Charlie Gard case underlines need for professional public relations practice

The case of Charlie Gard has attracted international attention.

An investigation by The Times appears to highlight questionable practice by the family's closest advisers and spokespeople.

When procuring a public relations practitioner or publicist it is important to select a professional who has an appropriate accreditation. They should also be a member of a professional body such as the CIPR or PRCA, which has a code of conduct that must be adhered to.

You wouldn't hire a solicitor who hadn't passed their legal exams or take medical advice from someone who wasn't a doctor.

There are countless examples of where public relations has been used as a positive campaigning tool based on a clear purpose and value exchange between all parties.

A grieving family lies at the heart of this case and thoughts are with Charlie's parents at this time.

Fake news - scope, public trust and options for policy

Fake news distribution is becoming a central focus for publishers, digital platforms, advertisers and consumers. Today's Westminster Media Forum has been organised to decide what next for industry and government.

I'm speaking on behalf of the CIPR at today's Westminster Media Forum which has been organised to debate the issue of fake news.

Throughout the morning, sessions will analyse what fake news is, the motivations behind it, declining trust in the media, the responsibilities of content hosts and how advertisers can gain greater control over where their brand messages appear. 

My participation revolves around a panel looking at ad misplacement and the implications for brand management. You can see my deck here.

 

While ad misplacement is as old as time and there is limited sensitivity to display ads appearing next to distressing stories in the printed press, or TV adverts appearing in between programmes showing violence, drugs and racial hatred, the online response is very different.

The brand safety discussion was recently reignited when Google and YouTube ads were placed next to contentious religious and political content. Large scale advertisers pulled out until new checks were put into place and some haven't yet reinvested.

With 400 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every hour, content control is a major issue and an ever greater challenge following the spread of the fake news phenomena due to modern technology.

Any solution needs to focus on how this volume of content can be checked before publication, rather than weighted towards how advertisers can exert placement control over paid promotion. 

In addition to revisiting their brand values and living these (see the @stopfundinghate campaign as an example), organisations must embed fake news within their crisis planning.

Brands must also work with government, Google, Facebook and others to find solutions and educate the public about how to identify fake news, as well as how the advertising process works, if they are to mitigate reputational risk.

 

 

 

 

The CIPR needs you

We’re seeking an exceptional candidate for CIPR President-Elect 2018 to help promote excellence in public relations for members, the industry and general public.

At the end of August the next CIPR election will take place. We'll be looking for a new President-Elect and Board members.

The CIPR needs a cohesive Board focused on the Institute's best interests.

If you fit the eligibility criteria and have got what’s needed to take the Institute and public relations industry forward, I'd urge you to consider standing.

We need professionals willing to roll up their sleeves and help change the status quo. We won't do it overnight but have a chance to make a real difference during the year.

My manifesto has always clearly been about re-establishing the role of public relations as a management discipline and demonstrating the strategic value it can add when deployed effectively within organisations. It's where the opportunity lies.

This will be the theme of 2018 and I'm looking for people who, like me, want to improve the standing of our profession and help it grow.

It's a development of work by people including Anne Gregory; Ralph Tench; Betteke van Ruler; Ana and Dejan Verčič; Jon White; and Paul Willis; and many others whose thinking I greatly respect.

It returns the CIPR to its original purpose set out in its Royal Charter and the Credo written by founder Tim Traverse-Healy. 

I believe we can use their expertise and knowledge to the benefit of us all.

I'm incredibly keen to work with like-minded professionals who have no personal agenda except to see the Institute succeed.

Each person needs to be a critical friend to the Institute and also prepared to put their head above the parapet and stand up for what they believe.

It's not always easy. Just last week I blogged about how an anonymous comment has yet again put my personal relationship in the spotlight and called my professionalism into question. It’s nonsense and everyday sexism in action. 

This week a fellow Board member posted an article calling into question whether public relations is a management discipline. As it's someone who campaigned hard for a rival candidate and who knows that this forms part of the CIPR's strategic planning, it's hard not to take that personally.

But the thing is you can't. It’s petty internal politics. The CIPR Board, Council and members need to stay focussed on its purpose of promoting excellence in public relations for members, the industry and the public. That's when we'll succeed. 

Back to the election. If like me you're passionate about implementing culture change throughout the CIPR, want to reassert public relation’s strategic value within the wider community, can take the rough with the smooth and are excited about our future, please step forward.

You're needed and I'd love to work with you.

The line between transparency and invasion of privacy

Professional public relations practitioners advocate honest and transparent comms.  This applies within the workplace but is important personally too. So when does being open cross the line to become an invasion of privacy?

A year or so ago, Stephen Waddington (@Wadds) and I started dating. Stephen's profile within the PR industry is a significant one as a recognised innovator and influencer (#proud). Mine is much smaller but growing thanks to #FuturePRoof and my role as CIPR President-Elect.

We've never tried to hide our relationship. When I stood for the role of CIPR President it was on the bottom of my website manifesto page (still is in fact) and we have been careful to always reference it whenever we've felt it appropriate. However we've also tried to balance that with the need of our personal lives to respect our families' and children's privacy. 

We've continued our professional relationship as before, as seen through the #FuturePRoof podcasts and more. We don't see a reason why we can't continue to work together. Hell, we do it really well. 

People who follow us on Twitter (and Stephen has 20k+ followers) would say our real life partnership is obvious from the regular interaction between the two of us. Our Facebook communities (again Stephen's comprises hundreds of PR folk) will have seen enough date night pictures to cast away any doubt. On our profile pages it even says we are 'in a relationship'.  In 2017 terms that's proper serious. 

Stop the snark

So it was disappointing last week when Stephen tweeted an update of my #FuturePRoof research from #PRfest to receive yet another anonymous comment on his blog from someone suggesting we were unprofessional for not being overt about our personal status. It's a shame they didn't put their name to it as I'd have happily had this debate openly with them but that says more about the individual than it does about us. 

In light of this I've taken the unusual step of changing my Twitter bio to say 'Dating @Wadds'. At the time it was done tongue in cheek but it raises a serious point.  How overt do we have to be before it crosses into personal territory and becomes an invasion of privacy?

Couples work together all the time

Stephen and I are not the first couple to work together and we'll certainly not be the last. I can immediately think of four different businesses in my small PR circle all run by husband and wife teams. They don't need to splash it on everything they do and certainly don't wear his and hers 'dating' or 'hitched' t-shirts. Well, maybe they do at home but that's their own business. 

But as a professional communicator I am TIRED by this ongoing and tedious narrative that people apparently can't work and live together without having it tattooed on their foreheads (could this be a nascent form of personal branding?). Or - as is actually the situation here - that full and constant disclosure has to apply to the two of us, even if no one else. 

Everyday sexism

Less than three months ago I was told by a do gooder that people think I have 'compromised my professional integrity' by dating Stephen and that my reputation will never recover. Good morning Britain, where everyday sexism is alive and well. 

The fact that this continues to be an issue for some people makes me think that there are other factors at play; perhaps professional jealousy, or perhaps trolling others is what gives people their self worth.

I’d urge people to scrutinise the work we do on its professional merits. We believe it’s having a positive impact but if you feel differently, let us know where you think we are going wrong.  Feedback is always welcome. 

Taylor says shake it off

Stephen and I have had some amazing support from people we love and respect (thank you) because this has been a recurring theme despite our best attempts to approach the situation in a common sense and human way.

My one ask is that before you make a negative judgement about whether our relationship is right or even up for public debate, please ask yourself what your motive is and be truthful with yourself.

As it stands, I don't intend to stop working with or dating the dashing Mr Waddington. It turns out he might just be a keeper.  

 

 

Planning for the CIPR’s 70th anniversary

2018 is an important landmark for the CIPR. It's 70 years since it was founded at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London in 1948. Plans are already well underway to celebrate the occasion.

The formation of an Institute for Public Relations (IPR) was first proposed by Kenneth Day, a practitioner from Erith Borough Council. He brought together other Local Authority practitioners to discuss the idea.

The group saw the benefit of an association with a wider membership than local government and approached Sir Stephen Tallents, a leading figure in the profession, to see if he would be willing to bring in a group of wider practitioners from industry and central government.

Sir Stephen was appointed President and the original group of practitioners formed the first Board. It would take almost 60 years for the IPR to achieve Chartered status and become known as the CIPR.

Past President Stephen Waddington worked with deputy CEO Phil Morgan to write a brief history of the CIPR for an after dinner speech at the History of Public Relations conference at Bournemouth University in 2014. It’s worth a read.

Celebrating our vision and purpose

70 years on, the CIPR and the wider profession has much to be proud of and look forward to. Our vision of promoting professionalism in public relations for practitioners, and in the public interest, remains absolutely faithful to the purpose set out by our founders.

I’m incredibly honoured to be President in 2018. It’s an important celebratory year for the CIPR.

The year will see a continuation of President Jason MacKenzie’s professionalism drive, and will pick up on themes and issues characterising the industry, centring on the pledges I set out in my manifesto during the election last Autumn.

At the forefront of activity will be a celebration of everything that has been achieved and a formal recognition of all the volunteers across the UK.

Planning for the anniversary year

Planning is underway for the 2018 celebrations. The organising committee led by CIPR Fellow Simon McVicker will publish a detailed plan closer to the time.

We’ll be calling for help once a framework of activity has been agreed with the regional, national and sectoral groups however we can already share the following, as approved by CIPR Board and Council.

Anniversary celebration, reception and Fellows’ Lunch, London

We’ll return to the location of our foundation; St Brides, Fleet Street, on 9 February for a celebratory service and reception. This event is open to members of all faiths and denominations.

A reception will take place nearby afterwards for members wishing to stay on and celebrate. We’re also aiming to organise the annual Fellows' Lunch to take place after the service.

Sir Stephen Tallents Memorial Lecture, Edinburgh

It’s a pleasure to announce that the committee is relaunching the Sir Stephen Tallents Memorial Lecture. This event will be in Edinburgh and feature a speaker from the wider industry who represents the future of public relations.

Celebratory conference looks to future of practice

The National Conference will form a key part of the calendar, incorporating a high profile keynote speaker and practical workshops addressing key areas of change, as well as academic input to bridge the gap with practice.

Leading the profession: content and conversation

Keep your eyes peeled for our 70 at 70 – a year-long initiative we’ll be launching to celebrate public relations pioneers; and we’ll be crowdsourcing content for a media campaign and special anniversary booklet so watch this space.

My thanks to CIPR Board, Council and the anniversary planning team led by Simon McVicker for all their work so far on the anniversary project. It’s going to be a very special year.

Public relations is an industry coming of age but with issues to address

The State of the Profession Survey tells the story of a maturing industry that is striving to professionalise and beginning to be taken increasingly seriously by the C-Suite.

This year’s CIPR State of the Profession Survey makes for heartening reading in some areas, and depressing in others.

Year-on-year rises in the number of board level professionals signpost a welcome trend. However whether practitioners have the appropriate skills to act at the highest level when respondents cite written communication as one of their strongest competencies is a critical question.

Whether the 32% drop in budgets and fees experienced by in house professionals could have been staved off by the delivery of strategic rather than tactical activity is an area worthy of further research.

Public relations is a management discipline and must move away from its role as a delivery function in order to capitalise on the opportunities currently afforded by Brexit and the US election if the industry is to grow and thrive.

 

An opportunity there for the taking

Regardless, the State of the Profession report makes for optimistic reading for those committed to continuous professional development (CPD).

Respondents said that when recruiting for senior communications roles, their organisations looked for skills in leadership and strategic management, knowledge of current affairs and interpersonal skills.

Clear opportunities are opening up for anyone who can demonstrate adherence to initiatives such as the Global Alliance’s Global Capabilities Framework as a career path to strengthen their skills.

Aligning training and qualifications to demand for these will be a critical area of focus for the CIPR in the 12 to 24 months ahead.

 

The time for action is now

In less positive news, the State of the Profession survey reports that the pay gap persists, with a £5,784 salary discrepancy in favour of men that cannot be attributed to any the factors other than gender.

Gender remains the third largest influence of pay behind seniority and years in public relations.

I wrote these ten steps for achieving parity in pay in public relations back in 2015.

We’re woefully behind achieving real change. I’d urge you to take a look and implement as many as you can.

Equally, the jump in the number of respondents stating that diverse teams produce more effective campaigns has still to seep through to the Human Resources and Recruitment function.

We might be talking a good game but 91% of the industry are white, and 89% British.  

You can find some excellent advice on creating a diverse workforce here thanks to Sarah Stimson from the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

Read it and decide how you can help ensure your organisation and the industry remains open to aspiring practitioners from black and ethnic minorities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Public relations has a duty to properly represent the publics we’re here to serve.

 

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.