Friends or foes? We’re choosing our standout personalities from 2020 – Do you agree?

by Dawn Strange

2020 is the year that no one saw coming. Throughout, there have been celebrities or well-known personalities who have stood out for one reason or another – good or bad!

Below, the Media Matters team has chosen a person from the year who has stood out for each of us and outlined why we’ve loved (or loathed!) them.

Who’s your standout personality from 2020?


Jonathan Van Tam – England’s deputy chief medical officer

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam has my vote. He’s become a bit of a legend for his use of colourful metaphors! But seriously, the fact he can cut through highly scientific information and relay it in a personable manner and everyday language that we can all understand is the essence of good communication.

His refreshing approach has won him a well-deserved following. He’s honest, transparent and no-nonsense. He doesn’t avoid or evade a tricky question; he says it as it is. A true PR man, in my book.

It’s been a terrible year but tuning in for a briefing with Jonathan Van Tam at the Downing Street lectern has made some of it that little bit more bearable.

My favourite soundbite so far: it has to be the football match analogy


Dominic Cummings – Political Adviser

As it’s panto season, here’s one of the political villains of 2020 (and let’s face it – there have been a few!) We had plenty to boo and hiss about at the start of the pandemic  which saw Dominic Cummings receive some extremely intense press attention following a flouting of the national lockdown rules  with a trip to Barnard Castle in County Durham to ‘test out his vision’.

The incident – which Wiki refers to as a ‘scandal’ – saw the press pack descending on his home, demanding answers to a super sensitive situation which angered many members of the  public.

Rather than answer questions under extreme pressure on the doorstep, he chose a carefully worded confessional during a press conference in the rose garden of Number 10.

While the thinking was perhaps to diffuse the situation in a staged managed setting, was he right or wrong to take this course of action; giving himself a time to reply under his own terms rather than blurting out ad hoc statements when confronted under pressure? Maybe it is a case of ‘after the (panto) horse has bolted!


Marcus Rashford – Manchester United Footballer

2020 saw Marcus Rashford step out from the shadow of scandals and questionable press tales cast over him by a trail of legacy UK football stars. Instead of placing himself in the centre of the media spotlight, he used it to bring the issue of UK child poverty into the forefront of the public’s mind. An issue often mistakenly solely associated with third-world countries, and not something suffered by families in one of the most developed nations.

Rather than merely paying lip service, his move was authentic, heartfelt and sat well in the culture of unity being fostered in the UK. The struggles faced by a large proportion of the public in the pandemic clearly led him to reflect on the hardship faced in his own upbringing. Marcus leveraged his social media following of 2.9m on Twitter, reminding them that 1.3m disadvantaged British children rely on free school meals but not all of them would be receiving support now that schools were closed.

The tweet snowballed into a public campaign and a letter to parliament backed by the Labour party and backbench Conservative politicians. The campaign forced Boris Johnson to make a U-turn on his previous decision to reject Marcus’ demands, instead releasing £120m to provide meals throughout the summer months.

Marcus continues to speak out, and I (along with countless others I’m sure!) feel that he has an exciting and important future ahead of him.

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A post shared by Marcus Rashford MBE (@marcusrashford)


Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool FC Manager

As a lifelong Liverpool fan, 2020 was finally the year I got to see my beloved reds lift the coveted Premier League trophy.

Through the topsy turvy season – from a runaway form at the beginning of the 19/20 campaign, through to the mid-season break due to the pandemic – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp showed true class and ability as a leader and inspiration to his team.

His persona and charisma led the way on the pitch, but his ability to man-manage his players, communicating with each one in a way he knows works, has come shining through in pictures from training and post-match celebrations.

Throughout the lockdown season break, he encouraged his players to have zoom workouts together (we have more in common than footballers than we thought!) and always kept their minds focused on clinching the Premier League title and the outcomes and successes of their hard work.


Jacinda Ardern – New Zealand Prime Minister

No political leader is perfect and I know that in the UK we will have a very filtered view of the New Zealand Labour Party, however, it’s undeniable that Jacinda Ardern and her government have stood out across the world this year with their incredible handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand began to take action as early as February 3rd and made headlines in March by tightening their borders to residents only and implementing a strict lockdown. Throughout the year they have continued to make headlines for their response, including managing to eliminate the virus entirely for a full 24 days in June and have been praised by the World Health Organisation for their efforts.

Jacinda is the world’s youngest female head of Government and has demonstrated the poise and grace that any leader should have on many occasions this year, including staying perfectly calm during a 5.6-magnitude earthquake on live TV and maintaining a sense of humour throughout. She also successfully led her party to landslide victory in the 2020 general election which she credited to her government’s response to the pandemic.

It has been an incredibly difficult year but throughout 2020 I’ve found the coverage of Jacinda and her government to be a refreshing change to the usual barrage of negative political headlines and a positive indicator that there are leaders out there who have done a much better job than we have!

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A post shared by Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern)


Joe Wicks – The Body Coach

What an inspired pro-active campaign to get the nation working out and staying fit during the pandemic! We witnessed a fitness personality evolve into a huge brand over a four-month period across the first lockdown and it was all so positive. For the greater good of the population, targeted at young families, Joe became affectionately known as the “Nations favourite PE teacher”.

Obviously, there was a benefit to Joe, and it’s been reported that his income levels rocketed in 2020, but in addition to that he raised over £200,00 for the NHS. It’s a fascinating example of adapting a business to a changing situation and staying as relevant as possible.

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A post shared by Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach)

Who is your standout personality of 2021?

Let us know over on our Facebook and/or LinkedIn pages! Whoever stood out for you in 2020, we would all probably agree that the real heroes have been, and continue to be, the NHS and frontline workers who have put our welfare before their own as we try to fight this pandemic. Media Matters, alongside the rest of the country, salutes these amazing people.

Here’s to a better 2021.

The Author

Dawn Strange

Dawn has been with MM since the year dot – well, technically, six months after it was born! That was back in March 1995. She was the first recruit and can honestly say she’s loved the journey to where we are today – and where we’re heading! Along with Karen, she runs MM, keeping it on track at the same time as exploring new business opportunities and pitching in on business development. Her passion is content, in its multiple guises. Having jumped out of journalism into the agency world she’s got a real thing about matching right content with the right audience, whether it’s 10 words of ad copy or a 2,000-word thought leadership piece.


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