Rachel is a worthy winner of this award. She clearly demonstrates commitment not only to herself but her clients too. Her dedication to professional excellence is evident through her work. Rachel’s thoughtful analysis of how to run her business is outstanding. She’s already sharing what she’s learnt by growing her business to enable other practitioners to thrive. Rachel has applied Agile project management methodology to benefit not only herself but her client. The judges were impressed by her strong advocacy for professionalism in PR. She gives back to the industry through her extensive volunteering in the South West and uses her strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ways to grow her business.

Mark of Excellence:

  • Jessica Gillingham MCIPR
    Abode PR

Jessica has chosen to specialise in an emerging and fast-growing area of Public Relations and has positioned herself as the leading practitioner in this field. Her tireless pursuit of new opportunities to grow and expand her business globally is remarkable. Jessica measures her success based on clear business benefits to her clients. She leads and educates them to help them understand how to get the best value from their business and PR strategies, and her strong commitment to her own personal development, including setting and succeeding her ambitious goals is evident.

Finalists:

  • Deb Sharratt MCIPR
    DebSharratt Communications
  • Jane Hunt MCIPR
    Catapult PR
  • Lisa Preston MCIPR
    Amplify PR
  • Maurica Mackle Chart.PR, FCIPR
    Mackle Communications
  • Paula Hunter
    PR Hunter
  • Sarah Gleadall MCIPR
    Sarah Gleadall Freelance Communications

Winner entry:

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

I started my career in print journalism in 2004. I moved into PR in 2006, working both freelance and agency, before joining Cornwall agency MPAD in 2008. I became a director in 2009 and MD in 2014, delivering steady growth including 45% growth during my first year as MD.

My work and research focuses on Agile communications and best practice in evaluating communications activity. Much of my work is based in the third and higher education sectors, supporting organisations with brand, strategic communications, procurement, media relations and content.

I was one of the first new Chartered PR practitioners, awarded by the CIPR in November 2015. In March 2016, I became an associate tutor with MOL in Manchester, delivering CIPR qualifications including the CIPR Diploma and Advanced Certificate. Since then, I have gone on to develop a flagship training course for 2017 with the CIPR – Agile Project Management for PRs, which is proving successful.

I’m also chair for the CIPR South West committee, having been a volunteer with the committee since 2014, when I joined as treasurer. Our plan in the South West is to deliver opportunities and events for members to access 30 points of CPD each year in each part of the region. As a Chartered PR, I am committed to maintaining 60 CPD points each year. I also hold an ILM Level 5 qualification in leadership and management, and a BA (Hons) Communications from Bournemouth University.

In 2018, I contributed to Platinum with a chapter about Agile working in a PR context. I continue to receive great feedback from CIPR members about webinars and content I have developed for CPD.

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

I launched Agile PR in August 2016. Prior to this, I was managing director of Cornwall’s leading communications agency MPAD for two years, and a director since 2009. A change in personal circumstances plus opportunities to teach the CIPR Diploma with Manchester’s MOL led me to set up my independent consultancy.

My business plan is simple:

  • To turnover £4-5,000 in PR fees each month, based on 8-10 consultancy days per month
  • Aim to generate 100 days of consultancy each year, allowing me time to look after my family
  • Focus on PR and communications strategy, including AMEC best practice evaluation, as lead service
  • All services delivered based on Agile principles of collaboration, flexibility and focus on end goals
  • Continue to deliver tutoring and training to support PR practitioners to maintain a high standard of practice.

Career highlights include:

  • Being one of the first practitioners to become Chartered with the CIPR under the new assessment day formats in November 2015
  • Gaining my CIPR Diploma
  • Joining the CIPR South West Committee as treasurer in March 2014 and turning around the region’s financial position from struggling cashflow to £5000 in credit
  • Being elected Chair of CIPR South West in March 2017
  • Winning Outstanding Independent Practitioner at Pride SCI 2017, then finalist in Excellence in 2018.

Highlights since launching Agile PR include:

  • Developing a flagship training course for the CIPR
  • Agile Project Management for PRs – which launched this year
  • Becoming the UK’s lead feature writer for US based magazine, Agile Vox
  • Winning a two significant contracts in 2018 with University of Bristol, introducing a B2B communications function for the first time
  • Winning three separate contracts in 2018/19 with University of Oxford for B2B communications, collectively worth £30,000 – one for the world-leading Social Science department.
  • Continuing to deliver Agile training to in-house teams including English National Ballet and University of Bristol events team.

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

My biggest work related challenge is coupled with challenges within my personal life. At the end of 2015, I separated from my husband, business partner and father of our two daughters. I have managed to juggle establishing Agile PR with two house moves and making a new life. Major life changes have taken their toll on my mental health, and therefore managing my hours, ensuring there is enough time for exercise, sleep and time with my family is paramount.

Within the first year, having only properly launched from August 2016, I managed to turnover £38K with a profit of £26K. In the year 17/18, I turned over £46K with a £30K profit. This achievement has enabled me to support myself and my daughters as a single parent, whilst working part time to protect my health and wellbeing. 18/19 is already looking like a growth year, and I am working to remodel my business so I can increase income, quality and scale of projects whilst maintaining balance.

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

As a Strategic Communications Consultant, I’m called on at the outset to set objectives, messaging and analysis rather than full campaigns.

An example is with University of Oxford’s Heritage division. My brief was:

  • Clarify key messages that distinguish Oxford’s offer in the heritage sector from other universities
  • Calibrating these key messages for both internal academic stakeholders and external partners
  • Clearly demonste how these key messages can be communicated through existing platforms and networks
  • Providing best-practice communications guidance to staff engaged with partnership and collaborative working templates and key messages to communicate through published materials.

Outputs:

  • A set of core messages for heritage-based collaborations at the University of Oxford
  • Communications guidance for sharing these messages.

Dr Oliver Cox, Heritage Engagement Fellow, said: “Agile PR fully lived up to its name. Rachel has helped us to craft a clear message that successfully balances core values with a lightness of touch that will enable us to apply her insights to a wide range of collaborative projects. Rachel was especially helpful in cutting through a huge swathe of diverse projects to find the core resonant stories that provide a compelling narrative hook to our internal and external audiences.”

Budget: £2,500.

I have since gone on to win a £22,000 contract with University of Oxford Social Science division – name No 1 in the world by Times Higher Education. This covers Communications strategy, content strategy and planning, evaluation framework and procurement of content suppliers.