A Career Defining Day

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CIPRThere are moments in your career that are professionally defining. The traditional markers of success on the conventional career ladder: graduation, your first job and coveted promotions are important milestones but they’re not always the moments that matter.

Ask a PR consultant on the brink of retirement about their career highlights and you’re more likely to hear about their nausea-inducing first pitch; the campaigns and work they’re most proud of; the characters they’ve met along the way and the people that inspired them to achieve their best.

CIPR President, Sarah Pinch

CIPR President, Sarah Pinch

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with senior PR practitioners from across Northern Ireland at a round table event with CIPR president, Sarah Pinch. Sarah was in Belfast for the CIPR Northern Ireland AGM last night, at which I was proud to be elected vice chair/chair elect of the CIPR NI for 2015.

It was a day that was professionally defining for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, I was inspired to see a collection of senior PR professionals sitting around a table, engaged and discussing issues that are important to our industry with our CIPR president. It was a pleasure to be amongst these people – my peers – to discuss and debate the challenges we collectively face, not just regionally but nationally and internationally.

Sarah Pinch wants the CIPR to be seen as the standard bearer for PR professionals, in terms of training, ethics and qualifications. She is campaigning to improve the professionalism of the industry and is particularly passionate about equality and levelling the playing field in terms of the current gender pay gap and flexible working.

She spoke passionately at our round table event and to members at last night’s AGM about her vision for the CIPR. It meant a lot – not just to me but to everyone present – to have the president of our professional body come to Belfast and to speak so candidly about the issues and challenges facing the industry. It was more than just a rousing speech though. There’s meat on the bones of Pinch’s manifesto. Building on the excellent work of past president, Stephen Waddington in 2014, she has real plans to implement positive change.

On the Northern Ireland committee of the CIPR, I find regular inspiration. People have given and continue to give freely of their time to work in a voluntary capacity to further and develop the industry for themselves and their peers.

Our colleagues, Gary McKeown, Lisa Hamilton-Sturdy, Suzie Fisher and Charlotte Richardson stepped off the committee last night after each playing an integral role in the CIPR in Northern Ireland over the last five plus years and were commended for their respective roles as past president, treasurer, secretary and PR officer. In addition to the election of our new CIPR NI 2015 chair, Samantha Livingstone, and my own election to vice chair, our colleagues Seona McGrath and David Young were elevated to the positions of secretary and treasurer and Sarah Monahan and John Megaughin were elected as new and very welcome members of the Northern Ireland committee.

One of our fellow committee members, Leanne Reilly was also deservedly honoured with the Chair’s Award in recognition of her great work engaging the voluntary and community sector with the CIPR in Northern Ireland. Leanne and so many other local committee members, past, present and far too many to mention have made such a valuable contribution to our industry.

Sarah spoke about the great personal and professional benefits she has experienced through her involvement in the CIPR, at a regional level and now as the president of the Institute. I saw a lot of my own experience (albeit over a much shorter time) in her words. Collaboration and working with your peers is nothing to fear. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by networking and working with other like-minded professionals.

Being involved in the CIPR NI committee has been hugely rewarding for me, on both a personal and professional level to date. Working alongside our newly elected 2015 chair, Samantha Livingstone, our past chair, Chris Love (who will serve as our representative on the CIPR UK Council for the next two years) and the rest of our NI committee, I am excited to play my part in our Institute in the years ahead. And I would echo Sarah’s call to other PR professionals in Northern Ireland: get involved and engage with the CIPR – we have a louder and stronger voice together.

Read a Q&A with CIPR UK President, Sarah Pinch here.

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SILVER AWARD FOR THE GREAT ULSTER PUB WEEK

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PRide Awards_MCEIt’s been a busy few months. What I term PR’s crazy season is well and truly in full swing and there’s little time for much else at this all-consuming time of year. I’ve a number of half-formed blog posts to finish and upload when things quieten down a little – so stay tuned for a plethora of updates when I catch my breath.

In the meantime, a little news. On Friday, I was proud to accept a silver award for our campaign for Pubs of Ulster‘s inaugural Great Ulster Pub Week at the CIPR NI PRide Awards – the premier annual awards for the Northern Ireland PR industry. The award – in the Integrated Campaign category – means a lot to me and the whole MCE consumer team; it was a massive but hugely rewarding project and one we’re all very proud of.

It was also an honour to present an award on behalf of the CIPR NI committee – congratulations to Barnardo’s NI on their Gold award in the Low Budget category for their Children: The Forgotten Victims of Crime campaign – very deserving winners indeed.

It was great to see such a diverse cross section of the industry represented and rewarded at PRide, with  winners from across the entire spectrum – agencies small and large, freelance practitioners and in-house PR teams.

The full list of results and case studies from the winners are now available to view online here.

For our own part, it was particularly pleasing to be recognised for our work on The Great Ulster Pub Week in the highly competitive Integrated Campaign category. PR is no longer just about press releases and media relations – though those elements of our work will continue to be very important, our campaigns now increasingly span the entire marketing mix, taking in advertising, digital, social and events alongside traditional PR.

In the same spirit of information sharing demonstrated by The CIPR in providing case studies on each of the Gold PRide winners, I’d like to provide a further insight into the work that went in to our Great Ulster Pub Week campaign. I hope it’s useful.

 

pub-logo-webThe Great Ulster Pub Week 2014

The inaugural Great Ulster Pub Week was launched by industry body, Pubs of Ulster in May 2014. Created to develop a positive platform to celebrate all that’s great about Northern Ireland’s pubs, it was the largest ever multi-venue pub celebration ever seen in Northern Ireland, with over 160 participating pubs.

Pubs of Ulster engaged with MCE to create a fully integrated marketing plan to inform and inspire consumers across Northern Ireland to rediscover their local pub.

The Key objectives were:
• To communicate the positive, socio-economic contribution of the NI pub industry to the general public/key stakeholders and move dialogue away from pub closures and alcohol misuse/abuse.
• To drive footfall and sales in participating Northern Ireland pubs.
• To encourage publicans to be proactive and to think more objectively about their business/try new things and upskill publicans to create a lasting legacy for growth.

10293703_292051327630872_5284027009854569225_oStrategy & tactics:

To inspire the public to rediscover their local pubs, we worked with Pubs of Ulster to engage with publicans and create a programme of activity that would attract consumers:

• A handbook with advice on how to make the most of their involvement in The Great Ulster Pub week was created with a wide range of advice and tips on how to run successful Pub Week events, empowering publicans.
• Pubs were encouraged to think outside the box to create exciting and unusual events to excite and entice customers. Right across Northern Ireland, pubs showcased the best food, entertainment, arts, crafts and craic in a jam-packed nine days full of exciting events.
• Social media training workshops and World Host Customer Service training was offered to all participating pubs, effectively upskilling publicans and greatly increasing the social media footprint of NI pubs and the Great Ulster Pub Week campaign.
• The campaign went beyond traditional media, engaging with bloggers and influencers to create shareable content.
• A series of pop-up Pub Week events were created including a touring caricature artist and magician, plus a one-off show with well-known mentalist/illusionist, David Meade, bringing a sense of theatre and occasion to the pub experience.

Implementation

MCE devised, planned and managed an integrated PR, media relations, advertising, marketing, events and social media campaign, with the thrust of activity taking place in the month from the launch event on Thursday 3rd April 2014 through until the end of The Great Ulster Pub Week, which ran 1-9 May 2014.

The following media, influencer and consumer engagement tactics were implemented over a period of around six weeks:

• The campaign launched a month ahead of Pub Week with a launch party that attracted 200 people including media, bloggers, publicans, sponsors and suppliers, creating massive talkability, with hundreds of tweets and Facebook posts.
• Highly valuable media partnership with NI’s number one commercial radio stations, Downtown Radio/Cool FM was brokered, which delivered a high impact promotional package encompassing over 200 30-second promotional spots/live reads; roadshows and street crew support for two separate Pub Week events; a two-hour live outside broadcast from the Great Ulster Pub Week World Record Attempt Pub Quiz; dedicated Great Ulster Pub Week microsites on Downtown & Cool FM websites; interviews, competitions; on air talk time and social media endorsements from the stations and their key presenters.
• The website, GreatUlsterPubWeek.com was updated with key events highlight, news, a promotional video and in the build up to and during Pub Week on social media to encourage interaction.
• Press promotions ran in national and regional print & online media for readers to win a £50 meal voucher for a pub of their choice encouraging interaction/talkability about the project.

The Results

With a very short lead-in period, we took The Great Ulster Pub Week from an embryonic idea into a campaign that engaged 160 local pubs (60% higher than the initial target of 100 pubs) to create the largest multi-venue pub celebration ever seen in Northern Ireland. The campaign successfully opened dialogue about the positive socio-economic and cultural contributions of NI pubs, moving the conversation away from negative news of pub closures/teenage binge drinking.

A post-event survey showed that 55% of participating pubs surveyed saw up an increase of up to 10% in footfall during Pub Week, with a further 15% reporting footfall increases of up to a 20%. Some 75% of participating pubs said they saw an increase in turnover during Pub Week; 77% of participating pubs ran a brand new event especially for Pub Week; and 85% of the pubs said they would take part again. All partners, sponsors and suppliers have also said they would like to be involved again in 2015.

  • Pubs reported that they attracted new customers as a direct result of events they ran.
  • At least 378 positive media articles/broadcast mentions were achieved (excluding social media), communicating the varied events programme and pubs taking part, spanning over 40 titles/stations including national and regional print media, television, websites, blogs and radio.
  • The media partnership with Downtown/Cool FM proved to be an exceptionally positive and high impact promotional platform. The advertising and promotional elements of the campaign reached a combined audience of approximately 2,193,263 people, with the editorial elements estimated to have reached a further 217,090 people. The two hour live broadcast from the Great Ulster Pub Week World Record Quiz attempt was priceless, reaching 31,000 people. Additional partnerships with The Sunday Life and Hospitality Review NI provided further positive coverage.
  • A modest first year advertising budget was supplemented by securing free advertising spots including a presence for The Great Ulster Pub Week on Jameson Irish Whiskey and West Coast Cooler outdoor campaigns.

CIPR UK COUNCIL ELECTIONS – LAST CHANCE TO VOTE

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If ever there was justification to use the hackneyed cliche, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint,’ the CIPR UK council elections are it.

Some 22 days after voting started, we finally find ourselves in the midst of the final day of the election.

For those amongst us that stayed up all night last Thursday to follow the end of the Scottish Referendum, you might be relieved that the pace of this election is a tad less frantic. For PR professionals nationwide, it’s an exciting and important time, nonetheless; an opportunity to play a part in the democratic process and help shape the future of our industry.

If you’re a voting member of the CIPR and haven’t yet cast your vote, it’s not too late. Voting closes at 5pm today (Monday 22nd September) until which time, you can cast your vote online here.

For one final time, I would invite you to read my candidate statement and that of my CIPR NI colleague, Sam Livingstone and consider casting your 1st and 2nd preferences for us. We’re both passionate about the PR industry; access to training and education; championing best practice and ethical conduct. We’re particularly interested in helping to boost representation for Northern Ireland at UK council level.

Regardless of who you vote for, please vote and make your voice heard.

To mark the imminent end of the election and to brighten up your Monday, here’s an appropriate clip from The West Wing. Any excuse.

CIPR NI Puts Focus on Voluntary & Community Sector Communications & PR

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VCS3This afternoon I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a great group of communications and PR professionals from the voluntary and community sector. Representing a wide range of charities and third sector organisations, these highly motivated and committed individuals were brought together by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Northern Ireland for an afternoon of networking, alongside a valuable Q&A session with BBC NI’s Tara Mills for an insight into #VCScommsNI.

The sell-out event was the brainchild of my CIPR NI committee colleagues, Leanne Reilly and Sharon Whittaker, who, having joined the CIPR NI committee this year, are keen to bring issues facing communications and PR professionals working in the voluntary and community sector to the fore.

VCS2Aside from fulfilling my duties as the CIPR’s social media officer and live tweeting from the event, I had a genuine interest in the subject matter; we have a number of high profile charity clients at MCE and we face many of the same challenges faced by our peers in the room today. No matter how worthy your story, vying for space and making your story stand out in a crowded charity market can be challenging and requires a particular skill set and contact book.

Networking and sharing experiences with peers has been immensely useful to me personally and professionally over the years and this afternoon’s event was a great example of that collaboration in practice. After brief introductions, the event began with a speed networking session, which encouraged participants to share their experience and tips with each other.

VCS5This was followed by a lively Q&A, with BBC NI’s Tara Mills taking questions from the floor. The frank and open exchange led to a lot of very useful advice and tips being shared on how, when and where to pitch a story. You can follow some of the feedback on the CIPR NI twitter feed.

We have a small but vibrant PR and communications industry in Northern Ireland and by working together we can become so much stronger. The voluntary and community sector represents a large proportion of our industry in this region and through today’s event, Leanne and Sharon, along with our CIPR NI chair, Chris Love, provided a real insight into the ways that CIPR NI membership can aid and assist the promotion of professionalism, as well as the development of individuals and teams working in communications/PR in the third sector. I hope more of our peers in this sector will come forward and engage with CIPR NI, for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Well done to Leanne and Sharon for a great event – I look forward to the next one!

CIPR Elections: Make Your Vote Count

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CIPR Council VoteVoting is now open for the CIPR election 2014.

I’m proud to be running alongside my CIPR NI committee colleague and Vice Chair, Samantha Livingstone on the open list, where there are eight seats available. Sam and I were both encouraged to stand with support from CIPR NI chair, Chris Love and the CIPR NI Committee and feel that it would be beneficial if Northern Ireland were to have a stronger representation within the CIPR at UK level.

You can read our candidate statements, along with those of the other candidates here. We would of course be delighted if CIPR members, particularly our peers in Northern Ireland, would choose Sam and I as their 1st and 2nd preference votes, though we would encourage you to use your vote, regardless of which candidate you choose.

If you’re a CIPR member, you should have received an email this morning with your unique voter code, which you’ll need in order to cast your votes. I voted soon after voting opened this morning but there’s plenty of time – voting is open until 22nd September.

The calibre of candidates standing for the 2014 election is exceptionally high; personally I’m honoured to stand amongst such great professionals. I’ve been really heartened by the comradery amongst the candidates standing for election – it’s a real example of how collaboration and supportive working is positive for the industry as a whole. Whatever the outcome, I’m certain there will be a very strong CIPR Council to support the board over the next two years.

Follow all the action on twitter, using the #CIPRelection hashtag.

FROM THE WEST WING TO THE CIPR UK COUNCIL ELECTIONS

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West Wing picAnyone that knows me will be aware of my obsession with The West Wing. I’ve watched the entire seven seasons four times; I named my car C.J. after the show’s  press secretary; and I see Martin Sheen and President Bartlet as one and the same person. I even featured in a Buzzfeed article, thanks to my prolific tweeting about the show.

Fellow West Wing fans will know that Bartlet and his band of unlikely aids entered the White House presidential race, not with an expectation to win, but in the hope of influencing national discussion.

As some of you may know, I am standing for a seat on the UK Council of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).  In standing for Council, I too hope to make a contribution to national discussion, specifically in relation to the ongoing efforts of the CIPR to professionalise the PR industry. Voting members, or those that are interested, can read more about the reasons why I am standing here and on the CIPR website.

In the meantime, and as I gear up for the election 1st – 22nd September, I thought it would be useful to take some inspiration from my favourite TV show and brush up on some West Wing election ideology…

West Wing Election Ideology

1. Elections provide a valuable forum for debate on important issues.

2. Staying true to your ideals is imperative. See ‘Let Bartlet Be Bartlet’.

3. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. See season 4, episode 6 when Sam Seaborne is forced to take up the Californian nomination for Congress when a deceased candidate wins the primary.

4. Negative Campaigning or Mudslinging is for the uneducated.

5. A little light entertainment/down time is essential. See CJ doing The Jackal, Season 1, episode 18 (below).

 

CIPR NI SUMMER SOCIAL

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CIPR Summer SocialWhen you tell people you work in PR, it’s not unusual to be met with exclamations of ‘Oh, that must be so glamorous!’  Whilst there’s no doubt it’s an exciting industry to work in, surprisingly to some, cocktail swilling, couture fashion and A-List parties don’t feature heavily in the day to day world of a PR consultant. In reality, we tend to spend more time in strategy planning meetings than attending fashion shows and red carpet events.

Whatever industry you work in, it’s good to down tools occasionally and network with peers – no one else can quite comprehend the particular pressures and rewards of the job than someone who works in the same industry.

As a member for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), I’m afforded many chances to network with my peers on a local and national level. Last night’s CIPR Northern Ireland Summer Social at The National Belfast was a great opportunity to meet up with other local PR professionals, down the clipboards and enjoy some relaxed, work-free networking.

I’ve benefited both personally and professionally through collaboration with peers and these social events are a great opportunity to widen networks and find ways that we can work together better. It was also particularly pleasing to see two of MCE’s newest recruits – recently signed up as CIPR members – enjoying their first CIPR NI social event.

CIPR Summer Social BBQThe BBQ and mojitos went down just as well as the networking and the sun even made an appearance after what’s been a very wet few weeks. Kudos to my CIPR NI committee colleagues, Jane Williams and Seona McGrath for organising a great event. Roll on the Christmas social!

Check out the pictures from the event on the CIPR Northern Ireland Facebook page