Awards are more important than ever to noisily celebrate UK media
A view from Jon O'Donnell

Awards are more important than ever to noisily celebrate UK media

Judging the Campaign Publishing Awards over Zoom was uplifting.

It is going to take a healthy dose of agility, innovation and creativity to weather this particular stormy crisis.

We have seen difficult times before, but none as all-engulfing and uncharted as this one.

In recent weeks, I have been studiously assessing, then debating, the entries for this year’s Campaign Publishing Awards, having been asked to judge a number of categories.

It is always a great experience, but this year it was inevitably going to feel slightly surreal – not because of the "Zoom factor" or the lack of pre-session warm pastries (usually delicious…) and strong coffee, but because of the importance of recognising and celebrating a body of work created before the world fell off its axis.

As someone who has spent most of his career in publishing, these awards that recognise media owners have always been important, but no more so than right now.

Large parts of the sector were challenged before this crisis and now their very existence is being tested in some cases.

The human element of this is that many wonderful and talented people will face uncertain futures through no fault of their own.

Therefore, I believe that it is critical we noisily celebrate this great work, not only to champion those who have helped to create it but because it may well be the very beacon that leads us out of the dark.

We are an industry built upon optimism, positivity and a hunger for progress. This was writ loud and clear in many of the entries that I oversaw.

We were already pivoting and adapting our businesses – breaking out of silos and diversifying into new platforms, formats and territories.

The quality of creativity and innovation was evident; great ideas resonating with their audiences and delivering outstanding results.

These approaches don’t have a sell-by date and will be as relevant in the future as they were a few months ago, if not more so, in a post-crisis marketplace.

The best of these awards made me smile, they made me proud and they made me feel hopeful.

There is no question that there are going to be some unparalleled challenges ahead.

Deciding to launch my own exciting, new venture just before this all started has proved interesting timing (Viral Tribe, a media representation business initially specialising in connecting brands to talent, primarily in music and sport – thanks for asking). There will certainly be no easy route through for anyone.

We will all be forced to reassess how we work, but let’s not forget: pandemics don’t create change, people do.

Employers will have to work out the right balance between flexibility, safety and maintaining a strong culture for the business.

As my fledgling business grows, I will be looking to work with a community of talented remote workers in the first instance, rather than diving head first into an expensive plot in Soho, but this will absolutely not work for all.

The importance of building a team, a culture and a shared sense of camaraderie will be tough to replicate remotely and special thought will need to be given to how we on-board those joining our business afresh.

But as we look forward and focus on rebuilding, it is also important celebrate success.

The Campaign Publishing Awards ceremony may be virtual this year, but the effort, the work and the impact that winning will have is very real.

I hope you'll join me in raising a glass or two come the awards announcements on 17 and 18 June.

We do have reasons to be cheerful. Nice one, Campaign, for consistently highlighting that.

Jon O’Donnell is founder of Viral Tribe and former commercial manging director at ESI Media

See the shortlist for the Campaign Publishing Awards here

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