Bridget is a truly professional and confident practitioner who impressed the judges with her energy and authenticity. She displayed a genuine desire to understand and analyse her clients’ businesses to ensure their success. The judges were impressed by Bridget’s focus on not only being a good PR practitioner but becoming an inspiring leader. She strives to future-proof herself and her business through professional development and CPD. Bridget embodies the future of PR, by demonstrating the importance of strategic management and thinking. The judges believe anyone who chooses to work with Bridget will benefit from this outstanding independent practitioner.

Finalists:

  • Amy Jackson MCIPR
    Oxtale
  • Chris Love Chart.PR, FCIPR
    Love PR
  • Rachel Picken Chart.PR, MCIPR
    Agile PR

Winner entry:

An overview of your experience, your commitment to professional development and how you contribute to the industry:

I’ve worked in public relations for nearly a decade, which followed a career in journalism that began in the 1990s. My work in PR has mostly been for emergency services and local government. It covers significant experience of emergency and crisis communications, alongside proactive campaigns and helping re-write the relationships between organisations and their publics during times of change.

Throughout I’ve been fortunate to be involved in pioneering and award-winning activities, such as Greater Manchester Police’s GMP24 social media event in the early part of my PR career. More recently, I helped introduce the metropolitan mayoral model following Greater Manchester’s ground-breaking devolution deal as GMCA’s first dedicated Head of Communications.

In the last year, I’ve worked with numerous clients to support organisations on a short-term basis. Alongside these demanding roles, I’ve maintained a commitment to my own and others’ CPD through various activities. These include:

  • In 2012, completed an ILM course in leadership and management.
  • In 2014, completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Service Management – a course I entirely dedicated to solving my workplace problems, tailoring all assignments to examine my
    organisation’s strategic PR issues.
  • Completed four cycles of CIPR CPD from 2014 onwards by logging the training and development activities I’ve undertaken.
  • Attended formal and informal training events.
  • Undertook voluntary roles with FirePRO and CIPR North West and on the Influence Magazine editorial board.
  • Co-founded #commscampnorth – a free unconference for public sector communicators
  • Blogged and authored articles for trade media.

Outline your work-related achievements over the last three years, including your business objectives and/or plan:

I became an independent practitioner in December 2015 on leaving my permanent role at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to take up an interim contract with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

Since then, I’ve worked in a number of interim roles and provided consultancy services to a range of organisations.

I have made swift significant differences to each organisation in every instance. I’ve helped organisations take a strategic approach to communications, ensuring that activities align to business priorities and have created proper plans and processes to identify the resources required as well as building in monitoring and evaluation.

My own business objectives have been to operate without loans or upfront investment and to achieve enough turnover to pay myself a salary while establishing a small portfolio of clients that add to my CV and to whom I can add value.

I have exceeded targets by achieving a profit in my second year as an independent practitioner, working for a range of high-profile clients and maintaining my own CPD, and supporting others as a conference speaker and organiser.

Outline the biggest work-related challenge you have faced in the past three years, including details of what happened, how you overcame it and what you learnt from it:

I was asked to provide communications plans and identify the PR and marketing resources required for an organisation that had no business strategy. Not only is it impossible to provide effective communications for a firm with no business objectives against which to align, I deemed it unethical to decide on the roles required and training needs for the communications team in that context – we were potentially deciding on people’s futures based on no sound evidence.

I made this clear to senior management and subsequently the HR department and did not proceed with the work. The experience taught me to be more challenging and selective about clients before accepting an assignment. A failure to recognise my own expertise and worth prompted me to take the work. I now take a more rigorous approach to ensuring a client’s values
match mine before working together.

A summary of a campaign you are particularly proud of, including details of the brief, objectives, strategy, tactics, outputs, outcomes and budget:

Brief:

Enable a public body to make frontline changes by improving understanding (among staff, community and wider public) of the budget reduction requirements and true use of the service.

Objectives:

  • Reduce unnecessary criticism / correct inaccurate perceptions.
  • Improve understanding of facts.
  • Manage media and public interest around decision-making meeting to achieve the above.
  • Enable the decision-making meeting to take place in an open, transparent and professional way so the best outcome is achieved for the community.
  • Ensure the campaign provides a basis from which the political decision can be implemented effectively.

Strategy:

Identify why and how negative and inaccurate perceptions developed, work with relevant stakeholders to rectify and, in addition, ensure the remainder of the consultation and decision-making happens in an environment of mutual understanding, transparency and accuracy.

Tactics and outputs:

Listen! Review staff, media and public perceptions and understand how inaccuracies have developed.

On identifying that messaging had been unclear and not tailored to the channels used, I undertook the following.

  • Using data, worked with elected members and senior leaders to create one clear set of messages.
  • Made messages available via the channels that were creating the greatest issue with inaccuracy (IC channels, social media and local media brands).
  • Held a media briefing to explain the data and decision-making process (a prior lack of which is where misunderstanding developed).
  • Ensured the public meeting was widely publicised and was made available to the public and media to attend in person, via a live web video link and by live tweeting events.

Outcomes:

  • All objectives were achieved.
  • More balanced interest and understanding among the community was achieved.
  • While the decision was still not entirely palatable by staff and the community, the criticism and perceptions of the issue were not unnecessarily or unfairly critical (as they had been earlier in the consultation).
  • The public meeting where the decision was made was made more open and transparent through professional communications activity.
  • Improved ways of working are now embedded within the in-house to team to avoid future service change campaigns attracting unnecessary criticism.

Budget/costs: in-house team costs, my fees and external videography and photography support for the public meeting. Circa £12,000.