The Team

Meet the people behind the award winning Manchester PR Agency

Award Winning Manchester PR Agency

Our staff

An agency is only as strong as its people, and we have some very strong PR professors aboard. With decades of experience between us, ranging from consumer and B2B public relations to marketing and journalism, expect inquisitive minds, original thinkers, first rate multi-media experts, and fearlessly intrepid industry orchestrators . Not to mention stand out results.


Your career

At Smoking Gun PR we’re always interested in meeting potential colleagues and welcome applications from novices and veterans alike. That is providing they can think laterally, and come up with inventive and ingenious ideas on a daily basis. Oh, and they need to be jolly nice too; after all, we’re a friendly old bunch. Please visit our PR jobs page for any current vacancies

Rick's Story

Rick's Story

Rick Guttridge

Managing Director and Co-Owner

Rick previously enjoyed spells in full-service agencies, was MD at major consumer specialist PR outfit and has led accounts on many major international brands. He is committed to continuous professional development and enjoys helping staff grow as much as seeing clients in the media.

Rick grew up with the media in his blood thanks to his Uncle Peter, an acclaimed writer. The obsession was confirmed whilst a paperboy, reading the sports section of every national between deliveries each weekend. This was the same time he showed his first entrepreneurial spark, taking on paper rounds for the Wigan Reporter, Leader and Observer papers covering his entire village, before sub-contracting school friends to work for him.

Later, Rick’s customer centric approach and business understanding was formed when working for major companies Whitbread, Georgia Pacific and Royal Mail.

After breaking into media by launching and editing JJ’s magazine for Wigan Athletic Rick faced a career crossroads when he was offered an agency PR role and a position as a football correspondent with the Wigan Evening Post. He chose PR and has never looked back.

His all time favourite story is Lord Of The Rings which he feels remains as captivating for him now as it was when he was a child.

Vanessa's Story

Vanessa Guttridge

Director and Co-Owner

It was clear from a very early age that a vivid imagination and a love of people and company were central to Vanessa’s personality. Over the years these skills became turned into a flair for story telling, becoming the obvious basis for a future in communication.

Vanessa has worked at a variety of PR, event and integrated marketing agencies in addition to in-house marketing and PR roles after studying media production.

Whether dressing Coronation Street stars on the catwalk, running private parties at the homes of England’s international footballers or securing full-page features in national press, Vanessa’s friendly demeanor always comes to the fore.

Vanessa showed glimpses of her future career choice when taking on the task of organising her university leavers ball with her friend, in the process booking up and coming comic Peter Kay to headline the event for the princely sum of £250 with a rider consisting of several hotel mini bars worth of booze!

Vanessa’s chosen story is Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (it does not pay to be mean, however everyone deserves a second chance)

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Hayley's Story

Hayley Peters

Operations Director

In every successful agency you need a mix of experience and fresh ideas. With more than eleven years behind her in Manchester’s communications industry then, during which time she has honed impressive skills and developing forward thinking concepts, Hayley represents both those requirements, personified.


Beginning her career at the age of just 17, just over a decade later and Hayley has racked up the kind of resume that would make many more mature professionals green with envy. A specialist in travel, hospitality, mother and baby, food, and retail public relations, her CV name-checks some of the biggest brands in those businesses, from Aldi and Warburtons to Holiday Inn, All Saints and Eurocamp. That’s before we come to mention the British Army.


With a keen understanding of what constitutes successful strategic planning, and a love for the same insight-driven approach that lies at the heart of the Smoking Gun PR, her love of data, reports and intelligence-focused campaign work means it took no time at all for Hayley to become a core member of the family here on Bridge Street. Forsaking fluff for hard work based on real insights and knowledge garnered from a big agency background, to say we value her input would be the understatement of the century.


Hayley’s favourite book is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which transfixed her as a teenager because of its moral hero and the moving nature of the story told through the eyes of a little girl, making it the first book she ever felt emotional about.

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Sarah's Story

Sarah Twyman

Associate Director

As one of our most senior team members, you might expect Sarah Twyman to be a seasoned public relations veteran with a passion for seeing big ideas brought to life, and a desire to thrust brands into the spotlight, irrespective of their size or budget. But all that would really be an understatement.

With more than 12 years in the industry behind her, Sarah has had time to specialise, carving out a niche for herself in the fashion and beauty sectors, whilst also developing her skills across the playing field. The end product being an enviably knowledgable professional who places creativity and insights at the centre of her work, crafting innovative campaigns for companies before providing them with the results to prove exactly what she has achieved on their behalf.

Hence her being such a good match for Smoking Gun.

Originally hailing from Kent, but having spent seven years working in London after graduating from UCLan with a degree in Journalism and Fashion Promotion, Sarah boasts an intimidating list of household brand names, all of who she has assisted in garnering attention from the public and press alike. From major supermarket chains and hotels brands to some of the most recognisable firms in the FMCG marketplace, she brings to our office a strategic mind full of unique concepts- exactly the kind of tour de force our clients deserve.

Sarah’s favourite book is 1000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini for many reasons, not leas the fact it’s one of the only stories to ever make her cry.

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Jane's Story

Jane Alcock

Associate Director

A fresh face on Manchester’s PR scene, with a refreshingly fearless approach to match, Jane’s experience speaks volumes. She brings over a decade of experience working alongside some of London’s brightest creative agencies, and dealing with brands ranging from Kenwood to Mumm Champagne, she leaves an impressive trail of campaigns in her wake.


Jane’s interest in the media developed while studying the subject with Psychology at university. A month after her move to the capital she played a part in organising Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit party and a brand building role for FMCG soon followed. As did a journalist in a pumpkin, a pub for dogs and a Bond girl dressed in carrier bags.


More recently Jane has adopted an epicurean attitude towards her career with work for Phipps PR. Her job – promoting Green & Black’s, Kettle Chips and Tio Pepe – was almost as enviable as the following career break spent in the Alps and Cornwall.


Jane is currently trying to read the Game of Thrones books and struggling to work out whether to read book three or watch series four.

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Rose's Story

Rose Allerston

Account Director

A love of writing and storytelling led Rose into the world of PR, and her wizardry with words has made her a valuable addition to the industry, not to mention our agency. Beginning her career at a celebrity and entertainment media agency in London, she spent much of those early years chasing down the capital’s elite, running from one exceptionally well orchestrated red carpet event to another.

Skipping forward to today, Rose now has over seven year’s experience in the public relations game, and during this time has honed her notable skills to focus on several distinct specialisms; travel, arts, culture and interiors. Enviable by anyone’s standards, career highlights include heading up major PR campaigns for clients ranging from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to Silentnight.

Despite such high flying achievements, Rose does ‘Northern Grit’ very well indeed, not that this is too surprising given she calls the Derbyshire Peaks home. Hence an Instagram account full of the stunning scenery surrounding said house. Working with real determination and dedication to any project, she’s happiest when brainstorming creative plans with her teams and developing strategies for high impact brand undertakings,

Rose’s favourite book is The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker, because it reminds her that anything is possible. Oh, and she’s also obsessed with sausage dogs.

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Emma's Story

Emma Beard

Junior Account Manager

As advocates of a new approach to PR- one that takes in talent from a wide range of sectors to create a truly multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and creative task force- it makes sense that one of our desks provides a home to someone whose career spans everything from the UK charts to public relations.

Introducing our Junior Account Manager, Emma Beard. Joining us from a decidedly varied, not to mention somewhat star-studded background, she brings to the team a wide range of communicative experience, proven agency success, and a desire to achieve the best possible results for brands and personalities alike, via unique and innovative approaches to starting conversations.

Having a clear understanding of the way in which publicity works, on both ends of the camera, positions Emma as a truly rare asset, with her time spent as a recording artist signed to one of the world’s biggest record labels affording an understanding as to exactly what clients expect, want and require when engaging with any media representatives.

Moving herself out of the limelight, and into the fast-paced world of public relations, where she specialised in fashion, the result is more than a decade spent honing her knowledge and expertise, making this particular member of our in-house family a genuine one-of-a-kind. Outside the office, Emma likes to busy herself in the open countryside- in her own, typically tongue-in-cheek words: ‘imagine a Nike advert, that’s me, on the weekend’.

Emma’s favourite book is Harry Potter, simply because she would have loved to study at Hogwarts, and not least because of the adventures, mystery, mischief and friendships that prevail the fantasy seat of academe. Oh, and the magic, of course.

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Alex's Story

Alex Thomson

Creative Manager

A picture tells a thousand words, and great design speaks equal volumes. As such we were always going to hear Alex, what with his exceptionally vocal visual work, which has been used in everything from big brand campaigns to body-positive protests.
Born and raised in Manchester, Alex’s introduction to the world of artistry began during his time as a freelance graphic designer, from which his first in-house role, as junior art director, soon followed, giving him hands on experience delivering eye-catching images for companies such as Aldi, Royal Mail, and nPower.
Joining a PR agency was on the cards for some time before Smoking Gun offered him a job as Creative Manager- as one look at his decision to create a fast-response piece for a brand, poking fun and openly criticising a hugely controversial advert, making national headlines in the process, spurring him on to join wider protests in the capital. The result meant a growing appetite for media-related projects.
Soon finding himself freelancing again, project work was then replaced by an in-house position again, offering a brief respite from the mayhem of creative self-employment, before our team got in touch after having used his skills several times to offer him a full time role, generally making everything from our blogs to client marketing materials look as good as we all deserve.
Alex’s favourite book is the Game of Thrones series- which he pored over in print rather than on screen, when he wasn’t watching his beloved Manchester United, because he enjoys escapism. Hence regularly heading out to the countryside to enjoy hiking with his family.
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Martha's Story

Martha Downing

Senior Account Executive

Martha represents the new generation of public relations and marketing experts- those whose knowledge of the game has been gleaned from involvement in both sides of the industry. The result being another asset for our highly acclaimed team.

A former broadcast journalist, Martha’s journey to Bridge Street takes in high profile news organisations ranging from BBC Radio Manchester to ITV, where she was a production journalist covering the Channel Islands. Both positions followed undergraduate and post graduate courses in English Literature and History, and Broadcast Journalism respectively.

After establishing herself with the press she decided it was time for a new challenge, making the leap across to the other side of the phone line, taking up a post at a Guernsey PR agency, where those finely honed skills in live programming, writing, story sourcing, interviewing and news gathering did not go to waste. Now firmly settled back in Manchester, with the city’s finest communication innovators (us), despite missing the sea dearly Martha is building on our capacity to fulfill a broad range of client requirements, whilst also bolstering our niche skillset no end.

Martha’s favourite story is Bram Stoker’s gothic masterpiece Dracula, because of the way it gives such an insight into Victorian society, and no matter how many times you read the tale it remains as terrifying as ever.

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Zara's Story

Zara Lewis

Senior Account Executive

Given her love for all things pop culture, from what’s trending now to who’s making the headlines, and three years working in public relations, you’d be right in thinking Senior Account Executive Zara Lewis understands exactly what makes the country’s consumers tick.

Graduating from the University of Leeds with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, which also involved a year in Canada where she first met PR, Zara’s knowledge of the media comes from both sides of the industry. Finishing her studies, and opting to move away from editorial, internships at a number of agencies soon followed, working with luxury eyewear brands and fashion houses, amongst other briefs.

Taking her first full-time role in the sector here in our hometown of Manchester, clients included various charities and not-for-profits, alongside sportswear and food companies. Never one to be complacent, she also began branching out into digital, getting involved in the art of SEO for a string of high profile household names.

Joining Smoking Gun PR in the wake of that role, Zara’s varied experience with high profile accounts is just one reason why she’s such a good fit. Hitting the ground running, and garnering a stellar reputation in a relatively short amount of time, her rapid rise through the ranks is mirrored in a love for donning trainers and hitting the gym. That’s when she’s not busy crafting cushions, living out her passion for homes and interior design.

Zara’s favourite book is 1984 because some of the themes highlighted in the book are particularly relevant in an era where we struggle on a daily basis to combat fake news in the media.


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Jessica's Story

Jessica Higgins-Braddock

Social Media Community Manager

When you consider just how obsessed with data we are here at the Smoking Gun PR HQ it’s no surprise our Social Media and Community Manager, Jessica Higgins, took little time to settle in at our ever-ingenious agency. She is, after all, something of a numbers girl herself, professionally and personally speaking.

With a career spanning around half a decade already, Jessica has an impressive list of work for equally impressive brands in her portfolio, having been involved with campaigns for household names such as Imperial Leather, Aldi, Original Source, Avis, Carex and Visit Wales, giving her enviable experience across a broad range of sectors and companies.

Choosing not to go to university, Jessica is the epitome of determined, setting out to achieve great things via hard work in practical situations, proving to be a natural in the communications business, who understands exactly how clients should be represented, and have their expectations met. Hence her immediately becoming an integral cog in our family once she joined us from another leading PR agency here in her hometown of Manchester.

Jessica’s favourite story is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame Smith, because she loves it when a classic yarn is turned upside down and inside out.

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Meabh's Story

Meabh Crehan

Digital Account Executive

A testament to Smoking Gun PR’s focus on investing not just in the future of our own agency, but the future of the industry as a whole, Meabh Crehan is proof that hard work, insight and the desire to achieve both academically and professionally count for much in this game.

Joining the team initially for a placement year amid a Marketing Management course at Manchester Metropolitan University, her keen eye for quality writing and clear understanding of what’s needed to take control- be that of a campaign or pitch- marked her out as the best candidate for a full-time role with us. Meanwhile, time spent volunteering in Mumbai, where she taught English, Arts & Crafts, confirms she’s more than willing to roll up her sleeves and get involved for the good of worthy causes.

Meabh is Greater Manchester born and bred, and as such already has the core skills needed to succeed in this northern powerhouse. Namely determination and creative flair. After working in and amongst a digital marketing agency during her second year of studies, she quickly realised the fast-paced, varied and challenging agency lifestyle was for her. A wonderful addition to our team who displays talents far beyond her experience, to say her endeavours thus far have impressed would be an understatement.

Meabh’s favourite book is One Day, by David Nicholls, as it reinforces the idea you should live in the moment and grasp any and all opportunities that come your way.

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Martin's Story

Martin Hewitt


Martin is a wordsmith who contributes to national print and digital titles, senior editor at Design Exchange Magazine, DJ Magazine’s clubs editor, and a desk editor for UK press agency Free Features. When he’s not penning sentences for Smoking Gun’s acclaimed blog, that is.
With some eight years experience writing on music, food, travel, current affairs, the media, public relations and social media, and a previous life spent handling clients for Marks & Spencer, mumbling aside he understands how to communicate effectively in terms of both copy and conversations. Meanwhile, his desire to learn and master the latest and greatest trends impacting the industry makes him the perfect fit for this award-winning public relations agency.
Martin’s most captivating story is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. A far cry from his usual reading material, which largely consists of depressing foreign correspondences, this honest look at life as a teenager in the era before Britain went digital invokes memories of his own school days, and all the things he used to think about but was too nervous to let anyone know.