Public Relations

I got into PR by mistake. I had no intention of working in an industry which, as far as I could see, was peopled by girls in short skirts, clutching gins and tonic or glasses of champagne.

The truth was that these early PR practitioners were not proficient at delivering coverage in the press and wider media. They could certainly run impressive events, but most were hopeless when it came to securing headlines.

My change of heart came when I was approached by Euan Macaulay, the CEO of Motherwell Enterprise Trust, to ask if I would write a press release for him. "I'm a real journalist," I retorted. "I don't write press releases."

"I'll pay you £300," he replied and before you could say Paul Daniels I had my notebook out scribbling down his news.

I clearly remember that it took me 20 minutes to write my first press release - it was the easiest money I had ever made.

It got a great show in the local papers and Euan then had me a writing release for him every week. Soon other clients were queuing at my door.

It was time to take on my first employee - Marie Toner. She worked with me on news and PR out of an office situated up a dark close in Motherwell.

We broke some great stories during the lifetime of the news agency which was called Beattie Media. One of the most memorable was a story about a Scottish girl, Marie Queen, who had been born blind and who saw for the first time at the age of 18 after she went through a ground-breaking operation.

She then lost her sight but got it back after praying to the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a Scottish nun who had lived a blameless life and who is the subject of a campaign to be made a saint.

The Gift

Marie got her sight back in 1982 - at the time Pope John Paul II was coming to Scotland - so together with fellow journalist, Terry Houston, I wrote a book about her life. We called it The Gift, but 'the gift' for me out of that whole episode was learning an important business lesson - don't get involved in industries you know nothing about.

Terry and I believed we could make a lot of money publishing the book ourselves so we got Collins to print 60,000 copies while we focused on promoting and selling the publication.

The BBC made a documentary, Marie's story was serialised in the Sunday Mail and Manchester Evening News, and was given huge exposure in the Daily Mail as well as countless other publications.

The book sold an immediate 6000 copies and was at the top of the best-seller lists. When the Pope arrived at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow, I was confident we would easily double our sales. After all, Marie's story was one of the great miracles of our time.

However, despite having an army of sellers at the venue, which was packed with 250,000 people on a glorious sunny day, we only sold 12 copies. The moral of the story - don't try to make money out of religion and don't try to make money dabbling in a business you know nothing about.

Over the next few years Beattie Media went through a rapid period of expansion and we bought our first office in Hamilton. At this stage we were still operating the news agency, but the PR side of the business was soaring ahead.

Everything in the garden was rosy but George McKechnie, the then editor of the Evening Times, was far from happy. "You can't ride two horses," he said. "You need to decide if you are a PR man or a journalist."

That was an easy decision. By then I was predominantly a PR man. Public relations accounted for the bulk of the company's earnings and so I sold off the news agency to concentrate on PR.

Virtually overnight, Beattie Media was transformed into a fully-fledged public relations agency.

Around this time Laurna Woods joined the business. She was a hard worker and quickly rose through the ranks (she's now Chief Executive). She impressed me so much that we built a team around her in Edinburgh.

Gordon's News

Beattie Communications Targets Australia

Beattie Communications has launched its Only Public Relations brand in Australia.

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