Category: Blog

GCSE Results Day 2017, but what do those grades really mean for the future of the next generation?

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Waking up, I could only imagine how year 11’s across the country were feeling as the news reader on the radio announced the beginning of GCSE results days 2017.

Easily one of the most nerve wracking days of a 16 year olds life, memories flooded back of the day I arrived at school to pick up the brown envelope, that, at the time, you believe contains the fate of the rest of your life.

I arrived at Manor Community Academy in Hartlepool at 8:30am and eager students were already waiting at the door, ready to get that dreaded moment over and done with. After five years of secondary school and two years of hard work preparing for the GCSE exams, the day not only symbolises the start of the next step in life, but the end of an era. Emotions were high, but it was brilliant to see so many chuffed faces as expectations were met or even beaten.

But a clear difference this year was the look of confusion on some of the students faces.

A new numerical grade system has replaced the traditional A*-G grades for English and Maths and according to research from The Student Room, students find the 1-9 grading system is difficult to understand.

The reforms to the grading system have been introduced in an attempt to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace. Yet with the new grading system brings new, tougher exams which has resulted in a dip in the pass rate across England.

For some, classroom studies and GCSE exams are a breeze, but what about those who struggle? Do harder exams and disappointing results really mean the end of the world?

After this year’s drop in the pass rate it is more important than ever to inspire young people to keep their heads up, keep concentrating on their ambitions and to not be too disheartened.

At this point it’s vital that students are encouraged to find an area of study that they love. Maths, Science and English aren’t for everyone and it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are so many alternative areas in which students can excel. Once they find their niche and their passion, educational success will follow.

I know many successful business owners who will happily tell you that GCSE results aren’t the be all and end all, and as Publicity Seekers Managing Director, Samantha Lee, very rightly said: “Celebrate what you’ve got and don’t beat yourself up on what you don’t. Life is full of interesting paths and yours will come, regardless of what an exam paper says.”

Teesside, as a thriving business community, has an opportunity here to step up and inspire the future generations. After all, 2017’s GCSE students will one day soon be making up the Teesside workforce and what better way to secure a business’s future success than by preparing them in advance?

Apprenticeships, internships, work experience placements, school visits offering demonstrations, and talks are just a few ways that businesses can make a massive difference. It’s about taking a step back and identifying how, as role models, they can inspire and make an impact.

So what are you going to do?

Tees Valley’s £6m funding helps 1,000’s return to employment

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The brilliant news that the Tees Valley has received £6million worth of funding to support thousands of people across the region back in to work, is music to our ears at a time where the region’s future success is at the forefront of our minds.

In the wake of Wednesday’s ‘Building a Thriving North East’ event, held at Hartlepool College of Further Education, the importance of building the confidence and ambition of the Tees Valley community, young and old, is evident. If the region is going to bounce back from the issues that it has previously faced, and establish itself as the powerhouse it deserves to be, business leaders need to collaborate in order to tackle the array of social, educational, and mindset barriers that potentially stand in the way.

Our region is bursting with innovative, forward-thinking businesses, who have worked hard to reinvent themselves in times of regional change and have come out on top time and time again. The Tees Valley, once known for heavy industry such as steel manufacturing, has evolved in to a hub of digital/creative industry, which demonstrates its diversity perfectly.

These businesses have the potential to progress and grow, yet if businesses don’t make the effort to instil passion and excitement in to the next generation, where will we be 10 years from now?

The pilot initiative, which has been launched in the six combined authority areas in the country, is particularly exciting, as it offers opportunity to people aged 30 and over, who have had the greatest difficult getting in to the world of work due to struggles experienced during their time in education.

At Wednesday’s event, Shaun Hope, Head of Student Recruitment at Hartlepool College of Further Education, spoke about the difficulties that a results-driven education system has created. A constant focus on achieving the best results has meant that the support for those who academically aren’t the greatest performers has declined year after year.

This initiative will help to combat this lack of support, which resulted in school underachievers struggling to find employment. It will give them the opportunity to identify their talents and skills, and support with driving their ambition to achieve and better themselves.

Yet what I find most exciting is that its ripple effect will have a positive impact on those around them. If a child see’s a parent in a full time job, achieving and feeling fulfilled, they are more likely to have aspirations for their own future career. The same goes for other family members, friends and neighbours.

Our newly elected mayor, Ben Houchen, is calling upon local support services and councils, voluntary organisations, and Tees Valley businesses to provide the best possible support to help people back to work. Thanks to this funding, support will no longer be a financial burden, all that is asked is that they provide their time.

Going forward a regional focus needs to be on urging business and organisation leaders to consider themselves as role models to the community and to take a step back to see how they can help to make a difference.

Tees Valley businesses working together to overcome adversity

Kevin Byrne, Andy Steel, Jayne Moules and Alby Pattison will comprise the panel


As a region, it’s fair to say that in the past the Tees Valley hasn’t had the easiest of times. Although we have proven over the years that we are in fact a robust, strong region that will always strive to get ‘back on our feet,’ this isn’t helped by national media, members of government and shameful ‘reality tv’ shows that paint us as deprived, unemployed and the founders of ‘benefits Britain.’

With recent setbacks from SSI, Tata Steel and Adelie still fresh in our mind, levels of unemployment, deprivation and poverty have increased, the effect of which on our community is far from positive.

At Publicity Seekers we are lucky enough to work with a group of clients, extremely passionate about their surroundings and with enormous pride in the Tees Valley. However one thing we hear time and again is about the effect of our region’s negative outlook has on the aspirations of our children and our community.

To counteract this, we’re bringing together four of our business leaders for a panel debate looking at ‘Building a Thriving North East’ and the issues that need addressing within our community to be able to do that.

We already have 20 business leaders attending but have room for 5 more. If you would like to attend on Wednesday August 2 from 8:30am – 10am please get in touch with

The panel consists of the following:

Alby Pattison

MD of Hart Biologicals

Most recently awarded Freedom of the Borough by Hartlepool Borough Council, Alby Pattison sits at the head of Hart Biologicals, a specialist medical company that creates life-saving medical equipment and exports to 39 companies worldwide.

Part of Alby’s success comes from his endless contributions to the community. A key supporter of the apprenticeship scheme, Alby employs from within the town and takes in several new students each year. He is a supporter of many local charities, a governor at Manor School and STEM ambassador regularly visiting colleges and universities to speak about the importance of science and value of it as a career.

Kevin Byrne

MD of Seymour Civil Engineering

Hartlepool’s Business Leader of the Year 2017, Kevin Byrne sits at the helm of Seymour Civil Engineering, a record-breaking £35m-turnover business which carries out urban renewal projects, restoration and development work and drainage works across the North East and Yorkshire. The company has saved hundreds of North East homes through its vital flood alleviation work, most notably its award-winning work on the sea defences between Hartlepool and Seaton.

Kevin is a keen supporter of apprenticeships and takes on several each year from Hartlepool College of Further Education. He is committed to bringing young people into the business to grow and develop and most recently sent two of his younger staff to complete university degrees at Northumbria University funded by the company.

Andy Steel

Assistant Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education

The North’s number one apprenticeship provider, Hartlepool College of Further Education, is renowned with businesses and students alike for its high quality apprenticeships, people development and connections to some of the greatest businesses in the North East.

Andy Steel leads the College’s business development and recruitment strategy, focusing on apprenticeships, adult skills and commercial partnerships. Outside of the college Andy is the Chair of AdAstra Trust and the Hartlepool Business Forum, organising the Hartlepool Business Awards each year for the town.

Jayne Moules

Strategic Development Manager at Changing Futures NE

Changing Futures North East has been supporting local children and families since 1997 through mediation services, mentorships, community support and independent visitors. Over the last year alone, the charity has helped over 420 children and 237 parents in the Tees Valley and since 2013 its mentoring project has helped around 100 children and young people develop their social and emotional well-being skills.

Jayne Moules has worked to co-ordinate a number of significant family support programmes across the North East including delivery of the Troubled Family

Programme and also in aiding the roll-out of Sure-Start Centres. At Changing Futures, Jayne is working to engage key stakeholders in creating a family relationship-focussed hub within Hartlepool.

The event runs as follows:

Wednesday 2nd August at Hartlepool College of Further Education

8:30am – Coffee

9:00am – Talk and panel

10:00am – Event close

Is the regional business media working for NEPIC’s members?

I recently returned to the North East having spent 12 years living and working in London and this time next week I’ll be attending my first NEPIC meet the members conference.

A lot has changed since I left but the region’s strong heritage in the process and chemical industries remains. In fact, the majority of the friends I grew up with work in those sectors, and I know about the companies they work for. But no matter the size or the important role they play in driving growth, are these companies featured often enough in the regional business press?

I know the media is having a hard time, both in London and here in the North East, with severe cuts to staffing and massive competition from many digital avenues. I’ve spent my whole career building relationships for my clients with their target audiences. Likewise, my new colleagues at Publicity Seekers who’ve spent the past 10 years working daily with the regional business journalists, understanding their challenges and making the most of opportunities to showcase our clients.

With that in mind, I had a chat with our founder and MD Samantha Lee, who is an ex-journalist with The Mirror, The Express, Gazette and Hartlepool Mail. She’s a journalist at heart and knows the benefits – for both sides – that come when local businesses have a good working relationship with regional media.

From Sam’s journalistic perspective the introduction of digital marketing has blurred the lines for many companies who may not be PR savvy and at times has put too much distance between businesses and local journalists. Some companies now pop their news on their website, Twitter and LinkedIn and expect it to reach their target audiences without actually driving traffic to those articles. It’s like having a party and not sending out the invites but still expecting everyone to come. For many, it seems the days of personal relationships with the local media are a thing of the past.

On the other hand, we’re both experienced enough to know there’s always two sides to every story. Maybe the local media aren’t getting the stories that matter to NEPIC’s members.

At that point we knew there was a number of questions that needed answering. I then spoke with Louise at NEPIC to see how we could get some insights and a better understanding of how we can create a better working relationship between NEPIC’s members and the regional business media.

Following that, we agreed to partner with NEPIC to survey a number of NEPIC’s members. The survey aims to uncover exactly what NEPIC members are reading, what their potential customers and suppliers are reading and how they get their big news stories, case studies and company info in front of the eyes of the people that matter to them.

Similarly we will be surveying the region’s best journalists about our members and asking which companies are PR savvy, what stories they really want to hear about and how they can be working for NEPIC members in a way that will benefit both our companies and the press themselves. After all, it’s a two-way thing.

The report will be available to members at the conference and will give them a view on the business media that matter to NEPIC’s members, what business journalists know about their companies and exactly what kind of news they want from them.

If you’re interested in adding your insights to our research or would like a copy of the report, drop me a line or give me a call: / 07908 808117

What is the ROI of a Press Release?


In the PR industry, I think there’s one thing we’re never going to stop doing, proving the worth of what we do.

But that’s a lot more difficult than it sounds.

Gone are the days when a simple Advertising Equivalent Value (AEV) could give our clients peace of mind, that they were definitely getting their money’s worth. Nowadays, we’re left counting cuttings and trying to calculate the real business value of a double-page spread.

How do you measure raising awareness? We can look at circulation figures and readership, site visits and page views. But how do we know those people actually read about our client’s latest venture from start to finish.

How do you measure changing opinion? We can look at comments on social media and listen to what those around us say, but do we really know if someone on the opposite side of the world has read your article and changed their opinion because of it?

The answer is we don’t, but of course all is not lost.

What we do have is feedback and that is something along with all the traditional methods we value above all else. Has our press release resulted in a new business lead for you? Did you walk into a sales meeting or introduction to a potential customer and were known instantly because of your press coverage?

We build credibility and trust and the only way to verify that is through our clients that we’re building it for. Sometimes one phone call or one new business connection can make a real positive impact and fund the value of the whole press release itself.

There’s also the element of what you do with that press release and how far you really push it. In the past we’ve secured extra business for our clients by using case study coverage to tweet potential customers, sent out direct e-mail marketing using online links to positive case studies and also created sales documents to be sent directly to client databases.

All of the above are much more measurable and easier to pinpoint where the enquiry came from.

But that brings us back to our old trusty press release. What really is your Return on Investment? My advice, try it and let me know what it does for your business.

Publicity Seekers is offering an exclusive PR Taster Package, to find out more contact Katy on 07789445508 or e-mail

What goes on behind the scenes of a PR agency?

It isn’t just all Ab Fab champagne and launches, believe me working in a busy PR agency is quite far from glamorous. (But don’t get me wrong there’s never a dull moment!)

The most difficult task I ever come up against in daily conversations is explaining exactly what Publicity Seekers do. In the early ‘nouteens’ (can I coin that phrase?) we were still very much a media based agency. Newspapers and magazines were our bread and butter and our results were measured on advertising equivalents and cuttings numbers.

But then the digital age struck and as more and more people adapted, we were given even more opportunities to reach our client’s target markets from newsletters and social media to online publications, forums and communities.

Google and web traffic became much more important to our clients and we had to find a way to adapt our skills in content marketing and SEO too.

We work across a very diverse range of industries including construction, engineering, manufacturing, finance, law, retail and so many more, plus a range of one-off projects such as launches or events.

Business to business is what we specialise in but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all we do. Arena tours, restaurants and crowdfunding projects we have all excelled in and packed out thousands at events across the country.

So what’s a day in our office like? To the sound of Absolute 00’s (Radio one when I’m in control) we all begin to arrive from 7am. E-mails are checked, social media posts and accounts are monitored and we begin to get a rough idea of our day ahead.

Of course in this industry one phonecall can change the entire course of any day so making sure you get through as much as you can while you have precious office time is crucial.

From there the days goes on to client meetings and quarterly reports, where we present our work delivered over the last three months and begin planning on the direction in which we take the next three.

Action plans updated, e-mails answered, we then start putting work into motion, arranging photographs, interviews and speaking to journalists to find out what they’re working on.

Newsletters scheduled, Facebook posts perfected, approval comes through on a feature from a client, so we send it through to the journalist and give them a call to see if they need anything else.

Website content updated, traffic monitored, we filter client marketing offers and send through the select few we think will be of benefit to run alongside our campaigns.

Photographs edited, video content uploaded, we start on our mountain of award submissions for the upcoming Business Awards, of which we have a very good track record.

Around 6pm most of our days will finish, but that of course doesn’t end our work, if we’re not attending an event or working late, we’re constantly watching the news, keeping up on Twitter and listening out for any opportunities for our clients.

If you think PR could be of benefit to your business contact me on 07789445508 or e-mail



ONE of the best things about working in PR is the fact that no two days are the same.

With clients in a variety of sectors ranging from construction to education, the team here at Publicity Seekers has a varied workload when it comes to dealing with the people we look after.

This week proved no exception, and I had the pleasure of accompanying one of our clients on a trip to London for a meeting to discuss what could be some exciting news in the steel sector.

The future of UK steel is a hot topic at the moment, with some uncertainty over steelmaking after economic issues across the globe had a knock-on effect back home – not least here in Teesside where generations have proudly worked in the mills for more than 100 years.

Our meeting wasn’t directly linked to the ongoing issues, but as we walked into the vast hall at Westminster it was the main topic of conversation as a MPs from both sides of the House debated the best steps to take to ensure steel has a future.

As I said, being versatile in this job is par for the course so this wasn’t the first time we’ve been required to join a client on a trip through the capital’s corridors of power.

Meetings of this nature take some organising, but the constant stream of emails and phone calls to the offices of MPs are always worthwhile when you can get an audience with the decision-makers on behalf of your client.

There’s always something special about Westminster, it’s almost as if you can feel the history as soon as you walk through the splendid entrance into the main hall.

You can feel the anticipation as you turn the corner past Westminster Abbey and head up towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, but as tempting as it was to whip the iPhone out and grab a selfie just like the throng of tourists outside, I quickly remembered I was there to work.
Once you get through security, a lengthy task in itself for obvious reasons, paintings adorn the walls and imposing stone busts of former political greats are dotted about throughout.

A chatty security guard was telling an excited group of tourists how Henry VIII had played tennis in the Great Hall where they stood. Whether that’s true or not might be a job for Google, but if walls could talk then that place would certainly have some tales to tell.

With time to kill prior to our meeting, there was enough time to take in the formality of the debate which raged across the House.

Perched high above the benches in the public gallery, you get a bird’s eye view of proceedings as rows of politicians battle to have their say.

It all looks so familiar, those green seats, the speaker perched at the top trying to keep order, and while we see he same sights on the TV each night, it’s hard not to think back to some of the figures who have graced those benches – no matter which side of the hall your political allegiances lie.

We’ve all seen David Cameron, Tony Blair before him. Think back to when the Iron Lady ruled the roost, rewind back to Churchill.

The place doesn’t look as though it’s changed, there’s obviously been a lick of paint here and there and there are a few plasma TVs dotted around to keep people up to date with the news, but apart from that I’m confident any of our former illustrious leaders from bygone days would still be able to navigate their way around the corridors without the need for a SatNav.

As for our meeting, everything went well. We met the people we wanted to meet, and it was all very positive. PR’s not about cloak and dagger meetings but giving good organisations a voice, helping get great projects off the ground and communicating with our clients’ intended audiences on their behalf. In this instance politicians.

It won’t be long before we’re back in Westminster for another round of meetings, and hopefully there will be good news all round.
Not just for our client, but for the whole of the steel sector in general.

What is PR?


PR has changed its meaning several times to me over the years.

When I was a journalist it would mean the annoying PR account exec who would call bang on deadline to sell you her clients’ latest product, blissfully unaware that a. a new mascara is not news and b. phoning on deadline was one of the worst things you could do to a stressed out journo.

To move to the ‘other side’ was quite a shift for me. At first I saw it as an opportunity to become a business owner, something I had always wanted to do but never thought I had the skill sets to pull off.

Now-a-days Publicity Seekers is in its 10th year and PR really does have a meaning.

Yes we have words like strategy, objectives and KPIs, but we also have a lot of substance. One thing I can’t get my head around is those people in professional services who advise new start-ups to buy stock or set up a framework for a new business without investing a single penny in PR and marketing. You can have the greatest product or service in the world but if no one knows about it you may as well save your time and consign it straight to the bin.

What we do plain and simply, is tell a story to the audiences who need to know about it, much like in my journalist days.

We can reach hundreds of thousands of people on prime time news or we can draft up a specially tailored newsletter for one. Those communications are crucial for building up a reputation and letting customers or potential clients know who you are, what you do and what makes you different from your competitors.

The North East is renowned for hiding its light under a bushel, not wanting to be boastful or stick its neck out. That’s where we come in, we do the shouting for you.

It’s about seeing start-ups and small businesses move to the next level because their profile has been raise through the roof and so has their order books. It’s about picking out great companies that we want to work with and watching them grow.

PR can have a bad rep, and after years as a journalist I know plenty of that was founded. However there’s a massive need for targeted public relations, particularly now we are bombarded by so much media on a daily basis. So letting the experts tell your story is a must if your business is to stand out these days.