent autism diagnosis in positive terms.

“It’s fantastic, that’s why I’m celebrating it," Sykes told Hello! magazine. "I’ve always felt different to other people and how they think and operate, but now I know it’s because I’m autistic it makes me feel validated as I understand why."

On a lighter note, we were tempted to include movie stars Ryan Reynolds and Tom Cruise. Both have brought Hollywood glamour to these shores in 2021 – Reynolds for generating huge excitement (and some bemusement) around his new co-ownership of Wrexham FC, and Cruise for popping up around the UK (at an Indian restaurant in Birmingham, in a helicopter in someone's Warwickshire garden) while filming the latest installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Unfortunately, the "UK" element of the project scuppered their chances – sorry, guys.

Who else did we miss from the top 20? Drop me a line at john.harrington@haymarket.com or tweet me @john_harring.

*The exception to the 'no PR professionals' rule this year is Jamie Klingler, who made the list for her work with the Reclaim These Streets campaign rather than for her 'day job' in comms.

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