That Was the Year That Was (2013): Gordon Fyfe, PR manager, The Highland Council

GOOD year, bad year? As 2013 draws to a close, we ask Gordon Fyfe, public relations manager, The Highland Council, and chair of the Highlands and Islands Media Awards: ‘How has it been for you?’.

Briefly, what is it that you do?

I am the public relations manager for The Highland Council, the most northerly and biggest of the mainland Scottish councils, representing 233,000 people over 10,000 sq miles and spending £750 million of public monies each year. A highlight of my year is chairing the judging panel for the annual Highland and Islands Media Awards. I will be announcing the winners at the annual Highland and Islands Press Ball and Media Awards being held at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on Friday, February 7.

Choose three words that sum up 2013 (so far), from a professional point of view.

At times sad – dealing with tragedies – challenging and rewarding. I use the word, ‘sad’, because the Highland journalistic family lost one of its most popular members, Clive Dennier, latterly a reporter with the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald. Clive was reported missing after setting off on a lone hill walk at Kinloch Hourn in March. His body was later recovered. Friends and family recently met at the Phoenix Bar in Inverness to recall happy times with Clive, who was 50. The Media Awards panel have agreed that his family should receive the Barron Trophy, awarded each year for lifetime achievement in journalism in the Highlands and Islands, in recognition of Clive’s outstanding contribution to journalism in this distinctive corner of Scotland. Clive will be sorely missed.

In 2012, what was your biggest ambition for 2013, and to what extent did you achieve it?

I am pleased with the way the council is embracing social media and, in particular, making more effective use of Twitter and Flikr. We are now dedicating so much more time to tweeting and monitoring Twitter and have built up 6,600 followers. More and more elected members are using Twitter and we recently introduced a social media protocol for councillors and staff to follow.

Local newspapers continue to play an crucial role in advising our communities of important local issues and our development of social media complements rather than substitutes our work with local papers. The entries for the Media Awards highlight the high standards of journalism we enjoy in the Highlands and Islands.

Any changes this year in technology, legislation, the economy, etc that have had a relatively significant impact on the business?

The creation of Police Scotland has had an impact on the Police PR presence in the Highlands and Islands. The former Northern Constabulary team of four was top-notch and took a lead in pioneering social media; for example, building up more than 10,000 followers on Twitter/Facebook. Even my teenage son was able to tell me things that were going on, which proves the huge value of this medium of communication in reaching younger people.

The emphasis has switched to a more centralised PR response, with two members of staff left in Inverness dealing with media enquiries for a massive area of Scotland. They do a great job and I am sure they will be backed up by Police Scotland heavyweights should a major incident occur. I am sure it will not be too long before this strategy is tested.

What looking forward to, in 2014 – personally and professionally?

2014 is a big year with the Independence Referendum, the Ryder Cup and Homecoming. In Highland, we have our own Homecoming celebration, from September 1 until the end of October, with the Royal National Mod coming to Inverness. We can only hope that Highland businesses make the very most of a bumper year.

Personally, I am looking forward to my term as vice-president of Inverness Golf Club, a thriving club in the rare position of having a waiting list!

I look forward also to Inverness Caledonian Thistle completing a treble of qualifying for Europe and winning the Scottish Cup and League Cup.

As well, of course, of enjoying quality time with my family. I have five children, two of whom live in Dubai, and a two-year-old grandson, who lives near me and keeps me on my toes.

In Spring, I trigger a rule of age (61) and service (24 years) which allows me to consider retirement – so undoubtedly new challenges lie ahead in either coping with a life of leisure (what a bind) or finding a new employment challenge (part-time).