The first slide for our most recent speaker read, 40 years: A Teesside career story, we were keen to know more.
As the owner and face of Recognition PR, Graham Robb is well known across the region, during the 2019 election campaign he appeared alongside our now Prime Minister on many occasions. This is quite an achievement for a man whose career has been based primarily in and around Teesside.
Good PR tends to focus on positive stories and brand promotion, today speaking to an audience of his peers, Graham stripped away the PR polish and spoke with honesty about his life and career.
As we have found with many of our speakers, school was not a place that Graham enjoyed or that provided him with academic success, so poor was his level of education that it was only whilst working that he learnt the alphabet fully.
Despite life dealing some harsh cards, Graham clearly always had a drive to succeed and whilst he made it sound as if he just fell into his career in radio, reading between the lines it was clearly tenacity and drive that secured that first job at radio Tees.
Working the night shift, 1am – 5am is a tough grounding for an aspiring presenter and Graham sailed through it growing audience numbers and resulting in a move to the news desk. This move was initially something Graham struggled with but ultimately it was the catalyst for what would become his life long career.
In the news team Graham was challenged by a co-worker and goaded that he didn’t have the skills to interview, for instance a Prime Minister. The tenacious Graham kicked into action and aged just twenty secured an interview with then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. That meeting prompted the PM to ask Graham to stand for the party and he did, against Peter Mandleson in Hartlepool, no he didn’t win but a career on the periphery of politics began.
The world of politics was never going to sit easily alongside a career as a local radio host and so Graham needed career plan B. The story of how this unfolded was genuinely heart warming, with the help of a local takeaway shop owner, Graham set up Recognition PR, found an excellent first client in KPMG and grew the business organically and successfully. Enter the “Dragon” in 1992 Graham met Duncan Bannatyne and after a challenging start, where Duncan questioned the practice of PR they have worked together ever since.
Recognition PR has worked with the Conservative party since the early days, during last years election campaign they were pivotal in managing the many visits that Boris Johnson made to the North East and secured the photo at Wilton Engineering that became the key image used across the media when the election result was declared. Graham is a tireless supporter of Ben Houchen and supports the drive to regenerate and redefine the Tees Valley. The story of Graham Robb and Recognition PR is nowhere near winding down after over 30 years; his passion for Teesside remains as fervent.
Graham delivered an insight into his childhood, early years, family life and career both in PR and politics. His honesty and openness with those in the room was truly inspiring and we thank Graham for being such an informative speaker.
Event photographs by Laurence Sweeney
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