Scot PR case study for Axios Systems.
Proud winners at the Axios A-Star Awards collect accolades from Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as part of Scot PR’s campaign.“Axios is an exciting organisation with great products and is highly regarded by hundreds of blue chip clients,” Thornton said. “But it was widely regarded as being outside the top tier of suppliers in its sector and not taken seriously enough by the major trade media and national press. The PR challenge was to lift its status to the role of a top UK player and put it on a par with some of the best known multinationals.”
One of the main ways that these objectives were achieved was through the ‘A-Star’ Awards – the first-ever competition to recognise and reward the UK’s top female computing students.
The project was devised by Axios’ sales and marketing director Ailsa Symeonides, Scot PR and e-competitions, the umbrella body for UK computing competitions. In addition to giving the Edinburgh-based company widespread media coverage it led to public appearances with government Ministers and co-operation with organisations which are household names.
Driven by Mrs Symeonides’ desire to tackle the gender imbalance and skills shortage in UK computing – fewer than a quarter of computing professionals are women – the ‘A-Star’ Awards have been a huge hit, with media regularly referring to the nation’s brightest ‘Girls’.
Scot PR has organised the event, now in its second year, as well as handling its public relations.
“It has been a resounding success and has played a major part in raising Axios’ profile throughout the UK,” Mrs Symeonides said. “We’re now working side by side with organisations with which we found it difficult to establish close links in the past and have gained even better access to top levels of government.
“It has also presented Axios as being in the forefront of moves to bring more girls into computing and has been very useful for networking. Clients raise the subject with us without prompting.”
The project has received enthusiastic support from the UK’s six biggest examination awarding bodies, which supply results achieved by the top female students in ‘A’ Level and Scottish Advanced Higher Computing.
Awards to the top students in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were presented by the respective Education Ministers at ceremonies in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff. The best students in England and the UK received their prizes from Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, in London at a major conference on women in IT. Prizes included cash, trophies, laptop computers and a trip to the USA.
The principal prizes this year are due to be handed over in November at SkillCity in Manchester, an event expected to attract 50,000 visitors. Prince Charles and Education Secretary of State, Estelle Morris, have been invited to present them.
Extensive media coverage included radio and television programmes, articles in national, regional and local press, as well as specialist publications such as awarding bodies’ journals, and trade press features. Computing Magazine is the media sponsor for the second year running.
High street retail chain Dixons co-sponsored the event in 2001. This year’s key co-sponsor is Accenture, the world’s leading management and technology services organisation.
The Equal Opportunities Commission has also thrown its weight behind the scheme. EOC Chair Julie Mellor commented: “There is a pressing need to encourage more girls to think about careers in IT and the ‘A-Star’ Awards are an excellent way of achieving this. They are a most helpful and appropriate initiative.”
EOC Commissioner Tesse Akpeki will be a member of the independent panel of experts that will judge the UK final tiebreaker. Last year’s judges included representatives of IBM, Consignia and Xansa as well as the chief executive of the British Computer Society.
“The project has been helped greatly by Ailsa’s strong personal commitment and enthusiasm for making more girls aware of what IT is all about,” Scott said.
“Organising the Awards has involved complex liaison with many organisations but the concept has proved very successful and everyone associated with it seems pleased with the way it has turned out. It has touched a lot of the bases we were keen to reach on Axios’ behalf and should make an even bigger impact as it becomes a fixed point on more people’s calendars.”
Scot PR was set up just two years ago by Scott Thornton, a former senior manager and foreign correspondent with global information services organisation Reuters.
His posts included chief executive for Australia and New Zealand, database manager for South East Asia, internal communications executive, and news editor for Germany. He returned to his native Edinburgh to join the board of Barkers PR, then one of Scotland’s leading PR agencies.
“It’s always satisfying to receive an award, but particularly meaningful when recognition comes from fellow professionals,” Scott commented. “I’m honoured because there are many excellent independent PR consultants in Scotland who have been in the business a long time.
“It’s also a great pleasure to be able to work with the senior management teams of some exciting, go-ahead organisations that are taking on and beating their competitors throughout the UK and around the world.”
Scot PR’s clients include UK and global leaders in information technology, retail, manufacturing, hotels, services, healthcare and business process outsourcing. They have operations from the Scottish Highlands to South Wales, and the River Mersey to the Humber. His work takes Scott to Europe as well as many parts of the UK. He speaks French, German and Dutch.
He attributes part of the consultancy’s success to his long experience of working in the media. “Having a solid journalistic background is a definite plus because credibility with the media is paramount,” he commented. In January, Business in Scotland magazine rated Scot PR’s press releases the best it received and said they were invariably used.
Scott began his journalistic career as a reporter with the bi-weekly Perthshire Advertiser before leaving to take a degree in French and Politics at Glasgow University. His first overseas job for Reuters was to cover the Middle East Peace Conference in Geneva, an assignment which included clandestine briefings in the wee sma’ hours from then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
“I find being an independent consultant much more satisfying than working for an agency,” he said. “There’s much closer contact with customers – and you can choose the ones with whom you want to work.”
Scott lives in Eskbank, Midlothian. He and his wife Maureen have three children – Laura (who handles PR and marketing for Scotland’s national aquarium, Deep Sea World), Fiona and Andrew.