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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.

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Virgin is renowned for grabbing its fair share of PR headlines – most recently, it sent company founder Richard Branson into space. Where did that idea come from – and does Pickett think it was a successful mission? “Space will have so many benefits for people on earth, so that has been one of our key focus areas. The teams at Virgin Galactic and Virgin Group did a fantastic job with content to bring that to life visually as a very beautiful experience.

“We‘ve had some challenges along the way, we‘ve had to adapt our strategy, the fact that we could actually do the spaceflights in July, and have such a wonderful experience in cosmos and we were incredibly fortunate. It took years of research and testing by the teams at Virgin Galactic to get to the flight. Obviously it was an incredible success. For us, it was really exciting to be part of it. How many teams around the world have the chance to work on space?“

The communications teams have been essential to supporting other parts of the business, especially those impacted by the pandemic. “We have businesses that are involved in the travel industry – cruise ships, planes, hotels – and it has been tough. The teams have done a fantastic job of really bringing those industries back to life at the right time, once government guidance changed.“

During the pandemic, the wider Virgin brand wanted to focus on giving back as a brand. “We had employees from Virgin Atlantic working on the front line around vaccinations, teams at Virgin Orbit and Virgin Galactic, we‘re creating oxygen masks and ventilators to help people.“ Of course, that‘s where the PR team came in. “We quickly realized that we needed to let people know what were doing – we created some really nice online content around it.“

Watch the full interview on our YouTube channel.