1.) What’s the best podcast you’ve listened to this year? Why did it make for great listening?
Eleanor Willock: The Coming Storm. Just absolutely mind-blowing investigative journalism.
Rebecca Paddick: Other than the Mantis podcast, I’ve really enjoyed ESG Fitness. PT Emma Storey Gordon cuts through so much of the noise that’s online about diet and exercise, and shares her wealth of knowledge on how women can live a balanced, healthy life. I’ve been loving it!
Caitlin Crump: I’m not much of a podcast listener, but I’m a big fan of Abroad in Japan, where host and long-time Japan resident Chris Broad talks about his travel adventures – from why Japan still loves using floppy discs to why ‘business card etiquette’ is so important. Great listening while doing the washing up.
Faye Williamson: Bandsplain by The Ringer. I have a background of writing about music, in the form of song reviews and retrospective album pieces. Bandsplain does this in a podcast format, in the greatest detail imaginable, by inviting experts to explain the reasons behind the love for these artists. Hand-picked song choices are also sandwiched in-between discussions – great if you’re new to an artist. My favourite episode is one on Scottish band Cocteau Twins (which was technically released in 2021) but they’ve recently done a brilliant four-and-a-half-hour episode on classic 90s emo band Sunny Day Real Estate – a must listen for music nerds!
Martine Levene: This Wellness Unwrapped podcast is really interesting. The diverse interviews have made me feel very inspired and positive, especially through the winter months.
Luke Allsop: I must say, the Diary of a CEO podcast from business tycoon and Dragon’s Den investor Steven Bartlett is fantastic. The episode with Gary Neville was brilliant. He opened up about mental health, dealing with stress and life in the spotlight from his time playing football for England and Manchester United.
Anna Hennessy: The one I enjoy in my downtime is Hot Ones. The premise is that celebrities get interviewed by Sean Evans whilst they eat chicken wings with hot sauce. The celebs are always perplexed on how he knows certain facts whilst they get flustered as the spice progressively goes up a notch with each round. Sounds a bit odd but it’s really quite funny and you get to see a side of them that you don’t ordinarily get to see.
2.) What’s the best news story you’ve come across? What do you like about it?
EW: I didn’t like any of the news this year. So this Marina Hyde takedown of the Wagatha Christie case will do fine.
RP: The news is a bit of a tough read and watch at the moment, but when I think back to when Chloe Kelly scored the winning goal for England at Euro 2022, and the pure elation I felt watching the team hit the headlines in the weeks that followed, I think that’ll take the top spot for me this year.
CC: It’s so hard to pick just one… I’ll go with the most recent one that’s come to mind. Ash Ketchum has finally become the Pokemon Master after more than 20 years on the screen. That makes my nerdy millennial heart so, so happy.
LS: The Oscars slap, it’s the only headline I’ve read this year that’s stopped me in my tracks and made me really think about who the protagonist/antagonist was in the story, and this was in a year where we had three prime ministers. It sparked lots of conversations with friends and colleagues and I still don’t really know how to feel about Will Smith now. Very interesting from a PR perspective.
FS: Ash Ketchum winning the Pokemon world championship. When we think of news, we think of the events happening in our world. However, I loved how the news of Ash Ketchum, the lead character in the Pokemon series, finally winning the world championship was reported as a serious event. It’s been over 25 years since the first episode, and it shows how much of a cultural impact Pokemon has had on many, and our investment in the worlds created for us through art and entertainment.
ML: This MadeTech COPI piece, as it was so topical and had some interesting views from Hazel Jones.
LA: On the theme of sport and Manchester United, I’m going to go with the story of Portuguese international and now former United player, Cristiano Ronaldo. The media took Ronaldo apart after he fell out with the manager, Eric Ten Hag. Following this, Ronaldo decided to do an exclusive interview with Piers Morgan on his new Talk TV programme. The two-part interview went viral and Ronaldo discussed his unrest at United and in the end, the club was left with no choice but to release him, he’s now rumoured to be heading to a club in Saudi! The interview, and Piers’ scoop to get the exclusive, is being compared to that of Oprah Winfrey and the infamous interview with Prince Harry and Megan Markle.
AH: It’s hard to define the ‘best’ in all honesty as there has been so many major news stories that have dominated the headlines from political inabilities to Royal misfortune to geopolitical conflict to financial crises. However, if I was to keep lighthearted then I would probably cite the Daily Star’s coverage of the Liz Truss lettuce that famously outlived her tenure as a news story that made me chuckle.
3.) How about the best opinion piece or feature you’ve read? Why was it so compelling?
EW: This was published in 2021 but I only read it at the beginning of this year. The grief from 9/11 is so enormous, and this is perfect storytelling around how it changes shape, and how possession of it is different for everybody.
RP: I was quite fascinated listening to Richard Hammond recounting a story from his time in a coma, in 2006.
CC: Another tough one to narrow down, but this article on a man’s experience adopting a traumatised greyhound, and how it changed his life, really touched me to be honest. It reminded me of my own greyhound-adopting experience, how challenging it was welcoming a dog, who was terrified of everyone and everything, into our home. And how worth it it was!
LS: A bit of a cop out by not picking one piece (excuse the pun) but all the coverage from this year’s COP. It’s been really interesting watching attitudes to the event shift, as some view it as controversial or greenwashing. At university, many years ago, I specialised in following the way that the media reports on environmental issues, and it’s been fascinating to see the perception within coverage around it change from something along the lines of a conspiracy theory pedalled by ‘eco-maniacs’, to a very real and serious threat – the science particularly has become more of an issue, as has the very real impact climate change is having on some communities right now.
FS: ‘I love him so much I could cry’: adults who have cuddly toys. Continuing on with the big kid theme here. I am a soft toy fiend. This piece made me tear up as I too have my own inanimate fluffy companion – Ludwig the Panda – who means the world to me. It’s an unashamed and heart-warming look into how these toys provide comfort, company and a sense of consistency for people and those around them.
LA: A compelling opinion piece that I read this year was about one of England’s all-time greatest cricketers, Ben Stokes, about his battle with mental health, so much so that he temporarily withdrew from the game to concentrate on his well-being. This piece, alongside the documentary on Prime Video, is a must watch. He’s such an inspirational figure to me personally and even at the peak and powers of your career, you can be struggling so it’s vital to talk to those close to you.
4.) What’s been your best work-related achievement this year? This could be a great piece of coverage, a brainstorming session, etc.
EW: Watching so many Mantosians spread their wings onto new projects, and retaining a strong client base.
RP: I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities this year to do what I think I do best, and that’s create engaging and interesting content for our clients. From thought leadership pieces to case studies, I’ve loved the whole creative process.
CC: Being promoted to Account Manager has to be up there doesn’t it?
LS: After two years off due to Covid, finally having the opportunity to attend more meetings and events in person again and really enjoying it. I was worried at first that it would add extra pressure post Zoom and Teams or that I would have lost all my social skills, but so much of this industry is reliant on personal connections, and being able to put real faces to names and see how much growth we’ve had as a team in being able to communicate across multiple platforms, but particularly face to face, has been a joy.
FS: As I’m sure everyone else will say, it’s been a year of some great achievements and so it’s difficult to pick just one. However, I’ve had the chance to have two in-person client meets to hold campaign reviews and those were so fulfilling. It was a great feeling to present a range of achievements and see clients happy with the results – that happiness is the ultimate achievement I’ll forever be chasing.
ML: Securing ITV News coverage of Abbie Robinson, an OrCam ambassador.
LA: We secured some fantastic coverage for OrCam this year working closely with some of the UK ambassadors. We set up an interview with the Liverpool Echo who covered the story of OrCam Read user Emilio who was gifted a device. Meanwhile, our work with Abbie Robinson was covered by the Sunderland Echo and ITV News ran a segment interviewing Abbie after her two-gold medal wins at the Paraclimbing World Cup.
5.) And what’s your best personal achievement this year?
EW: Giving up sugar in my coffee. Purchasing some life coaching and listening to the results.
RP: I’ve been on quite a fitness journey this year, and I’m really proud of my determination and consistency. I’ve achieved much more than I thought I was ever capable of and feel the benefits every day.
CC: Becoming a second-stepper and moving to my dream cottage in the countryside, while very pregnant, has been both the most stressful event and biggest achievement ever I think!
LS: Learning to drive, but I haven’t passed my test yet, so I’ll put a pin in that.
FS: Although I’d already completed my course and received my final grade, being able to attend my graduation two years later brought me a renewed sense of personal achievement.
ML: Learning to ski.
LA: I scored my maiden fifty playing cricket for my local club, Stapleton CC. Although it was for the fourth team, I’ll take it!
AH: Apart from the personal bests I’ve achieved on my Peloton (the team groan) then I probably would say being able to travel again. As a family, we’ve really made up for the last two years and have absolutely loved making new memories and exploring new places. I think I was more thrilled than the kids at Disney!