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Jeremy Dickey, winner of the 2014 Douglas Smith Student Award

CIPR International created a new, annual award to celebrate the memory of Douglas Smith, a founder and patron of CIPR International. He was a great supporter of young talent and this award is CIPR International's way of honouring him and encouraging the next generation to think internationally.

CIPR President Stephen Waddington, Pamela Mounter, and the Douglas Smith Award winner Jeremy Dickey
Stephen Waddington, Pamela Mounter, Jeremy Dickey

Over the next few weeks we will be showcasing the people and ideas behind our top five Douglas Smith Award 2014 finalists in a series of CIPR International blogs written by the students. We start with a blog post from this year's winner - Jeremy Dickey, 23, an MA student at London's University of the Arts, who came first and collected a cheque for £1,000 and a crystal trophy. Congratulations Jeremy!

''I have always believed that the best way to put plans into action is to try and execute them from a different perspective. Even the most experienced individuals can glean something by putting this idea into practice. This same mindset is how I approached my submission for the CIPR Douglas Smith Student Award 2014.

When faced with the controversial issue of introducing genetically modified (GM) rice to a country of my choice, I could have taken the easier of two roads. While personally I would oppose the introduction of such genetically modified plants, I knew that this would not help me grow as an individual. Instead, I decided to expand my knowledge base and branch-out as a budding public relations professional. Arguing for something you are personally against really is not an easy task, and I quickly found myself grappling with ethical questions and some frustration.

Alastair McCapra, CIPR chief executive, congratulated the winner
Alastair McCapra, congratulated the winner

Choosing my position for the communications plan was just one stage of the initial planning journey. I also had to decide which country to inflict, I mean introduce, the GM rice to. While my initial brainstorming stage included the countries of Qatar, Morocco and China as viable options; I settled for another difficult choice. Introducing rice to the Chinese market may seem confusing to most people, but when looking at the country further in-depth a clearer picture begins to take shape. China is the world’s largest producer of rice. While this may not be the most shocking of facts, what is, is that the country is also the largest importer of rice. The need for rice in the region is very apparent, and constantly growing. This ultimately secured the country as my choice for responding to the brief. My research led me on a very interesting path along supply and demand of rice globally, and understanding China’s role in the entire scenario was very critical in the overall process.

Throughout my communications plan one crucial element could not be forgotten. While the real need for rice is apparent, it was important to highlight and recognise the cultural relevance the crop has with the Chinese people. For instance, the word rice in Chinese literally translates to food. The delicate relationship between such a staple element in the region and the people who enjoy it made crafting messaging for the plan very tricky. I wanted to develop a tagline or strategic messaging concept that emphasised that this rice product was new, familiar and above all else safe. New rice, stronger rice, our rice became the message behind the campaign and my strategies and tactics sought to bolster this main idea.

I really enjoyed putting together a communications plan for the CIPR Douglas Smith Student Award 2014. The brief was challenging and really tested my skills as a young public relations practitioner. Although the task was difficult, I learned valuable public relations and communications techniques which I can put into practice in a future communications position. I am sure that at least one time in my career I will be faced with representing a client or brand that I am not 100 per cent in agreement with. This project has prepared me for approaching such a situation, and I am happy to report that creating a communications plan for something you are personally against is not as challenging as I originally thought it might be! ''

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