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An unexpected journey

By Laurna Woods

I’m honoured to have been shortlisted for the title of Chief Executive Of The Year.

It’s led colleagues to ask me how I got to climb the ladder at Beattie – and I’ve had to confess that it’s been a journey I never expected to take.

In fact, this image sort of sums it up.


I was a journalism student - working freelance for newspapers and television while at university – when the operations manager at Beattie rang my lecturer and asked for a recommendation of someone to join the team.

My name was put forward, and I found myself starting the role of account executive shortly before my 21st birthday.

I was the one and only account executive for what was then a fledgling company, and I didn’t have a clue about PR. I learned on the job.

I was as surprised as anyone to find myself in a permanent job with a business card, and my Dad told me: “That sounds really flash.”

It was, to a young girl who had only ever done freelance work here and there.

I took on every challenge that was thrown at me and managed to get through them one by one.

Initially I thought the job would be a stop gap until I found work as a journalist – but I loved every minute and I’ve never looked back.

Within six months, I was sent to Edinburgh to run a new office, and by the age of 24 I became one of the youngest board directors in the PR industry.

Every time a senior person left the company, I stepped in. Gordon Beattie, the president and founder of the company, has this saying - that when the big trees are chopped down it allows the saplings to grow.

That’s what I did. I learned so much about leadership and Gordon has been a real mentor to me for the past 20 years, teaching me that you never give up and always believe in yourself.

On November 9 I will be attending a gala dinner in Glasgow, where the winner of CEO of the Year at the HR NETWORK National Awards will be announced.

I am up against two other worthy contenders, so I’m not counting my chickens. Win or lose, it’s just great to have made the final three.

And I’m thankful for a great career, being at the helm of a company which has grown from a pure-play PR agency into an integrated communications consultancy serving a dozen industry sectors with offices across the UK, Ireland and Canada