Henry Playfoot, the winner of the 2016 Suzy Spirit Award joins the panel of judges in their quest to find two exceptional PR and comms professionals for 2017.
We met him to discuss all the things he’s been up to since he won, and to find out what he’s looking for in this year’s candidates.
We’re thrilled that you’ll be on the judging panel, what are you particularly looking forward to?
It’s a privilege to hear stories about people who make a difference in the lives of those around them, and seeing the respect and affection that people have for their nominees is very uplifting.
How did you feel when you found out you had been nominated?
A sense of disbelief, followed by embarrassment which gave way to feeling ever so slightly pleased with myself. That last feeling disappeared when I told my family and friends about the nomination and they said things like ‘Really? It’s definitely you, not some other bald guy called Henry?”.
What have you been up to since you won the Suzy Spirit Award last year?
As well as working on some great accounts, the biggest thing I’ve worked on was Claremont’s Purpose in Practice report, a serious piece of work looking at the risk of ‘purpose wash’ in the purpose-driven business world.
What made you choose a career in comms?
I’m not sure I did choose a career in comms – but once it chose me it felt like a good fit…
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your career?
Jo Yarwood, my first boss who ran what was then the Health Education Authority’s national immunisation campaign. She taught me that you can’t go far wrong if you put the thinking and time in, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Is there a quality you can spot in people just starting out their career that gives you an inkling that they’re going to be special?
It’s probably a willingness to go above and beyond what is asked of them – even with really simple tasks. And the people who are good to be around. They may not end up running the company, but they always do well.
What is the most important quality for a nominee to have?
Tough question. For me it’s probably kindness or compassion because these qualities lead to the actions that the Suzy Spirit Award recognises and embodies.
What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?
I like winning pitches where you’re the underdog. I feel very proud on those days.
During the nomination process you were praised for your ability to make everyone feel welcome and at ease, but how else have you been described by your colleagues at work?
I honestly don’t know. It probably varies. I try to be calm and open minded, and I do try to make people laugh. It’s important to see the humour, especially when the pressure is on.
Ben Caspersz, who nominated you, described you as “the man who lights up our lives”, do you care to comment on this wonderful accolade?
I can guarantee you that no one else will ever say that, or anything similar, ever again – I’m a 20 watt bulb.
Where can we take you for dinner, what’s your favourite restaurant ever?
It changes, but Jin Kichi in Hampstead is hard to beat. The food’s exquisite and the atmosphere is really special. I like great food in informal settings.
And what’s next for you?
I’ve reconfigured my professional life, and am now working part time for Claremont on strategic communication briefs and thought leadership work directly with clients, but I’m also helping people with pitch development through my consultancy agency Pitch Doctor. I’ve also been asked to join Carol Cone’s US-based Purpose Collaborative as senior counsel, so that might get interesting…
Finally, our favourite five very-important questions…
Twitter or Instagram? Twitter
Chocolate or crisps? Chocolate
Corrie or Eastenders? Neither
Beach or pool? Beach
Still or sparkling? Sparkling
This year, there are two categories for the award, so if you know someone extraordinary please nominate them today.