So what, you may ask, do I have to grumble about? Two companies I am
associated with - Hill and Knowlton and McDonald’s - ran off with
several top prizes at the PR Week Awards. A third, British Nuclear
Fuels, was shortlisted for writing excellence. The judges’ chairman was
my former No 10 deputy Romola Christopherson. Two more judges, Mike
Granatt and Hugh Colver worked for me in No 10. And a fourth judge edits
this journal which allows me to say what I like.
After this, I may seem churlish in criticising the entire awards system,
but I have long looked askance at journalism and television awards. You
only have a chance of winning, it seems, if you conform to a certain
radical, trendy, conspiracy theorist mould. It may also help if you look
and dress like a dolled up tramp and can be relied upon for a few
profanities when you collect your award. It is probably impossible to
win a ‘prestigious’ book prize if your work is readable and easily
It is true that last year I won an award - probably my first and last -
for this very column. But, bearing in mind some of the winning company I
had to keep that night, it only reinforced my prejudices.
Which brings me to this journal’s PR Awards. I regret that Grayling’s
shortlisted National Constipation Day did not become flushed with
triumph. But I begin to wonder about the whole business when Ulrich
Jurgens wins the European Communicator award for Greenpeace’s campaign
against the dumping of Brent Spar’s oil production platform in the ocean
deeps when his efforts to discredit this, the best environmental option,
were based on, to put it kindly, false information. This does nothing
for campaigning, still less for awards.
The chairman of judges, Romola Christopherson herself, also ventilated
another problem: the Government Information Service (GIS). ‘When I
reckon on my chance of a PR award, I think of hens’ teeth and flying
pigs,’ she said. ‘I am a prime candidate for a ‘PR Disaster Award’,’
revealing that her only gong so far is a framed scalpel from someone in
the NHS bearing the citation: ‘For cutting the crap’.
She is probably prouder of that than anything anybody else could give
her. But she has a point. The GIS, as a clearing house for other
people’s disasters as well as the Government’s own, seems to deal only
in PR failure. Yet I know how much mess its members prevent by their
professional vigilance. But that, by definition, has to remain unsung,
unrecognised and unrewarded.
No longer. I hereby offer an annual prize to the Internal PR Battler of
the Year who takes on the bureaucracy and wins. I don’t know how we’ll
judge it, but it’s a blow for justice.