The ethical specialist team picked up their award on Wednesday night. But later on in the evening it emerged that it was about to go into administration, causing furious late-night bar talk among the other consultancies.
Koan PR suffered bad debts and this, coupled with losing a client in the construction sector and a sharp decline in sales, were the reasons given for administration.
The agency confirmed that it had made two staff redundant, although sources told PRWeek these staff were 'told to clear their desks a week last Friday'.
'It's a tough climate at the moment and although the plan was always to develop the business in this direction there's no doubt that it has been quickened by the current economic crisis', said MD Elaine Mitchel-Hill.
'These are difficult times for the industry and I would say that agencies need to make those uncomfortable decisions and take fast, decisive action to stay competitive, identify the unfolding opportunities and keep ahead of the game', she said.
Instead, Mitchel-Hill will launch a new virtual consultancy called Ethical Comms on 1 December. She said this was a more 'sophisticated business model' that was more capable of 'responding to the changes in market conditions.'
The CIPR only found out on the night that Koan PR was going into administration. Koan called the body the following day to explain the details. The judging took place in early August for work during the period July 2005 – July 2008.
'We are sorry to hear that Koan as a company may now have been hit by the economic downturn. This is an unfortunate sign of the times', said CIPR Director General and Convenor of the CIPR PRide Awards Judges Colin Farrington.
'It should not, however, detract from the success of Koan's team, who submitted earlier this year a three-year record of exemplary achievements to justify the CIPR North West Outstanding PR Consultancy Award', he said.