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The Big Issue wins four industry awards for Covid response

The organisation was awarded the PPA’s Best Response to Covid-19 Award, Campaign of the Year, Team of the Year and Innovation of the Year.

The Big Issue has been awarded four industry awards for its response to the coronavirus pandemic from the Professional Publisher’s Association.

After a year in which hundreds of vendors were unable to sell the magazine due to coronavirus restrictions, The Big Issue won the PPA’s Best Response to Covid-19 Award, Campaign of the Year, Team of the Year and Innovation of the Year.

Judges praised The Big Issue for being “able to pivot every single aspect of its business very quickly. Even without taking into consideration the positive social impact of this brand, this entry stood out as an impressive example of agile digital transformation, undertaken at short notice, with very little prior experience of this in the business, and to great success.”

They also praised The Big Issue’s “simply outstanding” marketing and communications team for their speed and use of outreach and endorsement, which “not only ensured the survival of the Big issue but ensured it will go from strength to strength”.

Big Issue editor Paul McNamee said:” To win four national awards is a phenomenal result. It’s a great way to mark the creativity and hard work of everybody at The Big Issue. When last March we faced the darkest moment of our almost 30 years existence, everybody stood up.”

The vendors who sell The Big Issue magazine are people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, buying copies from the social enterprise for £1.50 and selling them in their local communities for £3.

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But Big Issue staff were forced to reinvent the brand’s business model almost overnight after the prime minister announced pandemic restrictions in March 2020.

The social enterprise launched an app and online subscriptions linked to vendors through a vendor map, as well as selling the print magazine in high-street stores for the first time, to keep revenues flowing while offering its vendors ongoing support when they were unable to sell The Big Issue on the streets.

The vendor map not only helped those during a time of major crisis, the PPA judges said, but “ it is a long-term tool that will allow The Big Issue to continue to deliver on its mission to dismantle poverty.”

By February 2021, and through successive lockdowns, more than £1 million had been given to vendors in the UK as The Big Issue website broke successive records for visitors through the publication’s mix of breaking news, high-profile interviews, cultural coverage and self-help articles to dismantle poverty and create opportunity.

McNamee added: “The resolve and determination and bank of ideas from across this incredible organisation powered us through. We thank those who backed us, who subscribed, who bought The Big Issue for the first time in shops, who bought online, who donated, who did so much to keep us around and to help our vendors. It is for our vendors that we do this work and it is to them that the awards are dedicated.”

Judges said they were “astounded by the impressive results of the campaign which was launched at lightning speed by a team of only four people.”

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