History is watching: How are you advising your management team?

If the role of the public relations adviser is to be the eyes, ears and conscience of an organisation, how are you advising your management team?

Public relations is a management discipline and rapid change within the political world is creating significant opportunity for practitioners. 

Brexit and President Trump’s inauguration have signaled huge shifts in opinion and behaviour.  Both have created significant public division in the UK and US.

Businesses need to understand what these developments mean for trade; what their stakeholders believe and want; and be absolutely clear about their purpose going forward.

No one is better placed to help than the strategic public relations adviser.

 

Standing up for what’s right

Now more than ever, brands need to think very carefully about their role within society. 

Reputation management is a critical function for any organisation. At a time of political upheaval, if a company isn’t living its values, it will be judged against this.

As Professor Anne Gregory says in #FuturePRoof: “[Organisations] are being forced to re-think their purpose and how they gain and maintain their legitimacy not only with their immediate stakeholders, but to society more widely.”

 

A stirring response

Starbucks response to President Trump’s Muslim ban is an excellent example of an organisation prepared to defend its ethical credentials.

As part of a wider statement, Starbucks chair and CEO Howard Schultz sent the following message to employees and partners.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American dream, being called into question.

“These uncertain times call for different measures and communication tools than we have used in the past. [We] will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new Administration’s actions grows with each passing day.”

 

Driving in the wrong direction?

This move was in direct contrast to Uber, which flouted the New York Taxi Workers Alliance hour long strike at JFK Airport on 28 January, organized in protest at what the Alliance called an ‘inhumane and unconstitutional’ move by Trump.

Its move to capitalize on trade rather than stand side to side with others in the transport sector caused a tirade of outrage on Twitter and the introduction of a #deleteuber hashtag, which quickly went viral.

 

History is watching

As JK Rowling reminded Theresa May in advance of her trip to the US at the end of January, history is watching.

It’s a useful pointer for any public relations practitioner advising the C-Suite on the leadership role its organisation should play both internally and within society. It’s no longer acceptable not to have an opinion.

What will your – and your employer’s - legacy be?

Within the CIPR and PRCA’s code of conduct, professionals are reminded of their duty to act with integrity, fairness and honesty. Mutual respect and inclusivity are an important part of this.

A key question to ask is where your organisation stands and whether it is prepared to defend its values – or whether it is going to watch and do nothing. Sometimes there is no choice but to stand up and be counted. 

Five ways to enhance your public relations activity

Marketing and PR resource is precious and activity should deliver clear and measureable results. Here are five ways to get the best return from your investment.

 

1.     Open access to the board

Public relations is a strategic management function that helps organisations achieve their objectives, whether that’s awareness raising, behaviour change or sales.

It can only do this however when practitioners have access to the relevant data enabling them to align the communications objectives with the corporate plan.

Your public relations team might not need to have a seat on the board, but they need access to the management team to understand the direction the business is going in and respond accordingly. They should be a trusted adviser so don’t be afraid to share confidential information.

 

2.     Invest in skills development

Public relations professionals now have an opportunity to be at the top of their game wherever they are in their career because there is finally a clear path to follow.

The launch of the Global Alliance’s competency framework makes it easier than ever to identify skills gaps from entry level public relations right through to mid-senior level capabilities.

Critically, the framework moves practitioners away from a focus on tactical abilities and encourages development in management, consultancy and financial skills.

Set aside money for staff training and use the framework as a basis.  When recruiting a public relations professional, look for membership of an industry body like the CIPR or PRCA. It means the person has committed to continuous professional development and is also bound by a Code of Conduct. 

 

3.     Go channel neutral

Public relations is not just media relations and with the lines between disciplines blurring, the skillset is ever wider.

Any good public relations practitioner will already being employing the PESO model, that sees campaigns developed around Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media. 

Ask them. If they’re not, there’s a clear skills gap and you’re not getting the most from your public relations and marketing investment.

Your team should have a full understanding of the different comms channels out there, the kind of content and messaging required and advise on which are appropriate based on your target audiences and return on investment.

Most public relations campaigns now contain an element of paid promotion to amplify messaging so this is to be expected. You should also be focusing heavily on your own website and channels in order to engage directly with those who matter. Not only will this build fruitful relationships, it’ll be more cost efficient in the long run.

 

4.     Measure and evaluate

Public relations campaigns should be measured against business outcomes.

Last year AMEC launched its latest framework, which is a step-by-step process to linking organisational objectives to communication objectives and measures across all PESO channels.

It’s free and interactive so there’s absolutely no excuse not to be using it. You’ll see better results immediately and the insight will change your team’s approach to comms planning.

 

5.     Read, read, read

Finding alternative perspectives and identifying trends early is important to public relations practice and that comes naturally when you read widely.  Your team should be doing this but you should also be following suit in order to understand the latest opportunities, as well as the benefits you should be deriving from your spend.

The Holmes Report and Spin Sucks, while very different, offer international perspectives, and industry blogs such as www.wadds.co.uk, comms2point0.co.uk and www.futureproofingcomms.co.uk all host a wide range of industry content that will get you thinking.

If reading isn’t your thing or you can’t find the time, there are various industry podcasts providing similar info in a different format. There are a few out there and they’re perfect for commutes, dog walks or even while you do the weekly shop.

 

 

Five communications lessons from 2016

This year has seen seismic changes in the political landscape in the UK and US. No one predicted the outcome of either the EU referendum or the US election. Here are five areas of reflection for leadership and management as we head into the New Year.

#1 Lead from the front

There has never been a bigger opportunity for public relations practitioners.  The global economic environment is in a state of flux and businesses are looking for how best to secure competitive advantage. Public relation’s natural role is as strategic adviser to the management team, helping organisations to find their place in society, navigate uncertainty, and manage reputation.

In 2017, leaders will need even greater support from their communications advisors. Make sure you have the appropriate skills to advise at Board level, including business, management and financial capabilities, and report directly to the C-Suite.

#2 Audience insight

The shockwaves resonating from the results of the EU Referendum and President-Elect Donald Trump’s election in America show the huge disconnect between political establishments and the general public. The polling business is completely broken, having called it wrong on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ensure you know your stakeholders before rolling out campaigns. This means gaining behavioural insight and working from grass root communities upwards to understand what motivates the people you wish to engage with.

#3 Social media bubbles

Social media can often make it look like one party or another is ahead in the stakes. In fact, data shows that there are often pockets of activity within one sphere of influence, which is not permeating a wider demographic. 

Do your homework and measure properly. Look at how to achieve reach and scale and don’t be distracted by noise; this may well be just the same people talking to each other and reinforcing each other’s views.

Also remember that algorithms on social media serve you content based on your own behaviour; you need to break out of that to have a more balanced view of the world.

#4 Emotions beat facts

Oxford Dictionaries recently named ‘post-truth’ the word of the year based on the success of the Brexit and Trump campaigns in which appealing to the emotions was more effective than factual accuracy.

It’s clear that visionary soundbites such as ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Take Back Control’ secured much greater cut through than the opposing slogans.

This is a big issue for those in communications, especially those working for national and local government at a time when trust is at an all time low.  Consideration needs to be given to how members of the public receive accurate and appropriate information to help them make important decisions and so they understand the consequences of what they’re voting for either way.

#5 Personality trumps politician

Last but not least, it is perhaps not a surprise that in a reality show obsessed society, a reality TV personality was voted in as President-Elect of America rather than an experienced politician.

With Trump appearing regularly on US TV screens, talking frequently about wealth creation, many of the US public no doubt felt they knew Trump better and had more in common with him than Clinton.  This coupled with the fact he promised to help Americans transform their fortunes was a likely a significant factor in his election.

Finding ways to show commonality between elected leaders and society at large will be crucial for campaigns of the future. 

Get more from your social media platforms

International research and training group Econsultancy focuses on helping organisations do more digital business. Earlier this year it published a Social Media Platforms Overview authored by Michelle Goodall (@GreenWellys) full of the latest data insights and trends.

Here are the top ten highlights to help you generate the greatest value from social media.

#1 General consumer behaviours

There are 23 billion active social media accounts globally across more than 20 well-established social networks – up 10% from 2015. Social media reaches an average of 31% of the global population according to We Are Social.

Across all age groups and all countries, the primary reason for participating in social networking is to stay in touch with friends. Brands should keep this front of mind when campaign planning.

#2 Fasting growing platforms

Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are the fastest growing social networks and have the youngest active age groups.

#3 Purchasing

Some social platforms are significantly closer to the end of the purchase funnel. 87% of Pinterest users have used the platform to help them research a purchase.

#4 Facebook

84% of all global internet users (excluding China) have an account on at least one Facebook service (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp).

The regular top brand interactions on Facebook include unliking a product or brand; posting a comment or question on a company, brand or product’s Facebook page; asking a question about a product you’re interested in buying; and posting a negative comment about a product or brand.

#5 Twitter

The top behaviour of Twitter users is reading news stories.  According to Nick Pickles at the May Global Diplomacy Event, tweets with media get between 15 to 27% more engagement than text tweets. Tweets with video get 6x more retweets than photo tweets.

#6 LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet with more than 433 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second. Students and college graduates are LinkedIn’s fastest growing demographic.

#7 Instagram

A fifth (20%) of all global internet users aged 16-64 have an Instagram account and 76% of active users are aged 16-34.

#8 Pinterest

Pinterest has 176 million registered users. Sixty percent are outside the US, with UK, Japan, France, Germany and Brazil its fastest growing markets.

Over half of US women between the ages of 18-54 have signed up for Pinterest.

#9 Snapchat

Wondering if Snapchat is right for your brand? With over 100 million active users it’s known for being the teenagers platform of choice, but over half of new daily users today are 25+.

Snapchat provides marketers and communicators with the ability to create stories that have a short shelf life, using video, photography, text and filters. Arguably the two most appealing features are Discover and Lenses. Discover is a section of the app that enables brands to publish articles, videos and images and to monetise their content, while Lenses allow brands to create animations that transform or are overlaid on top of your selfie.

#10 Key trends

Live video, immersive video formats (360, virtual reality) and messaging will all continue to become increasing popular with brands as the market matures, technology evolves and costs decrease.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are all moving to introduce social commerce features.

Social advertising formats are being developed to suit both consumer behaviours and advertisers’ needs.

Finally, think value exchange

Econsultancy’s Social Media Platforms Overview author Michelle Goodall challenges brands to consider the fundamental value exchange between the organisation and its audiences on social media.

The content / services used to attract their attention should create mutual value and deliver a business building outcome.

For more information on Econsultancy, visit www.econsultancy.com

PR needs to be more like fruit salad - Women in PR lunch with Karen Blackett OBE

Striving for a time when public relations reflects the fruit salad that is Britain today was the crux of a talk today for Women in PR  by Karen Blackett OBE. 

Taking place in central London, Blackett, who  is chairperson of MediaCom, reminded those present of the need for industry practitioners to represent society if we are to serve the public effectively. 

Blackett spoke of her frustration of knowing every ethnic face at advertising and PR events because the industry is overwhelmingly white. 

Her top tips for women in PR were:

1) Be confident  

2) Celebrate success

3) Step into the limelight - be Gladys Knight, not the Pips

4) Find cheerleaders who will keep you focused and grounded

5) Know and share the real you; walk the talk

6) Ask for help

7) Learn when say no

 8) Be yourself and stay true to your purpose - surround you with people who will tell you the truth 

 

#FuturePRoofing public sector communications

Once a year the Communications Academy takes place to showcase and celebrate best practice within the public sector and understand the changing media landscape.

This year's event takes place at the historic St George's Hall in Liverpool from 1st-2nd November. You can see the full agenda here.

Today I'm delivering a workshop on how to #FuturePRoof communications and chairing a panel on Managing Change on Wednesday morning. 

Huge thanks to Emma Rodgers, the organisers and sponsors for inviting me along. Here's the deck.

Follow the conversation via Twitter via #CommsAcad. 

If you're interested in booking a speaking gig or training workshop based on my #FuturePRoof work, please drop me a line at sarah@sarahhallconsulting.co.uk or give me a call on 07702 162704.  

 

13 things I've learned from standing in the #CIPRelection

Here’s what I’ve learnt over the last few weeks of the #CIPRelection. Thank you to everyone who helped out. 

Standing for a public office should never be taken lightly. During the last 17 years of volunteering with the CIPR, members have variously asked me to consider running for CIPR President-Elect. Until now, it just wasn't the right time.

I'm posting this now without knowing the election result - voting closes in 48 hours at 5pm on Friday - to share my experience in the hope it will help others considering whether to stand in future.

I also wanted to thank the many people who have helped me along the way.

The CIPR is an important organisation with the clear purpose of promoting public relations to members, the broader profession, and the public.

Whatever the outcome I'll always be glad I stepped forward as one of its potential leaders. Not least I've met some incredible people and advanced my professional development along the way. 

#1 Do your homework

I spent from January through to the summer listening to members and non-members to understand how they felt about the CIPR. It informed every area of my plan and put them at the core of all activity.

Thank you to everyone who contributed and helped develop my thinking.

#2 Choose your nominees carefully

I count myself lucky to have secured the support of some of the people I respect most in public relations and public affairs. They are highly experienced and not only provided endorsement, wisdom, knowledge and networks, but also helped me find courage and conviction to carry on when campaigning was tough.

Thank you Anne Gregory, Dr Jon White, Alison Clarke, Stephen Waddington, Iain Anderson, Mary Whenman, Farzana Baduel, Jen Stirton, Ella Minty and Andy Green. I'd also like to include Peter Walker and Colin Byrne in this list.

#3 Have a firm plan

We all have views about the CIPR and how we can support it. Don't just have great ideas. Create a tangible plan with a strategy, outcomes, and KPIs so people know you're serious, prepared for hard work and ready to be measured against it. Use AMECs work as your signpost. Thank you AMEC.

#4 Stand tall through the highs and lows

When I decided to stand I had it in writing that there would be no Board endorsements. I understand the issue was discussed at Council. This changed a week into the campaign, prompting my response here.

Naively I was also totally unprepared for the gossip around the election. I got some excellent advice from battle worn public affairs practitioners: harden off and ignore the bubble of social media.

Thank you to all those who rang me to clarify things or sent me copies of messages they'd received. This allowed me to clarify any misconceptions openly and transparently on my blog.

#5 Think people and consequences

At the heart of an election in a membership organisation are a group of individuals who care enough to stand because they believe in the profession. They all have a worthy contribution to make and will already have a proven track record of having done so. Be mindful of this and think also about working relationships after the election is over; what will the consequences of your actions be?

#6 Focus

It is very easy to get drawn into circles of activity where there is a lot of noise. Focus on the strengths of your own campaign. Draw out any pledges you've made, create fresh content such as blogs and podcasts, and use topical news stories as examples as I did with gender pay reporting.

#7 Know the rules

There are many rules and regulations governing the election. Be sure of your campaign footing. It helps to build a relationship with the CIPR's Returning Officer who can clarify any questions and provide a final decision on any grey areas. I'm grateful to Martin Turner for his support over the last few weeks.

#8 Harness groups

One of the key things to keep front of mind is that it's down to the membership to choose who they want to lead the CIPR. It's not for the elected leaders to choose for them. As such, harness the groups and see if you can secure committee backing. I'm grateful to the CIPR Scotland and North East groups for publicly endorsing my bid and manifesto. Thank you.

#9 Speak out on issues that matter

One of my pledges is to speak out on behalf of the CIPR and wider industry and I put my money where my mouth is. In the last ten days alone I have secured coverage in PRWeek, PRcareers and PRmoment, on the Women in PR website and in a range of key industry blogs.

Thank you to PRWeek's Sam Burne James, PRcareer's Sarah Stimson, PRmoment's Daney Parker, Women in PR's Mary Whenman, and all those who featured me.

#10 Build advocacy

I have been very fortunate to receive some strong support from people who have gone the extra mile and produced their own content encouraging people to vote for me.

My thanks to Liz DaviesPaul Sutton, Andy Green, Gemma Griffiths and Stephen Waddington, in particular. 

#11 Take business cards

Here's a major school girl error. Take business cards with you everywhere. It makes networking a hell of a lot easier. 

#12 Take time out

The campaign trail is exhilarating and exhausting. What you're standing for matters. I've put passion and energy into everything I've done because I'd be proud to lead the CIPR. But keep perspective - what matters is you, your health and your family, partner and friends. Those are the things that allow you to step forward in this way.

#13 Say thank you

#FuturePRoof: Edition Two ends with a fantastic chapter on expressing gratitude by Dr Nicky Garsten, Dr Ed de Quincey and Professor Ian Bruce. I'm going to follow suit. Say thank you all the way through. It can never be said enough. I'll never forget the help and support that I've had throughout the election period.

So, finally, thanks to anyone who's been there, all those who have voted and special thanks to Emma Leech and Gary Taylor for being great President-Elect candidates.

Whoever wins, the CIPR will be in excellent hands. 

#CIPRelection: Answering questions on Internal Comms

As one of the three CIPR President-Elect candidates I was approached by communications director and co-founder of The IC Crowd Jenni Wheller to answer three questions on internal comms (IC). Here are the questions and my replies. My thanks to Jenni for the opportunity to share my views.

1. What do you think the role of internal comms is inside organisations today?

Internal comms (IC) is critical for two reasons: there’s an increasing expectation for organisations to be open and transparent; and organisations are striving to become social.

The shift to social organisations is a huge opportunity for IC. Figuring out how to move from command and control management, to a more open, networked organisation is a big job and requires a specialist skillset. It’s an issue that will continue to play out for IC over the next generation.

Although there is much being said about employee advocacy, the notion of employees as advocates won’t sit comfortably with me until the relationship between the organisation and employee is equitable. While this plays out however, the opportunity to use modern platforms such as Facebook at Work, Slack and Yammer as a means of engagement, is a huge opportunity for anyone working within this area.

2. Where do you think the CIPR can improve how it supports internal comms people?

Internal comms is an important public relations discipline and it rightly continues to grow in stature as understanding grows of what it can achieve. The CIPR has a powerful opportunity at its fingertips.

1)   To enhance its own internal comms between HQ, board, council, groups and members, using the knowledge and expertise within its membership

2)   To support the growing number of internal comms practitioners and better serve them with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed

3)   To celebrate this expanding body of knowledge and practice

As President-Elect, I’d strive to make the CIPR a best practice model for how IC can transform organisations. I’d also look to help IC professionals communicate the value of their work to employers and demonstrate return on investment.

Finally I’d make this burgeoning area of the industry a key aspect of the 70th anniversary celebrations in 2018. It’s an important area of public relations and there are some excellent people within the membership pioneering the way.

3. With all your experience what is your key advice to those working in internal comms?

Internal comms practitioners have an incredibly exciting opportunity.

As the C-Suite looks to public relations professionals to make sense of the changing world around them and manage reputation, the value placed on practitioners is growing.

I’d urge all IC practitioners to focus on their continuous professional development (CPD). It’s critical to demonstrating your worth in organisational terms.

Finally, collaborate to share best practice (as already happens through fantastic initiatives like The Big Yak) and lobby your industry bodies for support in educating employers and the business community about the incredible work you do. 

 

Podcast: a week is a long time in a #CIPRelection

I caught up with Stephen Waddington tonight, a week into voting for the CIPR elections, to talk through my manifesto and questions raised by members over the past few days.

Here are the questions that Stephen asked.

1. Listening to members

How are you feeling about your campaign, and the response from members?

2. CIPR Council election campaign

The campaign for the CIPR Council is especially noisy this year. What do you make of it?

3. Motivation

I challenged you on your motivation for standing in the election in our last podcast. Remind us of your answer, and have you anything that you want to add?

4. Plan for President Elect and President

What’s your plan as CIPR President-Election in 2017, and President in 2018?

5. Officer endorsements

Much has been made of endorsements for a rival candidate by the current Past President, and President Elect. Where do you stand on the issue?

6. Group endorsements

The CIPR North East and Scottish groups have endorsed you. Isn’t this any different?

7. #FuturePRoof

You’ve been called out for promoting #FuturePRoof during the election. How do you respond?

8. Key Performance Indicators

What will the CIPR look like in 2018 after your year as President?

9. Campaigning issues

Gender and equality have been raised as issues during the campaign. What’s your plan?

10. Getting in touch and voting

How do people reach you if they have any further questions? And how do they vote?

#CIPRelection: Eight reasons to celebrate excellence in public relations

It is easy to become daunted by the pace of change in public relations. In fact there’s lots to celebrate. Practitioners around the world are helping to drive the profession forward.

I’m currently standing in the election for CIPR President in 2018. Here are eight standout data points and industry initiatives that I'm aware of that make me hugely optimistic about the future of the public relations profession. As President I’d look to celebrate this work and share it with members.

1. Community of practice

Social media is helping bring together theory and practice in public relations. Academics, teachers and practitioners are working closer together than ever before. Shared events and media are helping create a community of practice. The work of the Institute of Public Relations in the US is a stand out example.

2 Strategic purpose

Data from the European Communication Monitor collected from 2007 to 2016, shows that technology and demands from business and society have changed communication management dramatically. Organisations increasingly align communications with their strategic purpose.

3. Return on investment

Thanks to the work of AMEC we have a standard workflow for planning and measuring campaigns. The Integrated Measurement Framework links organisational objectives to communication objectives, to outputs, outtakes, outcomes and organisational impact. AMEC has published a comprehensive website of resource material.

4. Competency models

Time served is the typical measure of competence in public relations. The Global Alliance recently published a global competency model. All it needs now is greater adoption as a standard by organisations and industry bodies such as the CIPR. Practitioners need to sign up to continuous professional development (CPD).

5. Professional development

The market for training and qualifications has shifted in the last decade from one off qualifications to CPD. The CIPR is seeing greater demand than ever before for Chartered assessment. CPD completions are rising year-on-year.

6. Growing market

The UK public relations market is worth almost £10 billion according to the PRCA’s 2015 Annual report. It employs 62,000 people in consultancies, in-house roles and freelancers. According to the CIPR State of PR survey average earnings have risen from £45,633, to £48,196, in the last 12 months.

7. Diversity

The Taylor Bennett Foundation is tackling the imbalance in BAME candidates in public relations in the UK. Meanwhile the CIPR and PRCA are both tracking and tackling the salary gap between men and women in public relations. These would both be campaigning issues for me as CIPR President.

 8. #FuturePRoof: public relations as a management discipline

Finally a mention for my own project. In the last two years more than 70 practitioners have contributed to two editions of a crowdsourced book exploring the journey that public relations is making from a tactical craft to a management discipline.

 

#CIPRelection: Mind the pay gap

The announcement that the PRCA is to include gender pay gap reporting in its Consultancy Management Standard (CMS) and that the CIPR will share data in the drive to end pay inequality is a huge step forward for the public relations industry.

UK business has a major issue with equal pay. Women effectively work for free for an hour and 40 minutes a day according to research by the Chartered Management Institute and XPertHR.

In female-dominated industries such as public relations, the problem is even more acute.

In 2015, the CIPR’s State of the Profession Survey identified a salary discrepancy of £8,483 in favour of men, unexplainable by any other factor such as length of service, seniority, parenthood, or a higher prevalence of part-time work among women.

Change is well overdue; the Equal Pay Act was first introduced in 1970. We are already more than 40 years out of date.

But change is gathering pace. The PRCA has announced its pay gap as 9.1% (the national average being 19.1%), recognising that the first step to addressing the issue is transparency.

It’s making gender pay reporting an element of its Consultancy Management Standard (CMS), which evaluates consultancies on how well they are run and whether they have the correct systems and structures in place.

It’s a huge leap forward and as Mary Whenman, the President of Women in PR, says “inspired and game-changing.”

Collaboration is the key

That’s not the only good news. I’m standing for the role of President-Elect in the CIPR elections (underway now) and have been calling for greater collaboration between the CIPR, AMEC, Global Alliance, ICCO, PRCA and the PRSA.

The CIPR’s acknowledgement of the PRCA’s move and its decision to share its own findings with the PRCA so the two bodies can work together on ending pay discrimination should be commended.

This is exactly how our industry leaders should be working together to make the public relations business stronger and healthier.

It’s now time for the rest of the industry to follow suit.

We can’t wait any longer

For close to two years now, gender parity and the pay gap has been a key policy area for the CIPR.

When I was a member of its Board, I led the gender and diversity work which saw the Institute team with Sheila Wild from the Equal Pay Portal to look for potential solutions to the issue and provide policy direction.

The return to work process was identified as one creating issues for employers and employees alike, resulting in the production of ten practical best practice guides developed with the help of The Talent Keeper Specialists.

From handing over and keeping in touch through to role renegotiation, the toolkits help those involved find a solution to suit all parties.

The CIPR’s production of nine recommendations for enabling flexible working in PR has also been useful in making strides forward.   

Aimed at helping employers manage the shift to a round the clock service provision as dictated by 24/7 online and offline media, while delivering work-life balance for staff, the guides are equally beneficial in helping parents achieve hours that are better suited to managing both work needs and childcare.

Transparency is the only answer

The truth of the matter is that the gender pay gap will only become a thing of the past when all organisations have to publish salary data to show they are complying with legislation.

Every single one of us as employers can make a big difference if we are prepared to be ethical, honest and employ best practice. Let’s do it, there’s no time to lose.

This post will appear on Women In PR later today. Many thanks to the team there for the opportunity. 

 

#CIPRelection: Answering meet the President-Elect candidate questions

Voting in the CIPR election is now in full swing. In Anastasia Stefanidou's Meet The President-Elect Candidates post she gave each of the candidates the opportunity to ask each other questions. Here are my replies to the questions I was asked.

Emma asked how would I combine the role of President-Elect with my full-time job and also how would I guarantee members that my motivation wasn’t personal benefit.

These are two great questions. I'm very fortunate to have my own business and a fantastic team who are behind my bid to become CIPR President-Elect. They are all CIPR members too – we are up for small agency of the year at the PRide Awards North East – and are as committed as I am to making sure the agency runs smoothly.

I have no personal agenda except to see the CIPR and industry succeed. My business is based in the North East and the majority of my clients are headquartered here. As such my CIPR voluntary work has limited impact on my business, although my clients are extremely supportive of the voluntary work I do, recognising the wider benefits to my work through access to thought leadership, networks and CPD.

I am not contracted by the CIPR to deliver services, so there's no conflict there.

Emma also asked how my skill set and experience equips me to deal with the issues raised in the #StateofPR report, particularly in relation to morphing from management to leadership and my experience of strategic leadership at scale.

Rather than give a lengthy run down of my work history and for transparency, I'm linking to my LinkedIn profile which shows all my management experience. I've managed multiple offices for what was the largest UK-based independent marketing group at the time, been a trustee of an independent school (part of the Woodard Group) and continue to be a trustee for a wonderful charity called the Sunshine Fund.

I have years of Board and Council experience through the CIPR which gives me corporate memory and a clear understanding of how the membership body operates, as well as vital knowledge of its strengths and weaknesses.

My manifesto contains a clear plan which shows clear and decisive strategic leadership at scale from the start.

Gary asked what the Chartered Institute would look like to members after my three years were up.

Horizon scanning and planning forms an important part of the work of the CIPR's executive team and its elected leaders. I'm linking to my five pledges, which set out my vision for the CIPR.

My plan is to leave it stronger and more resilient, sustainable, with a growing membership, not to mention a more inclusive and relevant offer.

#CIPRelection: Vote for Sarah Hall for CIPR President-Elect - or vote for the status quo

The current CIPR President-Elect and Past-President have lined up behind a rival candidate. Challenging the status quo was never going to be easy.

I've been spurred on during the election campaign by the number of practitioners who've told me that they have stopped their CIPR membership or haven't joined because the Institute isn't forward looking enough, but that they'll join if I get elected.

It might not help right now as voting opens, but it tells me the months of talking to members and non-members has paid off and I'm getting the pitch exactly right.

It's great motivation and justification of all the effort and hours it takes to plan and campaign. 

Like my #FuturePRoof work, this is important.

Listening and responding

There is a fantastic chapter in #FuturePRoof: Edition Two in which Sarah Clark and Professor Jim Macnamara discuss audience insight.

They talk about how crucial it is that organisations truly listen to what is being said about them and more than that, actively ask the questions they don't really want the answers to - and act on this information.

I guess this is an excellent way to explain my engagement with practitioners over the last six to twelve months in preparation for this election.

It's clear that in some quarters what's now being discussed and the idea of change is uncomfortable for some.

The current President-Elect and Past-President have backed a rival candidate. I knew I was an outsider but I didn't realise I was seen as such a threat. 

We can have the discussion about whether this is good democracy after the election is over but for now for the good of the public relations industry (and with thanks to those who shared their views) I stand by my pledges and - given the opportunity - will wholeheartedly deliver against every one.

Make no mistake, modernisation is needed

So mine is a call to arms. I'm standing for President-Elect because I've listened to practitioner voices from all fields and all backgrounds and by far the vast majority want change.

Public relations professionals want an Institute they can trust to be ahead of the game and help them navigate the pace of change and learning curve we have been experiencing.

They want an Institute that actively communicates the value of public relations within society and builds relationships, not walls, with other professional bodies. I've been very clear about my position on this here

They want a President who scrutinises the finances and holds the executive team to account because this is just good governance. The CIPR is seen as an insider network and this has to stop. I’m not scared of difficult decisions or hard conversations where these need to happen – or of building bridges where this may be needed.

They want a member journey that shows them how they can continue their CPD to become the best in their field and improve their employment chances.

They know that to operate at the strategic adviser level they need business, management and finance competencies and are looking to the CIPR to recognise this and deliver accordingly.

They want an Institute that is open to all, from those in lower socio-economic and BAME groups right through to those in disciplines such as SEO and video production as disciplines merge. And an offer that is relevant to all these groups.

They want an Institute that steps up and speaks out on issues and defends its reputation. I've a proven track record on campaigning for the CIPR on gender and diversity and have pledged to introduce a staff salary scale and diversity register, as well as produce guidance so members can do the same. The CIPR must lead the way on best practice and ethics.

Now is the time to take stock

There is some excellent work being carried out by the team at the CIPR and its many wonderful volunteers. Current President Rob Brown and President-Elect Jason MacKenzie both have my full support.

But. And it's a big but. 

Think hard about your engagement and involvement with the CIPR in recent years. How valuable have you found it?

You don't need to do more than a rudimentary listening exercise on social media to find the answer.

So many people have told me they are tired of getting more of the same with no clear member journey or view to the horizon. If that's you, I'm asking for your vote. 

If you believe in my pledges, I'm asking for your vote.

I've volunteered with the CIPR for seventeen years and I'm passionate about it and public relations. I want to make it better and am asking for your support to do so. Only you can make this change.

Thank you.

#CIPRelection: CIPR and PRCA cooperation critical for the future of public relations profession

The future of public relations is integration, professionalism, scale and skills. It’s time for the CIPR and PRCA to work together for the benefit of the profession.

As part of my campaign to become President-Elect of the CIPR I’ve pledged closer cooperation with other industry bodies including AMEC, Global Alliance, ICCO, PRCA and PRSA.

As a result I’ve been asked about the relationship between the CIPR and PRCA. People want to know what I think about this and whether the fact I have a working relationship with both organisations is a conflict.

My view is this: our business is changing fast. We need cooperation on the future of the profession. We need to apply our best thinking to media change, tools and issues such as Brexit. There are times when our industry needs a united voice.

We don’t need turf wars and unnecessary competition.

You have to go back three years to find the last significant area of cooperation between the CIPR and PRCA. The two organisations published a career guide for college and school leavers about public relations. It was an excellent piece of work.

The CIPR is focused on professional standards, skills and continuous professional development for individuals. It is seeking to improve standards and use Chartered status as means of aligning our profession alongside other professions such as finance, legal and HR.

The PRCA by contrast campaigns on behalf of the profession on topics such as apprenticeships and newspaper licensing. In recent years it has broadened membership via individual members, the Government Communication Service, and an international deal with ICCO.

It is obvious that there are areas in which both organisations can work together to promote the value of PR as a management discipline and create mutual understanding.

As just one example, post Brexit I believe both should be working together to lobby the Government, as well as educate employers and the business community about how we as strategic advisers can help organisations navigate the current uncertainty.

David Hamilton, who is Chairman of the PRCA's Council and a CIPR Council member, agrees: “There are times when industry bodies need to unite for the good of all those within them. On matters that affect the health of the PR sector and where real change needs to be effected, I’d welcome closer cooperation between the PRCA and CIPR and I’m someone who volunteers with both.”

And to the question of conflict: I don’t see that there is one. As President-Elect of the CIPR I’d have its best interests at heart.

The benefit of my established working relationship with the PRCA through #FuturePRoof is that I am well placed to unite the two and engender cross-organisational working where this is of benefit.

Ultimately we have to be bigger than people and politics. It's about two organisations working together for the mutual benefit of the profession. It's about public relations.

As Alison Clarke, Principal of client advisory consultancy Alison Clarke Communications and Past President of both the CIPR and the PRCA, says: “Closer collaboration between the CIPR and PRCA on matters of mutual interest is the way forward and in the best interest of practitioners and the reputation of our profession.”

My plan would be to establish a small CIPR working party looking at areas for closer collaboration and to develop the relationship from there.

There are many opportunities and challenges facing the public relations industry. Public relations must look outwards to succeed in a market that is changing fast and rapidly globalising. Organisations and employers demand best in class skills, integration and scale. They want us to optimise value.

The time has come for our professional organisations to do the same and I’d relish the opportunity to make that happen.

This is just one way in which I believe I can help make the CIPR more relevant, sustainable and forward-looking. I’d appreciate your support in doing this.

Please vote for me as President-Elect when voting opens on Monday 12 September.

Many thanks.

 

#CIPRelection: Revolutionising CIPR qualifications and training with the goal of #GetChartered

Mapping the career path of the public relations practitioner, and the role of the CIPR and other training organisations, is key to modernising training and qualifications.

In the CIPR President-Elect hustings many questions centred around the Chartered status and how we encourage more professionals to attain this.

It’s a critical debate – Chartered status encourages Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and is a signal to employers and the business community that we are serious professionals operating at the highest level.

While I believe that the CIPR has now got the Chartered offer absolutely right (as demonstrated by the number of people signing up), there is still work to be done.

Practitioners need a clear career path to follow from entry-level to Chartered, and beyond.

This is an important piece of work. If public relations to be taken seriously as a management discipline we need to show we have the skills required in the Boardroom.

Training and qualifications is also a key revenue driver for the CIPR. According to the 2015 Finance Report, income dropped significantly in this area.

We need to revolutionise and fast, which includes recognising that the way in which individuals want to learn is changing rapidly.

In my manifesto I have pledged to define the member journey and modernise education so that it is clearly aligned with the Global Alliance competency framework.

The competency framework sets out the skills needed from entry level onwards and includes general business management and financial skills, which to date are currently lacking from the CIPR’s training and qualifications offer.

My plan would be to conduct a gap analysis between the two with the aim of strengthening the Institute’s provision, including working with external providers.

In this way we can drive interest and uptake in CPD, increase revenue and reinforce the value to practitioners of CIPR membership.

Chartered status is something that I was proud to receive and we need to ensure more public relations professionals achieve this. To increase its appeal, as President-Elect I’d make it a clear part of the career journey.

I’d also make it part of my campaign to educate employers and the business community about the value of PR, because hiring a CIPR member who is Chartered provides reassurance they are getting a strategic adviser they can trust to take their organisation forwards.

This is just one way in which I believe I can help make the CIPR more relevant, sustainable and forward-looking. I’d appreciate your support in doing this.

Please vote for me as President-Elect when voting opens on Monday 12 September.

Many thanks.

#CIPRelection: a podcast interview and a clear plan

CIPR Past President and fellow #FuturePRoof podcast host Stephen Waddington and I talk through my ambition and plan for CIPR President in 2018.

Three strategies

We cover the three strategies that I've set out in my plan for the CIPR based on the current three-year plan; and five pledges. 

  • To help the CIPR assert its vision and its place within society and our industry, and to align its purpose and offer accordingly
  • To reinforce public relations as a management discipline, with the aim of educating employers and the business community about the value it can bring
  • To seek new members and better serve the breadth of our industry

Five pledges to CIPR members

#1 Organisational empowerment and transparency

To ensure the viability and sustainability of the CIPR through scrutiny and robust business practices, as well as swift action where required. I’d lead monthly Twitter chats, quarterly reporting and provide support for Influence magazine.

#2 Membership and wider engagement

To use modern media to crowdsource conversation with members and non-members about the future of the profession, the CIPR and its vision and role. I’d also empower each member of Council to build relationships with a CIPR regional or sectoral group, and a professional organisation.

#3 Career journey for members

To define the member journey and the value to practitioners of membership. I’d modernise education so that it is clearly aligned with the Global Alliance competency framework.

#4 Industry leadership

To speak out publicly on behalf of the profession in support of the Charter commitment; and embed ethics within all activity and enhance the CIPR’s reputation. I’d seek partnerships with other professional bodies aligned to the CIPR’s vision and purpose.

#5 Campaigning issues

To publish benchmarks for salary scales within the profession, aligned to the career journey and establish a CIPR staff salary scale and diversity register.

Please let me know what you think. You can connect with me via email at sarah@sarahhallconsulting.co.uk and Twitter @hallmeister.

Disclosure: It's personal. Stephen and I have worked together on industry stuff for several years. We started dating in March.