Profile: Tony Bradley, Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Tony Bradley lives in Northumberland, runs an agency in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and will spend 2006 ‘fighting for the regions’ as CIPR president.

Tony Bradley lives in Northumberland, runs an agency in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and will spend 2006 'fighting for the regions' as CIPR president. It is fortuitous, then, that the self-deprecating 50-year-old loves travel – he has plenty to come in the months ahead.

A proud Geordie, Bradley – partner of ten-strong Newcastle outfit Bradley O'Mahoney – has flown to the capital to see PRWeek but is keen to stress his commitment to the North-East. 'I want to represent the industry outside London,' he says determinedly.

Looking round the Institute's impressive new HQ in St James's Square, he admits: 'It's a great building, but the rent is higher than the old place and we need to ramp up our commercial activities – we're looking to double the amount of training courses we run.'

Last February the former IPR achieved long-sought charter status. In the year ahead Bradley wants to introduce 'chartered practitioner' status for individual senior members, and to establish a benchmarking scheme for in-house PROs similar to the PRCA's Consultancy Management Standard.

He also wants to 'build strategies around' last year's landmark CIPR/ Centre for Economics and Business Research study on the industry.
Bradley believes such initiatives will make the CIPR more relevant to its 8,100 members – and attract new ones. But he admits a need to 'quantify the benefits' in order to bolster its ranks.

Bradley's role casts him as a spokesperson for an industry that – ironically – is still much maligned. But he says: 'I don't get hung up about the profession's image. Yes, it has been tarnished by goings-on at different organisations, but so what? The industry's results must speak for themselves. We must become even more professional, and that's where the CIPR comes in.'

His aim, once more, is to ensure CIPR members outside the capital reap the benefits of membership. He is proud that a recent 'strategy day' for top-brass was held on Tyneside.

Schooled at a 'red-brick grammar' in South Shields, Bradley studied journalism in Darlington, and spent four years on local papers. An unsuccessful applicant for a BBC broadcast job in London, he laments: 'Regional accents were just not acceptable. (It is diluted now, although he still pronounces 'look' as 'luke').

He recalls telling Shields Gazette colleagues he was leaving to join the Automobile Association: 'Most were gobsmacked – like me, they didn't know what PR was. My editor asked why I was going, and I said: "The salary's fantastic". The AA was great – we could even fly abroad on press trips.'

He then moved to Germany, where his then-girlfriend (now wife and part-time financial controller at Bradley O'Mahoney) was based, to promote the Naafi operation at the British Army HQ in Rheindahlen. He recalls: 'I was given the rank of colonel. PR-wise this meant we could requisition a helicopter for visiting film crews.'

He returned to the North-East in 1987, co-founding Bradley O'Mahoney in 1993. Clients now include One NorthEast and Durham Tees Valley Airport.

When asked of which campaign he feels most proud, he recalls work for the East of England Development Agency four years ago: 'We had to launch a regional brand and some people wanted us to fail. But Barbara Cassani [then CEO of airline Go] came on board, we hired a plane and flew journalists around the region.'

Bradley is clearly fond of mid-air schmoozing. He laughs: 'Yes, they tell me in the office that I'm a one-trick pony – I'm always saying to people "lend us an aircraft!"'

He adds: 'I'm known for my love of big set-pieces. People call me King Contra, too – I'm good at scrounging.'

He refers, more than once, to the 1980s being 'the good times' for groundbreaking PR. He says: 'I feel sorry for the juniors today, with clients who quibble over the cost of a courier. Years ago we would just charter planes – no questions asked.'

And with that, he's off back to the North-East. By plane, naturally.

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