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The Drum Awards for PR recognizes excellence in the PR and communications industry, celebrating the professionals that guide the communications of companies, governments and organizations. Ahead of judging the 2021 awards, the chair of this year‘s jury, Tamara Pickett, group communications & external relations director at Virgin, spoke to The Drum about lessons from the pandemic, the biggest changes in the media landscape, and sending Richard Branson to space.

The awards are still accepting entries – to request an extension please <a href=“https://www.thedrum.com%E2%80%9Cmailto:award.extensions@thedrum.com%E2%8... in touch here</a>.  You can also <a href=“https://archive.thedrumprawards.com/the-drum-pr-awards/the-drum-pr-award... out last year’s winners</a> for inspiration.</p>

The growth and success of the PR industry is largely dependent on the needs and expectations of clients, which of course relies on the performance of other industries. When budgets were cut during the Covid-19 pandemic, many in communications were not prepared. “We spend our whole life as comms professionals doing crisis communications, preparing for worst-case scenarios,“ says Pickett. “But in reality, how many teams were ready for a pandemic of this size? We spend a lot of time crafting beautiful strategies, looking at the years ahead – this year brands wanted to completely rework what they stand for.“

She adds that agencies have to take steps to protect themselves, to be prepared should another disastrous year happen. “We have to realize we could be in this situation again in the future. Because of budget cuts we have seen job losses, we‘ve seen whole agencies disappear.

“It‘s more important than ever to demonstrate return on investment. How do we make our campaigns and our comms work harder? And how do we demonstrate that return to our senior teams internally, and showcase the vital role that comms can play? And how can we show that on relatively small budgets, we can achieve a huge amount?“

For brands, Pickett believes, the challenge is to find purpose that resonates with your audience. “It‘s more important now than ever before that we really show our purpose as brands. So what do we stand for? How are we going to give back?“ She recalls successful campaigns that emerged during the pandemic. “Pret a Manger, for example, supporting workers on the front line, or Marcus Rashford and his school meals campaign – they really hit the spot in terms of what the public wanted to see at that point. So it has been a challenging time, but there are clear lessons we can take forward to the future – to really set ourselves up for success.“

Watch the full interview on our YouTube channel.