NEWS: Time to honour the unsung PR heroes who battle bureaucracy

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.

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

understood.



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.



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