My Media Day: Laura Sutherland, MD Aura PR, and chair of CIPR Scotland

LAURA Sutherland is managing director of Glasgow-based Aura PR and chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Scotland group.

She has been in PR for over 12 years, been running Aura for five years and a member of the CIPR for over eight years.

A member of the CIPR Scotland committee for the last four years, she was named chair in March last year, having previously been vice-chair.

She submitted this on Tuesday, October 29.

What exactly is it that you do?

Maybe it’s better to ask what I don’t! As the owner of a small business, you tend to find yourself involved in all aspects, from the day-to-day running of the business to pitches, interviews, media relations and updating the agency blog.

Added on top of this, I chair the CIPR Scotland group, which involves working with a committee of 12, meeting every six weeks, organising events, training, conference, awards and partnerships, plus generally just ensuring members receive value in Scotland.

I’m a very active person, so my day doesn’t start at 9am and finish at 5pm. I work from when I get up in the morning, sourcing news and checking my social media feeds, to when I go to bed, doing the same. In between, I will have attended client meetings, had a lunch meeting, met with a designer, written a brief for a photographer, researched a client’s competitor, spoken to CIPR in London, emailed the committee about upcoming activities and, finally, attended to my loyal companion, Eddie – my dog. He comes with me to work and helps guard the company secrets!

Some people ask how I manage doing what I do, but I’d have to say, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

No day is ever the same, that’s for sure.

Yesterday, I was in the office nearly the whole day – split by a lunch along the road in the West End.

We were announcing dates for an exhibition we’re supporting and ensuring quotes were gathered and the final document approved. We had to plan ahead and speak to news and business desks so they knew the release was coming and to find out if there was a particular angle they wanted to explore further.

I was dealing with the company accountant as our VAT return is due soon and we had other business to deal with. Confidential, I’m sure you’ll appreciate.

Then, I had two visitors – Professor Jacquie L’etang and Mandy Powell – and I had my CIPR ‘hat on’. We launched a piece of research that Queen Margaret University is working on, and CIPR is assisting them to reach PR professionals in the Central Belt. It’s a pilot study, to find out where senior professionals are based, how they got into the profession, the challenges they face, what they feel they need to work on, skills-wise, and basically a good face-to-face about the profession.

I had my CIPR hat on, filling Jacquie and Mandy in on current and future CIPR activity that will coincide with the research and my own professional hat on, talking about what I wanted to learn and skills to develop in the next year. Some of what I talked about overlapped with Aura’s business plan, but that’s only natural.

As part of the project, I’ve been asked to keep a diary for a week about what I’m doing, what impact my activity and actions have had and how I feel about what work I’m carrying out – I’m looking forward to reading back.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

I started the business five years ago with a business partner and now I am the only director, so decision-wise, the ‘buck stops with me’ now. I was able, over the last year, to gather my thoughts, analyse what my client base wants and am now able to deliver a much more comprehensive service to clients. I’ve undergone training in different areas of analytics and social media, which help me make better-informed decision and proposals for clients. Who’d have thought, five years ago, that this type of information would be available? Stats, behaviours, trends, etc.

I’ve always been hands-on with clients and will always remain so.

How do you see your job evolving?

It really depends. I don’t want to build up a huge company. A small, focused and results-driven agency is definitely what I’m geared up for. Having said that, we’re delivering much cleverer and more creative work than we have ever done. We’re working on collaborations with many creative disciplines.

We’re also launching our own new website – it’s a kind of anniversary present to ourselves for the last five years of blood, sweat and tears. I’m particularly excited about that.

Whether or not someone will appreciate and recognise the amazing brand we’ve built – and buy into it or me out of it – is a different story.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

When clients appreciate your creativity and accepting there are other ways to communicate with an audience beyond a newspaper story. Being allowed to be creative and when that big idea you’ve been developing in your brain, and successfully proposed to a client, ends up a winner.