A celebration, a mourning and a full decade of PR contrasts

A celebration, a mourning and a full decade of PR contrasts

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

This week, I was fortunate to pick up the PR Personality of the Year accolade at the PRCA Awards. The award was ultimately decided by public vote, following a PRCA shortlist (how I feel for those X-factor and Strictly celebs), so a huge thank you to all those industry colleagues and peers who kindly supported me.

Winning this award brought back memories and highlighted contrasts within the public relations industry from another highly memorable PRCA Awards ceremony. A decade ago, I picked up a similar award – for best ‘old’ PR professional at a PRCA event on September 11th 2001. Soon after collecting my award, at about 2pm, chaos began to erupt. Some “geeky” PR folk (largely tech PRs, ahead of the personal technology curve, as ever) were getting texts about the events unfolding in New York. News got around verbally, in the main; the awards ceremony concluded early and the room emptied fast.

It is incredible to remember that – just 10 years ago – texting was geeky and a relatively new phenomenon. By contrast, at this week’s PRCA Awards, everyone was texting and being tweet-tastic, with smartphones littered on every table. For these PRCA Awards alone, there were over 5,000 tweets including a live commentary on the night.

Going back to the 11th September 2001, we were glued to our monitors in disbelief, watching the repeats of the falling towers on CNN over the internet. It was the first time many people had watched video news over the internet. Bandwidth crashed and PCs froze under the strain.

What a contrast to today’s world, where we film, edit and upload videos for our clients (and ourselves) without hesitation, and anyone can develop and build his/her own video content channel.

And how the PRCA Awards have changed! In 2001, the ‘PRCA Frontline Awards’ was a relatively modest event – perhaps 300 attendees, mainly for frontline executives (the under-30s); definitely agency-only, no celebrity presenters, culminating in a few drinks and a light lunch buffet. By contrast, this week there were 900 PR industry people dressed up to the nines, at all job levels, in-house as well as agency, partying the night away at the London Hilton.

The champagne flowed freely on the night, although we are in a very different economic climate, and it seems the desire for gongs, recognition, celebration and a rip-roaring night out is as strong as ever. There were tables in the aisles and walk ways -- it was packed. The ticket applications were over-subscribed with 100 people were on a waiting list, many of them short-listed entrants.

Personally, I don’t see the hunger for awards changing for a very long while, so the PRCA should book a bigger venue for next year.

Do you judge agencies by the awards they win? And if you don’t enter, or don’t rate industry awards, why not?

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