There is some phenomenal up-and-coming talent in today’s marketing and business development (BD) teams across the professional services sector. The proof of that is in the outstanding standard of nominations for Totum’s Rising Star Award 2023. Our expert panel of judges had a hard job choosing a winner – but one candidate stood out for her ‘hard work, tenacity and infectious enthusiasm’.

Many congratulations to our Rising Star Award Winner 2023: Amy Groark, Senior PR Executive at Gerald Eve.

In addition, a huge well done goes out to Naomi Jones, Business Development Assistant Apprentice at Shakespeare Martineau, whose nomination was Highly Commended.

We ask Amy and Naomi how it feels to achieve such recognition in these early stages of their careers.

Rising Star Award Winner 2023: Amy Groark, Gerald Eve

Amy knew that she had been nominated for Totum’s Rising Star Award 2023, but this in no way dampened her surprise or delight on hearing that she’d won the overall prize. Considering her role in PR encouraging others to promote their successes, it seems fitting that the spotlight should now have found Amy herself. ‘I always tell other people to go for these awards,’ she says. ‘When I was told the firm wanted to put me forwards for this one, I thought I better do it!’

Amy joined real estate consultancy Gerald Eve at a pivotal moment in its growth. While positioned as leading experts in the built environment, there was a cultural hesitance to embrace PR to spread the word and embed this reputation. The firm’s marketing and BD team was expanding, and the firm was enjoying phenomenal financial results. The challenge was to step up on the PR side. Amy quickly became a vital part of the PR solution.

Brought in as a junior PR and Marketing Communications Executive in September 2021, she soon proved pivotal to managing the firm’s PR strategy and requirements. She successfully built relationships across the firm, supporting business groups to understand and engage with PR activities, while also managing the integration of a new external PR agency and taking on major internal communications projects, including around moving to the firm’s new headquarters.

From a firm that had been relatively shy in its approach to PR, colleagues describe Amy’s impact on the firm’s outlook as ‘sudden and infectious’; before long, business group heads were inundating her with ideas and requests for her time to develop executive press releases, thought leadership and comprehensive PR plans from across the firm. Within just 12 months, she established herself as a vital member of the team, taking on responsibilities far more senior than her junior title implied. Promotion soon followed, as she was made Senior PR Executive in January 2023.

‘I think I was able to make a success of things so quickly because of the trust the firm put in me,’ says Amy. ‘PR was new to them, so they were happy to accept a bit of trial and error in my approach and I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. Everyone here was keen to pass on worthwhile lessons and I learned so much from them.’

She clearly brought plenty of her own capabilities to the table too. Prior to joining Gerald Eve, an early role in general marketing gave her an understanding of the bigger picture. ‘It was just what I needed at the time, because it helped me see how things work and how to approach different people,’ she says. ‘A role in PR can work straight off, but that previous experience taught me so much, even in areas (like events) that might not at first seem that aligned with PR. It was all so useful.’

Beyond experience, she is gifted in building a rapport that underpins trusted relationships – or as a colleague said in her nomination, ‘the intelligence, efficiency and proactivity with a straightforward and positive disposition that make her a pleasure to work with.’

From a firm that had not previously invested in its external communications, Amy has succeeded in making PR core to the planning of every team, and individuals across the business want to work with her to drive their part of the firm’s success story forwards. ‘There’s a lot of work coming my way now and many people have become part of the conversation,’ she says. ‘From here I want to focus on further streamlining processes and empowering people to take up the mantle themselves – having the confidence to do more of their own comms so that I can oversee the overall strategy.’

With her credibility assured as a PR Executive with clout, we have no doubt that Amy has an exciting career ahead. We wish our Rising Star Winner 2023 every good fortune for a bright future.

Highly Commended: Naomi Jones, Shakespeare Martineau

Naomi Jones had no idea she’d been entered into the running for Totum’s Rising Star Award 2023. When she received an email from Totum, saying ‘you have been nominated’, she initially thought it was some kind of scam. But her manager revealed all and when the judging panel then chose her for a ‘Highly Commended’ award, Naomi admits she cried ‘big ugly tears’ of delight.

Naomi joined Shakespeare Martineau’s marketing and BD team in October 2021 as a BD Assistant Apprentice, beginning a level 3 Business Administration apprenticeship course. It was an entirely new assistant position, and the first time the firm had recruited an apprentice in the team. Despite having no previous B2B or professional services marketing experience, Naomi was credited with fast becoming a core member of the team – in a role that the firm says it could not now do without.

For Naomi, a key to success was finding her niche – in particular, getting involved in critically important CRM projects involving key stakeholders across the firm. ‘I’m a bit of a data nerd – I did a 10-week data course in lockdown learning about Python, PowerBI, SQL and R, and I knew it would be really useful/relevant for marketing teams,’ she explains.

From day one at the firm, she showed a keen interest in CRM and increasing user adoption, going above and beyond to improve her understanding of the system, data cleansing, creating dashboards and data visualisation, streamlining processes and conducting training. And that was besides undertaking many other BD projects, such as conducting and presenting research to partners on prospective clients.

A further stand-out aspect of Naomi’s nomination was her personal growth journey. As a new recruit she was shy and apprehensive. But she was always keen to help and get stuck in – a quality no doubt helped by the fact that she was used to hard work and tough deadlines, getting up at 4am to work in the bakery section of a café when she was 19.

This strength of character led to speedy and determined self-development, as she put herself forwards for opportunities that were hugely beneficial but beyond her comfort zone. Her team now describes Naomi as a confident team member who works and communicates effectively with partners and team members at all levels.

‘Naomi has flourished over the last year from being too scared to share her ideas to becoming one of the key drivers of innovation in the team: making life easier for our fee earners and ultimately creating value for our clients. Often we make the mistake that confidence is an ingrained quality or personality trait but it’s not. Naomi has worked hard on her development and proactively sought feedback and support to ensure she can excel in her role,’ says one of many colleague testimonials in her nomination.

‘I still get nerves,’ says Naomi. ‘But I have far more belief I can do it now and that’s because I know I’m in a safe environment. Everyone here is rooting for me.’

Her advice to others is simple. ‘If you’re interested in doing something like I have done, run head long into it,’ she says. ‘Find your niche and don’t give up on your goals.’

We hope this well-deserved Rising Star recognition will help Naomi to continue to meet every goal she sets in the years ahead.

A huge well done to Amy and Naomi – and to all those who participated in this year’s competition. If you would like to know more about the Rising Star Award, contact Sarah Broad, [email protected]