#PRideNI 2015

As is the annual tradition, I know readers of the blog will have been waiting for my tongue-in-cheek, too-honest round-up of the Northern Ireland CIPR PRide Awards.

This has been the hardest blog post I’ve ever written. Because I lost. A big award. In times like this it’s very important to take stock before talking about it because you wouldn’t want to sound bitter. But likewise I don’t ignore elephants in the room. I’ve always been honest. So here goes…

Let’s Get This Bit Out Of The Way!

I was up for Outstanding Young Communicator. It was my last year to enter. That was the main reason I threw my hat in the ring. And then a funny thing happened. As I went through the process of applying I realised somewhere along the line that I believed in myself.

That maybe I deserved to win.

Most of the award involves what a person is contributing to their professional development and what their work is contributing to the wider industry. I’d spent half a decade pumping time and effort into my own CPD achieving Accredited Practitioner status as well as volunteering on the CIPR Committee, running training events for other industry professionals. And then there was the university lectures, the Young Enterprise volunteering, the student dissertation interviews, weekly emails from students flooding my inbox (this is not a complaint, do not stop emailing ya’hear!)

I’d never done any of these things for accolades of course. But when the opportunity for one came up I thought I’d be in with a decent chance.

Until they told me that the interviews would be held on the 8th July. Forty minutes before I was due to exchange marriage vows in Belfast City Hall. If I missed it, I had to forgo my points. If I went ahead, I had to attend in my white dress, my head full of vows, my fiancé waiting outside in the car. But I figured I’d come this far, I’d worked so hard, I couldn’t give up now.

Did I think I should win for that alone? No. I felt that I was worthy enough to be a contender, if I could only go and state my case. Do I think it should have got me extra credit to get me over the one point difference? Yes, I do, for commitment alone.

I thought my biggest competitor on the night was Mrs Brittany Breslin. She’s an absolute firecracker and I’ll bet my next pay cheque she brings that award home before she’s my age! That’s not that I don’t rate Smarts Communicate. The simple fact is I don’t know them, they’re quite elusive. But as a truly global agency, work-wise they regularly blow us all out of the water. And so Kerri Young from Smarts took home the award. Having now read her entry I agree that within her 9-5 role she has proved herself highly skilful in an agency that works on a global scale. Major clients, massive budgets, multiple teams. I told her so on the night. And she graciously thanked me.

But outside the 9-5, I believe I trump her. Well you can’t knock me for backing myself!

It warmed my heart the amount of young people who came up to me in that room afterwards and thanked me. Young people who now have internships or full time agency jobs. Who dragged me up to dance to celebrate with them. And all the agencies, whether I’ve worked with them or not, who cheered and clapped so loudly. For an industry renowned for its in-fighting and bitching, I felt the love in that room.

After the year I’ve had, you’ve no idea what that means to me.

Of course I’m still disappointed. Although I appreciate hugely that the panel fought to commend me in a category that doesn’t allow for a Silver award. My professional respect for legends like Sinead and Lisa is the reason I accept their decision wholeheartedly.

Now that the bar is dry and we’re back to the day jobs, the fact remains that the CIPR wouldn’t function without volunteers like us. PRide Awards. Training events. Member ezines. As I said when I joined 2 years ago, I don’t believe in criticising from the outside. I believe in getting in and helping to make things better. I don’t agree with paying a membership fee and turning up to receive awards one night a year. And now the Committee will demand all members have achieved Accredited Practitioner status, in a bid to improve the industry’s commitment to CPD. It is getting better. But I have done what I can. Now it’s time to stop giving so much, spend time on my own business and my new family life…

But first, I have a CIPR “Blogging for Business” event to run next month. A topic I believe we could all learn more about (and need to). It’s going to be a good’un so I better see you all there!

Now For The Good Bit!

I had so much to celebrate on Friday night. The ‘proud project’ I mentioned in my own application was a campaign with my previous employer Action Mental Health - and they won Gold for Best Integrated Campaign - up against the Tall Ships no less. I cheered as loudly as though I’d won myself. Because we had no money, just each other, just 6 short weeks. And we changed government policy and funding for the whole disability sector in the midst of a budget crisis, dammit!

Big love to Tricia and Callum!

And then there was the accolades for so many people I respect and look up to myself - JPR swept the board and Jane Williams who sits on the CIPR Committee and was a part of the PRide orgnaising team, is one of the nicest, most talented people I know. Along with Seona, they did an amazing job on the event…

Clearbox Communications too, who won multiple awards and are little industry rebels after my own heart. My Dad’s recent health issues and the subsequent loss of my childcare meant I could only work with them briefly but I’ll never forget how a group so talented took a chance on me to go back agency-side and be part of their journey. Their young team are ones to watch too…

ASG have also supported me in the months since I’ve been forced to go out on my own and their abundance of talent and generosity of spirit was well repaid by their win

Serious PR won Best Use of Digital - a topic I constantly harp on about and it cheers me no end to see smaller PR agencies rivalling the big guns in an area that traditionally requires a lot of very technical hands-on-deck…

Chris Love took home Outstanding Independent Practitioner and I’ll never forget that he was one of the very first industry people to give me the time of day, way before my CIPR Committee days when I banged on virtual doors asking for guidance. To this day he never ceases to advise, inspire and make me laugh on a bad day…

To RNN on their Outstanding Small PR Consultancy win, another agency owner Riki who is confident enough in her skills and her growing talented team to see someone like me as an ally in the PR battle rather than a threat to be kept at arms length…

Julie McCabe from Massive who was presented with her Fellowship Award, someone I would have loved to work for but couldn’t due to circumstances. She is supporting Brittany and that other firecracker Jessica to be the future stars I know they will be!

And my wonderful husband, bless him. Who puts up with me stuck to my Macbook, afternoons at meetings, our joint day off (Wednesday) now spent with my fabulous students at Mercy College, dodging a parking ticket on his wedding day and being dragged to award ceremonies on his night off from the rugby pitch. And he still thinks I’m the bloody bees knees…

I, my friends, am winning at life. And I am truly grateful for it 🙂


  1. Keep loving what you’re doing! The true evaluation of a job well done is happy clients and an informed audience. I am a little jealous reading about the rising stars in the industry and I think ‘could that have been me?’ however I am proud that I am still working in an industry that is exciting and varied as well as having a life outside of it. Leanne you help people like me believe in themselves and love what they do. G xx

    • Hi Gillian,

      Thanks for your kind words. I think we all question whether we could have been stars lol I only hope to help someone else make it after me! I have to say work-life balance did take over in the last half-decade for me too, so I ended up volunteering and mentoring more than achieving corporate or commercial success… But I am grateful to still be working too and if what you say is true, I have surely succeeded!

      Much love to you for taking the time to comment,

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