Recognising budding PR talent – interview with 2015 Douglas Smith Student Award winners

The 2015 Douglas Smith Student Award landed in the hands of three talented University of Sunderland PR students.

Organised by CIPR International, the award laid out a brief that concerned a burning question many PR pros would have trouble tackling: to develop an international public relations campaign about a new wearable technology product: a contact lens.


Eva Maclaine, chair of CIPR International and board member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, presented Lauren Old, Hannah Lennox and Arianne Williams a cheque for a total of £1,000 and a crystal trophy at an award ceremony that took place at the Northern Insight magazine launch party in Newcastle upon Tyne. The presentation was preceded by a visit in the afternoon to Press Ahead in Sunderland, a PR, marketing, research, creative and media consultancy.


Eva Maclaine, CIPR International Chair, with Arianne Williams, Lauren Old, and Hannah Lennox at the Northern Insight magazine launch party
Eva Maclaine with Arianne Williams, Lauren Old, and Hannah Lennox at the Northern Insight magazine launch partyEva Maclaine, CIPR International Chair, with Arianne Williams, Lauren Old, and Hannah Lennox


Following the award ceremony we briefly chatted with the - now award-winning - PR students about what helped them win the accolade and why teamwork has been recognised as an element of success...


Lauren, what can you single out as the key element, or elements, that helped your team win this award?

Our decision to pitch a pro-technology campaign definitely worked in our favour. We were hoping that other students would highlight the negatives of wearable technology, so it was an early strategic move to set our entry apart. We didn’t realise that creating tactics to change people’s existing negative perceptions would be so difficult, but by challenging ourselves and each other we created a stronger campaign than we would have been able to from an anti-technology viewpoint.


Hannah, given that the campaign outlined that ethical considerations should feature highly, what was your approach and why have you taken this approach?

With the campaign having a strong concentration on ethics, and having outlined the ethics which could support going against the contact lenses, we decided to be for the contact lenses. This made the campaign slightly more difficult. The reason we decided to approach the campaign this way, was so we would be able to decide upon the ethics ourselves, meaning we felt stronger about them and believed more in our tactics and the ethics behind them.


Arianne, what was the most difficult part of the brief you had to respond to (and why)?

The fact that it was an international campaign was challenging for us, as we are used to planning local or regional campaigns. It made us think very differently and do much more research into the different demographics and ethics, as well as making our tactics relevant to the various countries. However, it was one of the most interesting aspects of the campaign for me and it was a challenge that we all enjoyed!


Lauren, why did you decide to team-up with each other to enter this competition?

We’ve previously worked together on university projects and found we have good chemistry and complement each other’s strengths. It made sense for us to enter the competition as a team to make our campaign as strong as possible. Teamwork is one of the realities of working in a PR environment and being able to support each other through the creative process of entering the Douglas Smith Award is something that we’ll be looking to replicate when working in the industry.


Hannah, how do you think winning this award will influence your career prospects?

Winning this award will influence our career prospects in way of making our CVs highly commended. Also, just entering this award will show that we have initiative in doing something that we didn’t need to do, and this shows that we still put all our effort into a project that wasn’t compulsory. It also indicates that we are strong candidates in any field, and that we work well as a team.


Arianne, what did you think of the visit to Press Ahead?

I really enjoyed visiting Sally and the team at Press Ahead. Seeing a successful agency at work was a great insight into what I could hopefully be doing as a career and the three of us picked up a lot of tips and useful advice for our future plans. Sally was really accommodating and we really appreciate her advice.

Thank you Lauren, Hannah, and Arianne and once again congratulations on your success.


Find out more...

  • 2015 Douglas Smith Student Award

  • More about CIPR International

  • Follow CIPR International on Twitter

Who are our 2015 Douglas Smith Student Award winners?

Lauren Old, Public Relations and English student Lauren is in her second year of studying a degree in English and Public Relations at the University of Sunderland. Although she has experienced in-house PR, she prefers the challenges of managing multiple clients and is looking forward to working in a north east agency after graduating. Lauren has already experienced some success after placing second in Richard Bailey’s Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger 2015 competition. Her blog ‘Old Dog, New Tricks’ combines her love of public relations with the issues she faces being a mature student and raising a young family. Arianne Williams, Public Relations and French student Originally from Devon, Arianne Williams is a student at the University of Sunderland studying Public Relations and French. She will be going into her third and final year in September 2015. She currently volunteers for the Small Charities Coalition, planning and managing their social media platforms, which has inspired her to work in the third sector in the future, hopefully as a PR Manager or Press Officer. As she is also studying French, she hopes this will help her to work on international PR campaigns and with contacts and businesses overseas. Hannah Lennox, Public Relations student Hannah studies at the University of Sunderland, and has just finished her second year of study of single honours Public Relations. Having done placements and internships in different PR agencies, this is something Hannah wants to go into as a career, as she enjoys the fast paced environment, and the fact that each day is different. At the moment, Hannah is an intern at the PR agency Publicity Seekers, which she is thoroughly enjoying. Her motto in life is “I want to change the world, one PR campaign at a time.''
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