Paul has grown an outstanding independent practice which combines excellence in digital and communications. His business ethos of ‘Growth Through Giving Back’ is evident through his energetic and passionate award entry. He smashes his own goals, has attracted an enviable client list and steers his business with a flexible and intelligent strategy. The judges were hugely impressed by Paul’s campaign results for the World’s Big Sleepout. Paul is an incredible advocate for mental health in the PR industry and has highlighted the importance of managing capacity and taking time for self-care to maintain a high standard of practice.

Mark of Excellence:

  • Maurica Mackle Chart.PR, FCIPR
    Mackle Communications

The judges were impressed by Maurica’s tenacity and focus to grow her business and client base, whilst supporting other PR professionals to be the best they can be. Mackle Communications’ campaign case study was an inspiration, yielding impressive results against communications and business outcomes. Maurica has shown firm commitment to the CIPR and the wider PR industry through volunteering and supporting others to gain professional qualifications, all while remembering the importance of self-care and work/life balance in the independent PR sector.

Finalist:

  • Jane Hunt MCIPR
    Catapult PR

Winner entry:

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

I’m a huge believer in the principle of reciprocity and my business is built on the belief that you gain more when you give.

My mission is to help businesses and people overcome their digital challenges and become better communicators. I focus on strategic thinking, effective evaluation and enabling others to achieve professional excellence.

My interest in digital started in 2006 when, after ten years in PR, I established an e-commerce business. I learned about everything from website design and SEO to social media, and put this into practice when returning to PR in 2009 in senior digital communications positions. I also established a blog to share best practice examples to aid others’ professional development, and my work won 17 social communications awards during the next five years.

During 2014 it became apparent to me that there were many PR people crying out for best practice digital advice from an experienced professional. And while short-term creative campaigns were fun, what I loved most was being able to have a long-term impact by passing on my knowledge.

With this in mind, I established myself as a digital communications consultant in January 2015. I decided against hiding behind a brand name, and consciously chose to be open and authentic and to live and die by my personal reputation. I have since worked with the likes of Honda, L’Oreal, Oxford University Press and Macmillan.

In 2017 I established the Digital Download conference, which still has a 100% recommendation rate after three years. This was followed by the Digital Download podcast, investigating the latest thinking in digital communications. To date I have published 56 shows to over 12,500 listeners.

I am regularly invited to provide commentary by the BBC, The Guardian and Talk Radio among others, and take my role as an industry spokesperson very seriously.

Outline your work-related achievements over the last 12 months, including your business objectives and/or plan:

Despite the uncertain economic and political environment, 2019 proved to be a record year for me. My revenue was 31% higher than my previous best year and well exceeded target.

I went into 2019 with the pragmatic objective of consolidation as, after four years as a consultant, the business was both stable and very profitable, generating a net profit margin of approximately 70%.

During 2018 I had zeroed in on demystifying digital marketing and helping communications people do their jobs better as the central focus of my business plan.

Perhaps as a result of this, by the end of July 2019 I had already surpassed my 2018 revenue, and so switched my objective to further growth for the remainder of the financial year. During 2019 I worked with 24 different organisations. Among these I:

  • supported the Greater London Authority with the digital communications
  • strategy for the New Year’s Eve Fireworks
  • developed a global social media strategy for Renewable Energy Systems (RES)
  • devised and implemented a social media strategy for the worldwide medical rescue organisation, International Assistance Group (IAG)
  • originated a digital marketing plan for England Hockey to draw children into the sport at grass roots level
  • carried out the social media marketing for The World’s Big Sleep Out, a charitable initiative to highlight the issue of homelessness
  • delivered digital communications strategy training to Bosch and Panasonic helped Hampshire County Council to launch its first podcast focused on drawing people back into libraries
  • was invited by Virgin to speak at its global communications gathering.

Provide an outline of a work-related challenge you have faced in the last 12 months, including details of what happened, how you overcame it and what you learnt from it:

In combination with a death in the family, being so in demand during 2019 meant that by November I started to suffer from the mental, emotional and physical symptoms of burnout.

Five years ago I was one of the first PR professionals to openly talk about my experiences of depression, and have since been a vocal advocate for mental health, working with the CIPR, PRCA, FuturePRoof and PRFest to raise awareness.

Recognising burnout symptoms in myself was challenging. As an independent consultant who did not want to let his clients down, I could not follow the normal advice of ‘take a step back’. However, in November I made a conscious decision not to take on any new projects until the new year, and allowed myself the time to take nearly a month off in December and January.

I’m pleased to say that I returned to work in January fully refreshed, motivated and with lots of energy to ensure that 2020 is as good for myself and my clients as 2019 was. I will be managing my workload with great pragmatism this year so as to ensure I maintain a balance between profit and health.

Provide an outline of a piece of work you have delivered in the last 12 months that you are particularly proud of, including details of the brief, objectives, strategy, tactics, outputs, outcomes and budget:

My highlight was The World’s Big Sleep Out, an initiative to encourage tens of thousands of people to sleep outside in 50 cities around the world to raise mass awareness of the impact of homelessness.

Objective:

Attract 50,000 participants

Brief:

  • develop and implement a social media plan and Facebook advertising strategy
  • liaise with multiple global partners/comms teams and with Facebook
  • help run the social media profiles
  • amplify support from influential individuals and gain media exposure.

Budget:

£15,000 across four months.

Tactics/Outputs:

Central to the campaign’s success was a strategy focused on human stories coupled with emotive creative. Persuasive video and a variety of graphics were developed to illustrate the human cost of homelessness, and posted as organic and paid content across social media with strong calls to action to participate.

The campaign’s global nature made this an extremely complex task, particularly for paid social media. At one stage I was running 120+ different ad variants, continuously testing different targeting, creative and messaging to guarantee maximum CTR at the lowest CPC, optimised for conversions.

Outcomes:

The global event took place on 7th December, starting in Brisbane and ending in Los Angeles 30 hours later. It gained support from many influential individuals including Will Smith, Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Helen Mirren and Chris Martin, and raised over $10 million for homeless charities. The participant target was exceeded by 20%, with nearly 60,000 people sleeping outside around the world in solidarity for the homeless.