#TBT – 2015 Douglas Smith Award

As today is throwback Thursday, I thought I’d indulge in a little reminiscing.

This week the 2016 Douglas Smith Student Award was launched by CIPR International.  Although I’ve already written a post about winning last year’s award, and one on the entry itself, I haven’t really written about what I learned from the award.  So for this week, I thought I would write a brief post with advice to help out anyone considering entering this year:

  1. Trust your instincts – last year I entered as a team with Hannah and Arianne. We decided straight away to enter together and didn’t have any doubts that it wouldn’t work, but if someone wants to work with you and you’d rather go it alone then go for it.
  2. Do your research – we must have spent the equivalent of around 200 hours conducting primary and secondary research for our campaign, and still managed to miss pieces out.  Make sure that solid research forms the base of your tactics.
  3. Remember that this is an international campaign – we were used to planning local level campaigns and thinking strategically on an international level took some getting used to.
  4. Presentation is everything – think carefully about how you want to present your campaign, last year we had a limit of 1500 words which was really hard to stick to.  That’s why we chose a brochure format, so that we could make use of lots of pictures (and make it look pretty).
  5. Pace yourself – April seems like a long time away, but it will roll around faster than you think.  We found it helpful to schedule our meetings into our timetables so that we could keep on top of the extra workload.  This also helped us to set manageable goals and timelines.

So there you have it, my top 5 tips for any students who want to enter for this year. However, I would also issue a friendly warning.  It is a lot of work, so make sure that you have time to do it and aren’t overstretching yourself.  I have a tendency to take on too much and even though I would love to enter this year, I don’t think I would be able to do so without having a breakdown.

That being said it looks excellent in your portfolio and is definitely worthwhile for improving your strategic planning skills.

Good luck!


Strategic Planning for Christmas

After months of research and planning, it’s almost time for the implementation of the ‘Christmas Strategy’.

Planning for Christmas with a toddler is like a military operation, it takes careful planning and timing to execute a successful day.  So I thought I’d share with you my list of reasons why planning for Christmas is like planning a Public Relations campaign.

1. Research is key

This includes speaking to other stakeholders (parents), desktop research (flicking through the Argos catalogue) and speaking to your target publics (asking your child what they would like off Santa).  It also consists of assessing your current situation and asking yourself important questions, such as:

How much space do we have in the toy cupboard?

Will Penny actually use this, or just play with the box?

Creating a situational analysis is essential for any parent wanting to get through the holidays in peace.

2. Planning is essential

Organising a timetable is a requirement for Christmas in our house to run smoothly.  Our family is huge and we have to co-ordinate visits to and from parents, grandparents and extended family.  I usually start planning an itinerary after Halloween so that people know where they stand and I have a clear idea of what I need to achieve and by when.

3. Stick to your budget

I often make the mistake of buying on impulse, especially so close to Christmas.  Don’t be drawn in by additional extras.  The reason that campaigns have budgets is to make them realistic and within the organisation’s means.  There is no point splurging extra on presents if you can’t afford the wrapping paper.

4. Crisis management

Your long lost auntie has just turned up on your doorstep, you don’t have a gift for her, what do you do? I tend to keep an emergency stash of generic presents and spare Christmas cards just in case.

Whether it’s a forgotten gift or burnt turkey, always have a contingency plan.

5. Sit back and evaluate your hard work

Now it’s time to relax, sit back and enjoy the event that you helped to create. If anything goes wrong, then you’ll know exactly what to do for next year….

Our Award Entry (or ‘How We Won’)

I thought I’d take some time show you all our (winning) entry for the Douglas Smith Award.  It took us months to put together and we’re all really proud of the finished product.  As the original entry was 2000 words, I’ve condensed it down quite a bit just to give a brief overview.

Side note: Please remember that we are still students and know that the campaign isn’t perfect, but we have responded to the brief to the best of our ability.

front cover
The campaign centered around a fictional company called ‘Technolenstrak’
The Brief:

Over the past decades technology has developed at an incredible rate and is now so deeply entrenched on our daily lives that it is now impossible to imagine life without it.

Wearable technology is a relative newcomer to the market and items such as Google Glass, Android Watches and various GPS trackers have the potential to make our lives easier and more practical. As the Internet of Things becomes increasingly intertwined with our lives, its proponents argue that such technology can enhance our lives.

Opponents on the other hand argue that the development of such technologies raises important ethical questions about the individual’s right to privacy. They claim that wearable devices have the power to alter our habits, that the idea of technology ruling our lives and, in some cases, making decisions on our behalf is sinister and a big price to pay.


To develop an international campaign for a fictitious company, ‘TecnoLensTrak’, wishing to launch new contact lenses, which can take photographs and track your health and activity.


To develop a campaign for a special interest group arguing against the new contact lens product, taking into account ethical issues and the individual’s right to privacy.

PLEASE NOTE: Both approaches must take into account the ethical positions.

As you can see, this year the competition was strongly centered around the ethical considerations of wearable technology, which has been a hot topic in PR lately (just check out Stephen Waddington’s blog ‘The Only Way Is PR Ethics‘).

From the outset we decided to be pro-technology, we thought that a lot of the other entries would be against based on the recent Google Glass controversies

The Research

I would say that overall we spent around 70% of our time on research, before we even began to think about strategy or tactics.  The secondary research alone was substantial, given the anti-tech groups and ethical considerations raised by the release of Google Glass.

As well as scouring the internet and newspapers we conducted our own primary research.  This involved an online survey and face to face interviews (if we had a chance to re-do the campaign I’d probably include a focus group).

Overall we found that the key issues that the public were concerned about are personal privacy (eg. people around them taking photos and videos), being conned into agreeing to terms and conditions and the storage of their personal information.

The Strategy

To change the perceptions of wearable technology by promoting the health, fashion and memory benefits to all publics.

We decided that to promote the product we would address the ethics of wearable technology by highlighting the benefits instead of focusing on the negatives.

The Tactics


As the brief didn’t specify the name of the lenses, we chose to name them IC to focus on individual usage rather than outward intrusion.  The IC brand is something that we wanted to make prominent throughout the campaign.


#ICMore is the umbrella concept behind the campaign.  We would use hashtags centered around this to promote each of the individual tactics.


#ICMemories focuses on the ability to create instant memories for personal use. We would hold a competition to launch the lenses. Entrants would describe the memories they wished they could have captured on video, with the best being shared on all social media platforms using the above hashtag.

For this part of the campaign we would also involve PewDiePie, Youtube celebrity and technology blogger.  We would give him his own pair of the lenses to review on his channel after release, but invite him to launch the product at the International FES convention.  We would also ask that he uses the lenses for a month prior to the event to help create a visual display of the photos and videos for the launch.  PewDiePie will also be asked to announce the winner of the #ICMemories competition.


#ICLife would allow people to challenge and share their fitness goals online. It would also promote the positive lenses, like glucose monitors and GP alerts, to demonstrate that the lenses are potentially life saving. We would also promote this by streaming positive news stories and case studies to targeted and specialist international media outlets.


#ICFashion We decided to highlight the individuality of the lenses by having international designer Hussein Chalayan place designs on the front of the product.  This would make the lenses visable to the public. Placing a design on the lenses would make others aware that information may be being collected and alleviating apprehensions that photos and videos are being taken without their knowledge.

The product’s release would coincide with the international Fashion Weeks so Chalayan could use the technology in his shows. Live streams from the models’ lenses would create an alternative perspective of the runway, showcasing the lenses capabilities. The audience would be encouraged to live tweet the show using #ICFashion.


To measure the success of our tactics we would regularly monitor and review the outputs by:

• Constantly measuring engagement through social media.

• Measuring product sales periodically.

• Monitoring the activity and messages of campaign groups.

• Analysing figures gained through the case studies.

• Conducting further primary research 3 months into and at the end of the campaign to measure the publics’ perceptions.

Ongoing review would ensure that we can adapt our tactics to suit the changing nature of the technology industry.

We decided not to include a budget in our campaign as the word count was really tight, and it would be very complex to cost out and explain in the short space we had.

Even though this is just a brief (yet somehow still lengthy) overview of our proposal, I hope that you’ll be able to see the hard work that we put into making it.

I would also like to stress again how much of a fulfilling process it was creating the campaign itself.   Not only did it test our teamwork skills, but challenged us creatively and strategically. I would definitely recommend any PR student to put themselves forward for any competition like this.

If anyone would like to see a full copy of the campaign proposal you can download it here:

Technolenstrak Proposal – Hannah, Lauren, Arianne

Do Kids and PR Really Mix?

As second year coming to a close there’s been a massive buzz around campus about work experience and placements.  With having a two year old, I’ve been really worried about re-entering the workplace after my degree is finished, even the thought of a placement is making me nervous.

In order to put my mind to rest I thought it would be a good idea to speak to some people in the industry, to talk about their own experiences and hopefully get some good advice when it comes to working in PR when you have kids.

I have been lucky enough this week to be able to talk to not one, but two PR professionals about life, kids and communication.

Jonathan Ward


Jonathan Ward - lecturer and freelance PR pracitioner
Jonathan Ward – lecturer and freelance PR pracitioner

Jonathan Ward co-founded the North East PR agency Publicity Seekers, but took a step back after having his youngest daughter (now six).  He now teaches Public Relations at the University of Sunderland and completes his own freelance PR work.

What was the hardest part of having kids and working in PR?

There were lots of challenges having a young family.  When we were setting up Publicity Seekers it was very tricky to develop a new business and juggle family life, but it was a case of priorities.  Family has always come first to me so it wasn’t hard to make the right choices, it was just a case of finding a good balance.

Were there any other aspects you found difficult?

There were days when the nature of the job and long hours meant there was some friction at home, especially while we were still getting into a routine.  There was also a lot of pressure, having a background in journalism meant that it’s engrained in me to meet deadlines.  Sometimes these could be unrealistic and at times Sam (Lee) had harsh expectations, but it was just because she didn’t understand what it was like at the time and we were both under a lot of pressure trying to get the agency off the ground.

Do you think it is the same for both men and women?

It depends on their individual drives and priorities.  Family has always been the most important thing to me and ultimately why I quit the business.

So why did you take a step back?

I found myself checking emails and social media on my phone when I was meant to be with my family.  There was one time we were having a walk in Castle Eden Dene (a local beauty spot) and I caught myself checking my phone, and it made me think about what I was doing.  I’m fortunate that I was able to get a teaching position and complete my own freelance work, it gives me loads more flexibility and means I have a decent balance between my home and work life.


Samantha Lee – Publicity Seekers


Samantha Lee - Managing Director of Publicity Seekers
Samantha Lee – Managing Director of Publicity Seekers
Sam has worked in PR for over 10 years after a successful career in Sports Journalism.  She co-founded Publicity Seekers and continues to work full time running the agency following the birth of her 14 month old son – Billy.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since coming back to work?

I only took 4 weeks off after Billy was born, with running my own business I didn’t have the luxury of being able to take a lot of time off.  If anything, having Billy has made me work smarter.  I’ll say to myself, “Do I need to be doing this?”, and it’s become a case of managing my time effectively and being more productive when I’m at work.  I make a lot of to-do lists now and have started meditating on a morning to clear my mind and focus on my priorities for the day.  I only get to see Billy for 2 hours on a morning and 2 hours on a night, and I don’t want that time to be interrupted by work, checking my email or social media.

So, would you say that you value your time at home more now?

Definitely, work can wait. It’s all about being present in the moment.  I had to learn that if there’s a choice between picking up toys that he’ll just pull out again tomorrow, or spending time with Billy, that the toys can stay on the floor.  I even get up and do work between 5 and 7am now, so that I can spend extra time with him on a morning.  Jonathan (Ward) would laugh because I used to be such a night owl, my routine has completely changed.

What would you say your biggest sacrifice has been when it comes to work?

I have to think hard about the benefits of attending evening events, because now I have to get a babysitter.  It means that I’ve missed out on a lot of networking events, but to be honest I didn’t always capitalise on these as much as I could have. Now, I have to make it worth my time and make sure that it’s worthwhile.

What benefits have you seen from working in PR and having a baby?

I don’t think I’ve seen any yet. It helps that having my own agency makes my day quite flexible, sometimes I  haven’t been getting to the office until 9 or 10am. It’s definitely made me work smarter and in the right frame of mind.  I’ve been reading a lot of motivational books, such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, to help me get into the right mindset.

After speaking to both Jonathan and Sam it has put my mind to rest.  I’m facing the same challenges as they were, as you can tell from my previous posts on time management. It’s reassuring to know that a career in PR with young kids can be possible, and that it’s just a case of working smarter and finding the right balance.

Why studying PR is Like Raising a Toddler

This week I’ve been feeling reflective. With everyone in my house being stricken with the dreaded ‘tummy bug’ I’ve had lots of down time and not a lot of motivation.  After spending so long in bed that I tuned out the TV, I started to think about my PR experience so far, and how having kids while studying isn’t always a bad thing.

I ended up coming up with this list of reasons that I think having a toddler has helped my in my studies so far.

1. Think long term


It might not be nice to deal with tantrums and tears, but by looking at the end result instead of focussing on the current situation you will get better results.  Some PR campaigns aren’t just about an instant ‘wow’ factor, some take months or years to see the results fully. If you’ve done your job right then the finished product will pay off.

2. Prioritise


Sometimes you have to leave the hoovering til tomorrow, or grab a quick shower instead of the nice, long bath that you need. The same goes with PR. Make a list of the things you need to do in order of importance and stick to it. If you don’t get a chance to reach the bottom of the list, don’t sweat it.

3. Enjoy the little things


This morning my little girl climbed into bed with me and we had a lovely cuddle for 10 minutes before we had to get up. It might not seem like much but having the 10 minutes set me up for the rest of the day.  Don’t underestimate the power of the little things, or personal touches in your PR campaigns.  People are more likely to respond positively if you show that you’ve thought about them.

4. Be prepared


Sometimes you have to be a mind reader. The amount of things you need to bring with you when you have a child is unreal. Just when you think you have everything you need you’ll get to your destination to be met with, “where’s my teddy mammy?” The same goes for PR, if you do your best to prepare for every eventuality then you’re less likely to be met with objections or surprises, and if you are then you’re ready to handle them.

5. Be creative


Sometimes you have to think outside the box, and sometimes it’s the simplest things that work. We can spend hours in our house playing with crafts, clothes pegs, boxes and our imaginations.  In PR you can’t be afraid to be creative and try different things.

As you can see, having kids isn’t always a drawback when it comes to PR. The skills you get from being a parent, such as, creativity, organisation and creative thinking can be an asset in the Public Relations industry. While it’s not always easy I’m hoping that as my learning continues I can apply more of the skills I already have to Public Relations.

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