December 2nd, 2023
6th Individual PRide Awards Title: 2 Golds & 2 Silvers
On November 30, I won my sixth ‘Best Independent PR Practitioner’ title at the North West PRide Chartered Institute of Public Relations Awards. It wasn’t the only PR award success achieved on the night. Catapult PR also won Gold for Best Long Term PR campaign and Silver awards for campaigns in the Corporate and Business Communications and Arts, Culture and Sport categories.
It had been a huge disappointment to find there was no tourism or leisure awards category on offer this year, which was a huge disappointment given that travel PR is one of our core categories and we are regarded as a talented travel PR company. That’s the reason we this week launched our new travel PR credentials document.
So, effectively, the only travel category that has been open to us this year has been in the PR Moment Awards. Luckily, we took Gold.
On this basis, given that categories were not favourable at the CIPR Pride Awards, it was a massive surprise to me to scoop four trophies, just missing out in two other categories – media relations and best use of content.
I did ‘channel my inner Axl’ again however and wear my lucky Guns N’ Roses necklace and bracelet. Nevertheless, we were up against some massive Manchester agencies and our budgets are modest. Ideas must have won through, along with a little G N’R magic.
Pride in winning four CIPR PRide PR Awards
I shared the success with a former assistant of mine, pre-Catapult PR, who has run her own agency for some time – probably the biggest in Manchester and winner of the Large PR Agency award, on the night. She kept reiterating just how proud I should be of all the awards I’ve won and the longevity of my record of achievement. That’s hard for me sometimes, as I’m sure I suffer a fair bit of imposter syndrome. However, I suppose the facts can’t be denied. I do stand out in the UK PR industry somewhat, given the success I’ve enjoyed.
This friend of mine is also on a mission to make me ‘monetise more’ and up the fees and income I’m generating. Trouble is that I’m not really money motivated and just prefer to do things that I’m passionate about, for the love of doing them or to work with clients who are fantastic people to know. I’m one girl who’s definitely never going to be a gold-digger, that’s for sure. I just value other things more.
Importance of celebrating success
Ironically, right before setting off for these awards, I had been writing a content piece for a management consultancy company, which was all about the importance of celebrating, as a business. I had no idea just how important management experts believe celebration to be, so that has made me actually bother to reflect on what I’ve achieved over the years.
I’ve often talked about Catapult PR’s total number of awards – 65 now, given last night’s haul of four. I hardly ever think about the ones that I’ve personally won, however. This has only been a thing since 2008, when I went solo, having previously run an agency and employed, at one point, 10 people. Being made miserable every day wasn’t for me, so when a client categorically told me to go out on my own, as it was me they wanted on their account, after being shell-shocked for a while, I eventually did.
To be honest, even around 2008, there was no opportunity for an independent practitioner to be recognised by the PR and marketing industry. To be perfectly frank now, the only recognition I can still get is from the CIPR. No other awards body bothers to consider the contribution of individuals. Even the other PR body to which I belong, the PRCA, has no award for independent solo practitioners.
Small PR Agency of the Year
The best other award schemes can do is offer a ‘Small PR Agency’ category, in which we have no hope of winning, as the criteria looks at employee initiatives and so on – impossible when you don’t have any employees! We were North West PR Agency of the Year in 2000 and the Small PR Agency of the Year in 2005 – in the days when I had employees.
The very fact we have actually been shortlisted in Small PR Agency categories, despite being a one-person company, however, probably speaks volumes. It’s always bugged me that we achieve more accolades for our work than many winners of the Small Agency category ever do and yet we can’t be considered as serious contenders for the award. It’s pure sizeism!
Independent PR Practitioner
Anyway, the first opportunity to win an award for being ‘freelance’ came in 2011 – the first year it was on offer by the CIPR. That was groundbreaking at the time, which just shows how far ‘freelancing’ has come. So, at that first opportunity in 2011, I won the NW title.
Six months later, in summer 2012, I won the national CIPR Excellence title, for being the best independent practitioner in the UK. That was such a brilliant awards ceremony, as it was London Olympics year. Olympian, Colin Jackson, presented me with the award but there were many other sporting heroes present.
Winning that award inspired me to write ‘Rogue Elephants: One PR Girl’s Fight Through the Human Jungle.’ I suppose that, at that point, I thought I’d reached the dizziest height I could get to, after years of ups and downs and lots of life turmoil.
Little did I know that more would come. I refrained from entering the Independent Practitioner award category for a few years after that. There were some tricky business times around 2013/14 and I started to do a few other things, such as writing children’s books and staging children’s writing workshops in schools.
From 2017 to now
I started to enter again in 2017 and won the NW title, for the second time, that year. In 2018, I took silver. 2019 saw me win title number three and also reach the finals for the national CIPR Excellence Award for Independent Practitioner.
In 2020, the CIPR cancelled all of its regional awards, due to the pandemic, so there was no chance of adding to the NW wins. The national CIPR Excellence Awards had been run, just prior to lockdown, however, and I had been a national finalist again.
In semi-lockdown, in 2021, I won the national CIPR Excellence Best Independent Practitioner award for the second time and won another CIPR Excellence Award the same night. I am currently still the only two-time winner of the national title.
When the regional event came round in 2021, I retained my 2019 title. I did so again in 2022 and now again in 2023. So, effectively, it’s been four NW wins in a row.
I didn’t enter the nationals last year, as I actually judged the Independent Practitioner category. I didn’t enter this year, as I wasn’t sure it was what I really wanted to do.
Watershed moment: search for a new challenge
And that’s where we are now. Whilst writing my content piece about the importance of celebrating business successes, it became apparent that experts view ‘milestones’ as important watersheds. They are a chance to take stock and decide where you want to go to next. That’s a very good question.
I do think a new challenge is needed, perhaps working closely and directly with someone to offer in-depth PR support to them on a fairly intense basis, stepping more into their world daily to manage their reputation and brand. I’d like to do more work overseas too. Fundamentally, I’d just like to be appreciated more, I think, as I often feel that this isn’t the case.
To paraphrase ‘Axl’, I am now minded to think that awards are a ‘bad obsession’ and always ‘messin’ my mind.’ Already, there are categories to consider for one award scheme in 2024. But do I really want to enter now? What’s the point of just adding more awards to the tally? Where on earth could I even put any more? They’re stuck in every nook and cranny as it is!
However, what I may do, and watch this space, is pass on some knowledge in a mentoring capacity. My ‘former assistant’ is trying to enlist me for an initiative she runs, which is all about inspiring the next generation of women. Maybe I could do that, although I’d rather be working with younger kids. I did once receive a wonderful note from an American PR student telling me how much ‘Rogue Elephants’ had inspired her though, so maybe I’ve got it in me.
Perhaps, unless someone rings up and offers me the opportunity of a lifetime, and says ‘leave all that behind for six months and come and do this because I need help’, this mentoring project will be something to ‘do next’. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.