The Ethnic Minority Media Awards (EMMA) are the brain-child of
Bobby Syed, founder of Hearsay Communications, who has wide experience
of cross-cultural PR campaigns.
He wanted to establish an event that celebrated the contributions of
ethnic minorities in the UK’s predominantly white media industry. But,
to avoid accusations of tokenism, he was keen to place professionalism
and creativity before issues of race and colour.
At the end of last year, NatWest came aboard as the main sponsor to
demonstrate its commitment to a multi-cultural society and its position
as the leading bank for ethnic minority owned small businesses.
To actively support and reward the talents of ethnic minority
individuals working in the media as business professionals. In addition,
the organisers wanted to create recognition of the growing consumer
power of the ethnic minority markets and the need for cross-cultural
The success of EMMA was dependent on keeping the awards both apolitical
and unbiased towards any one community. To achieve this, the PR team let
the participants decide who the nominees would be. In addition, the
event gained a broad base of patrons including Lord Archer, Body Shop
founder Anita Roddick and LSE’s Lord Desai.
At the end of last year, Hearsay created a database of over 2,000 ethnic
minority media professionals working across the board, from advertising
to community radio. In January, these individuals received an EMMA
mailshot, with an entry form for nominations. Every submission was then
assessed by a panel of judges including Ajab Singh, creative group head
of Saatchi and Saatchi and Ekow Eshun, editor of Arena magazine. The
winners of the four ethnic minority media professional categories, were
decided by televote.
Additional publicity carried out by NatWest helped win mainstream
support for the awards ceremony fronted by writer and broadcaster,
Darcus Howe and Sky TV presenter, Lisa Aziz at the Dorchester Hotel on
The awards gained more than 300 nominees and over 400 attendees on the
night, including celebrities such as Tessa Sanderson and England
cricketer Mark Ramprakash. Winners included Joe Bloggs managing
director, Shami Ahmed, the Guardian’s Maya Jaggi for Best Written
Feature, and Simon Woolley, for his Operation Black Vote PR
The event attracted media coverage ranging from Radio 4 - which
interviewed BBC TV’s Martin Bashir, winner of Best Visual Journalist -
to the Times and New Statesman. Ironically, despite many regional
minority newspapers carrying coverage, the PR team were unable to find a
cuttings agency that offered a full ethnic media service.
The awards were an undoubted success gaining written endorsement from
broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby and both the prime minister, Tony Blair
and Tory party leader, William Hague. Some media coverage did throw up
criticisms of a ’ghetto mentality’. But other issues such as the value
of professional merit over positive discrimination were also
NatWest PR officer, Sandra Paul says her organisation was so pleased
with the results that it is looking at proposals for next year’s event
on 27 May 1999.
Client: NatWest Bank
PR Team: In-house and Hearsay Communications Worldwide
Campaign: The launch of the first annual Ethnic Minority Media Awards
Timescale: January - May 1998