#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!


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

2015 Winners of CIPR International’s Douglas Smith Student Award

This summer has been full of surprises, and it’s with great excitement and much squealing that I can announce that my team has officially won CIPR International’s 2015 Douglas Smith Student Award (eeeeeeeek).

HannahArianne and myself are thrilled that our entry was considered and in such a prestigious competition, were shocked that it was unanimously voted the best.

Here's a photo of my trophy. Just because.

The competition involved creating an international PR campaign either for or against an interactive contact lens (similar to Google Glass), and you could submit your entry alone or as part of a team.

I’ve worked with Arianne and Hannah in a team before and found that we work well together, having similar ideas and ways of working.  It made sense for us to team up to make our chances better, especially in an international award where the competition would be fierce.

Although I would like to show you all the winning entry, because we’ve very proud of the work we’ve created, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how important achievements like this are for students.

For anyone that works in or has studied Public Relations, you will know what a competitive sector it is.  Not only do you have to have the industry experience and knowledge, but go above and beyond anything that you have been taught.  Similar to any degree, future PR employers are looking for students that go the extra mile and demonstrate a willingness to commit to extra-curricular activities.

This is why competitions like the Douglas Smith Student Award are so important.  As well as demonstrating your enthusiasm for the profession and getting yourself noticed by the right people, they help you to challenge yourself creatively and strategically.

As well as getting to spend the whole day with Eva Maclaine, chair of CIPR International, we got to meet the lovely team at Press Ahead. I would like to thank Eva and Sally for being so accommodating and helpful, we heard some great stories about their experiences working in PR and their advice and guidance will be invaluable.

After our meeting we travelled to Newcastle for the launch of Northern Insight magazine and the presentation of our trophies. We had an amazing night and it was good to celebrate our success and connect with other people in the industry, such as the lovely Sarah Hall.

Sarah Hall, Eva Maclaine, Hannah Lennox, Me and Arianne Williams

If you’re a PR student I would encourage you to enter next year.  Even if you don’t win, an entry will look impressive in your portfolio and it’s a fantastic way to meet new people and learn new things.

I would like to officially thank the volunteers at CIPR International for organising this award and putting their faith in the next generation of PR practitioners.

After a great night celebrating our success I better leave it at that, but watch this space for another post about our entry and how we developed our winning campaign!

Double the Honours, Half the Benefits

This week I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of things.  As we’re coming up to Easter there’s been loads going on, from Professional Speed Dating events to CIPR competitions.  Somehow, despite my hectic schedule I still think I’m not getting the full benefits of studying Public Relations.

My main focus this week has been preparing my entry for the Douglas Smith Student Award, run by the CIPR. I really wanted to create a campaign, however, I was disappointed when I found out that I might not be able to enter due to the combined nature of my degree.

It took several emails back and forth and some checking and double checking before Eva Maclaine confirmed that I could take part.  My point is that if I hadn’t pushed and emailed and checked, then I might have missed out on the experience of creating my own campaign (a highly fulfilling one I might add).  Although I don’t want to reveal the entry just yet (in case anyone else is entering!) I found the whole experience highly rewarding and would recommend entering to any student who is considering it, but it is an opportunity I wouldn’t have ordinarily been granted for being a joint honours student.

Secondly, there was a professional speed dating event this week for Stage 2 and 3 students.  It involved coming along with a portfolio and meeting some of the key industry players in the North East with a view to setting up placement or work experience opportunities.  Even though I was really keen to take part, I wasn’t able to attend as I had no childcare.

I was really disheartened by this as so far all of the connections I’ve made have been via social media, and I feel like it’s important to show people my face and other work besides my blog and (limited) tweets.  From the sound of Hannah’s blog everyone had a great time, and I hope that I’m able to attend next year. In the meantime I’ll keep plugging away online and keep a look out for other events in my area.

Finally, I’ve been focussing a lot on my Public Relations work at the moment.  Between setting up our own agency, completing the Douglas Smith Award and my assessed campaigns I’ve been neglecting the English side of my degree.  Although, with post-Easter deadlines looming this is something I need to get back on top of. Even though I’m enjoying PR a lot more, I need to remember that my short term goal is to actually pass my degree!

So even though this is just a quick post this week, here are the lessons I’ve learned.

1. Fight for what you want.

2. Find other ways of making connections.

3. Remember your short term goals and not just your long term vision.

Hopefully after the Easter Break I’ll be more focussed, prioritised and back in control.