Meet Leeds’ own professor of public relations

Professor Anne Gregory.
Professor Anne Gregory.
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WITH a CV as long as her arm, Professor Anne Gregory has come an impressively long way since her early days working in a sweet shop.

Anne, 57, is the brains behind the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, the largest of its kind in Europe.

The centre provides support for people working in public relations, looking at the challenges they face and thinking through solutions.

Anne, who has won a long list of awards for her work, talks to Claire Dunwell about motorbikes, schoolgirl crushes and why she’s at her happiest surrounded by her family.

One of the things I love about Leeds is how everything I need is within walking distance. I’m based in the city centre and within five minutes I can be at the art gallery or in one of the many great shops. People from the north are so friendly too.

My philosophy is to make things better. We can choose to make a difference for the good, the bad or make no difference at all. I hope the people I work with will say life was better for working with Anne and that I have made some small impact on people’s lives. Sometimes we are faced with tough decisions but I hope to look back and think that I have never done any real harm to anybody and only done good. Although I’m not saying I always succeed.

My first boss gave me the best piece of advice when he told me to make the phone call I really didn’t want to make. He said it meant something was wrong and it needed putting right. I used to work in consultancy and if I didn’t want to contact someone I knew there was a problem with the relationship and it had to be sorted out. I try not to put things off.

I was crying with laughter when I had all the family over at Christmas which was brilliant. I was playing a football game with my nephews and nieces where we had to blow the ball through a straw and I was laughing so much I couldn’t concentrate. Needless to say they won.

My childhood was spent playing outside, riding my bike, building tree houses and making mischief. I have two older brothers and I got involved with their games when they allowed me to play with them. My mum was a cleaner and my dad was a painter and decorator who always encouraged us to be active. They were the kind of parents who read stories to us at night. We didn’t have an awful lot of money but everything was provided for us and we enjoyed the simple things like going to the park. I definitely learnt important values during my childhood, especially to tell the truth.

I’d love the chance to meet Queen Elizabeth I, pictured below, because she was a really complex character. I think she would be a fascinating person to talk to because she was a woman in a man’s world who had to make really hard decisions. I’d like to know what made her tick and did she really write those speeches herself?

My first crush was on Mr McGreedy, a gym teacher at school. I was 11 years old and thought he was the bees knees.

Not many people know this but I used to ride a motorbike. I bought my first bike, a Honda 50, when I was a student and went everywhere on it. I didn’t hang up my helmet until I learnt to drive 10 years later. I got a taste for bikes when I was 12 years old because my dad rode them. Funnily enough, my mum went into labour with me when she was travelling in a side car. She and dad were coming back from a day trip to Lytham St Annes and got to the hospital in just in time. That’s how I came to be called Anne. I’d love to get back on a bike someday,

I got my first job working in a sweet shop when I was still at school. I worked every Saturday for 19s a day and after six weeks of eating sweets, I never touched them again. When a job came up elsewhere paying £1 1s, there was no contest.

My most embarrassing moment was when I became stranded on an aeroplane at Leeds Bradford Airport. I was flying to Glasgow to hold a training course in media relations and 20 people were expecting me. There was a problem with the plane and they eventually cancelled the flight so I didn’t make it. One of the people attending the course had flown in from the Shetland Islands without any mishaps, but I couldn’t even make it from Leeds.

Now if I have to be somewhere more than 50 miles away I make sure I leave the night before, just to be on the safe side.

I love listening to the radio and couldn’t live without it. It’s about imagination and building a picture in my mind. I’m a radio 4 addict and like listening to speech programmes. My mind can run riot while I’m tuned in.

My joke is...

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Egbert.

Egbert who?

Egbert no bacon.

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