Celebrations are in order for two final year Public Relations students from Leeds Beckett University who have been awarded the Grayling Prize 2021. Elettra Pomilio and Jack Snell scooped the top prize after pitching an integrated PR plan in response to a UK-wide brief for an outdoor toy brand as part of their university studies.

The prize, the result of an annual partnership between the university and global PR agency, Grayling, sees a shortlist of students take part in a professional pitching process to develop valuable work-based experience. In a first for the competition, Elettra worked remotely from Spain during her final year due to lockdown, rehearsing and pitching remotely with her fellow student colleague, Jack Snell who is based in the UK.

With Covid-19 triggering the shift to remote learning and working, workplace opportunities have become even more important for students graduating this year. This was recognised for this year’s prize, with half of the University’s final year PR students making it through to the final round of the competition to virtually pitch to representatives from Grayling via Microsoft Teams.

Jack Snell, one half of the winning duo said: “When developing our PR proposal, we knew we had to respond quickly to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and consider the implications of what we could deliver in line with the brief. While working together remotely wasn’t always easy, it certainly replicated the efforts of the wider PR and Communications sector during the past year and I’m thankful for the opportunity presented by the Grayling Prize – it’s given me further tangible work experience that has anchored my University learning into application.”

Elettra Pomilio added: “The challenge of working across international borders remotely became empowering in that we found a way to work together productively under the most difficult of circumstances. It has given us both the confidence that we are ready to embark on successful PR careers following our graduation. We’re incredibly grateful to both Leeds Beckett University and Grayling for adapting the competition and hosting it remotely to reflect the day-to-day business continuity that both organisations have been delivering throughout the pandemic.”

Four final stage teams were judged by Katie Eborall, Director and Head of Grayling North, Sarah Gough, Associate Director, and Kay Brown, Account Director, with points scored across wide-ranging criteria including research and creativity, presentation skills, business awareness, and use of both traditional and digital PR tactics.

Katie Eborall, Director and Head of Grayling North, said: “The standard of entries for the Grayling Prize continues to increase year on year and we were impressed by all of the pitches delivered in 2021, not least because they were all presented remotely. Elettra and Jack’s realism, attention to detail, mix of traditional and digital PR tactics, and enthusiasm were clear to see – it went far beyond the computer screen we interacted through, and they were worthy winners. We hope that the Grayling Prize provides the springboard for a career in PR both students are looking for and that they experience the success awarded to former winners of the competition.”

Professor George Lodorfos, the Dean of Leeds Business School, added: “For the Business School, connecting and supporting the regional economy and international business community is vital and this year’s Grayling Prize has continued to highlight how valuable it is for our students to apply their learning in real workplace situations. Our relationship with Grayling offers our students so much to be proud of with the benefits to graduates’ employability evident for over 20 years. We’re proud of the work delivered by all of the students that pitched to the Grayling North team and are excited to see where their career paths take them next.”

For more information on the public relations and marketing courses available at Leeds Beckett, visit www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk