My experience spans crisis communications and protecting reputations for a number of well-known names as well as long-term reputation and brand-building, and producing engaging day-to-day campaigns and communications activities.
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Bridget Aherne > Latest News  > A special 12 months

A special 12 months

My position as current CIPR and IoD PR Director of the Year ends about 24 hours from now so I’m indulging myself an evening feeling special about it and what it’s meant.

The intention was to blog about the value of winning an award shortly after the CIPR Excellence Awards on 3 June 2015 but events overtook me.

Awards recognise best practice, make you evaluate your work and benchmark you against other brilliant practitioners. They make you feel fabulous on hearing your name or campaign read out as being the best of the best.

It was also much more for me and the pinnacle of an awesome second year in my role at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) – where the first 12 months had been quite bleak at times.

I struggled to feel the work I was doing was any good because I was in an isolated role as head of profession for PR and attempts to update the ways we engaged with our audiences faced resistance.

A phrase that fell from my lips probably far too often was: “It’s not open heart surgery on toddlers. Its only social media / a video / insert new or alternative comms channel as appropriate.” However, I regularly thought I’d suggested something equally risky with the reactions my ideas prompted.

Any more on how bad some of those times were is probably for a different blog but the important point is that it got better.

There was a clear objective to work towards and I was sure of what we needed to do to get there, I got a fantastic manager after a few months adrift when my manager unexpectedly changed roles and my work started to deliver results – like the night of the fire at the University of Nottingham.

Some resource changes I’d fought for led to the appointment of two brilliant young communicators and they brought to life the strategy I’d been espousing for 18 months.

I wasn’t alone in achieving what I did to win the PR Director title but it took an award-winning level of knowledge, persistence and persuasion on my part to help NFRS do some of what was needed. That’s one of the arguments I made when grilled by award panel member and then CIPR president, Sarah Pinch.

There was a moment of disbelief when my name was read out as winner in front of about 1,000 peers.

In the year since, I’ve not only found the legitimacy I craved but I’ve been extremely privileged. I’ve participated in vital work to develop our profession (including the Influence for Impact project), trade press have asked for my views on important issues and I used the industry recognition to continue my work embedding excellent communications at NFRS.

My team did more great stuff that achieved excellent results for firefighters and staff at the service and those they serve, and we bagged some more awards.

It left me with a bittersweet choice between having a job that I loved with growing respect and using the opportunity to move on to something even bigger, in my home town.

Good luck to the two finalists shortlisted for the same award tomorrow. May it be an equally special year for the 2016 winner.

Bridget Aherne

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