Celebrating seventy years of the CIPR with a view to the future

Today the great and the good of the world of public relations gathered at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, London for a service to celebrate seventy years of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Here is a transcript of the speeches I gave during the service and at the reception afterwards.

Church service: Celebrating the history and future of the CIPR

Today – on this very day – we mark the 70th anniversary of the Institute of Public Relations.

A record from that first meeting reads:

The formation of an association was desirable to assist in the establishment of satisfactory status, recruitment and training of future public relations officers, safeguarding service conditions, formulating scales of salaries, pooling of knowledge, disseminating information and generally developing techniques of public relations work.

The Institute had a strong public service connection from its outset, not least because in 1948 life was very different.

There was rationing, a need for around 700,000 new homes after the bombings, conscription still existed, and the NHS and the modern welfare state were born.

There was a distinct appetite for stronger communication between society, government and business.

Sir Stephen Tallents, the Institute’s founding member and first president, said:

Government department, Town Hall, factory and laboratory have all had to develop old and devise new ways of explaining their operations and their policy to those whose understanding and cooperation they need. The public, for their part, are anxious to understand better what is being done in their name and for their benefit.

Change was in the air. The growth of public relations was part of this shift.

Achieving Chartered Status; the hallmark of a profession

Since that time, the purpose and vision of the Institute of Public Relations has remained constant. The importance of its place in society was reinforced in 2005, when the Institute was awarded Chartered status by the Privy Council.

Today the Charter principles guide our work and it is critical to revisit and reflect on these as we move into a new era.

The stability we have known is coming to an end. At this time of political turbulence and as we move towards Brexit, one Charter principle in particular has resonance:

To promote public understanding of the contribution of effective public relations in encouraging ethical communication and in enhancing the efficiency and performance of all sectors of the economy.

It’s an issue that the CIPR is focusing hard on this coming year.

Societal challenges: call to action for public relations

Whatever the mood of the moment, this new age will bring more challenges. We are in unusual and uncertain times with political change, media upheaval, technological developments and societal unrest.

It is up to us to educate employers, the business community and the public of the valuable role we play in society and to address misperceptions about practice.

We must play a leadership role and show how organisational objectives can link to social purpose for the benefit of all.

As we’ve heard, one of the CIPR’s earliest members, Tim Traverse-Healy, said in his Credo.

In the overall scheme of things the objective of our contribution to society at large is the achievement of a balance between the intentions of the institutions we represent and the legitimate concerns of their community and constituency.

This, as a goal, is something we must never forget and constantly strive for.

Thank you.


Reception address. The CIPR’s purpose: supporting practice and public interest

Hi everyone, as the 2018 President of the CIPR, I have the privilege of saying a few words to mark this very special occasion of the Institute’s 70th anniversary.

Thank you all for being here to celebrate it with us. It is both humbling and inspiring to be in a room with so many of the people who have made both the CIPR and the public relations industry great.

The next 70 years in public relations

Having marked the passage of time and celebrated the present during the service at St Bride’s, I am now keen to look to the future.

We are in unusual and uncertain times with political turbulence, media upheaval, technological change and societal unrest.

It’s in these times that the role of the professional communicator as a strategic adviser comes to the fore.

Organisations need public relations practitioners to bring clarity and insight; members of the public need us to provide information that they can trust.

Brands need us to help them develop social purpose - especially now, after years of austerity, when investment into public services is down and the unprecedented use of food banks continues to rise.

To quote Professor Anne Gregory, the CIPR President who led us through the Charter process in 2004:

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.

I couldn’t agree more.

The purpose of public relations

Organisations need to focus on their purpose and legacy and those playing a positive and active role within our communities create multiple benefits to all. It falls to us to use our influence to help make this happen.

My drive as President of the CIPR this year is to reassert public relations as a strategic management function and to demonstrate the value we bring to organisations.

It’s an exciting time – I truly believe is that there has never been a better time to work in this profession and we are on the cusp of recognising huge value and growth.

Dr Jon White characterised a very similar opportunity almost 20 years ago, in 1999, in a paper to the Swiss Public Relations Society.

Jon sounded a note of caution that success was dependent on practitioners recognising ‘the opportunities presented by the environment and management needs’ and taking ‘steps to educate and train themselves’, as well as making ‘full use of communication technology, to provide reliable, if not indispensable, services to managers as they seek to deal with complexity and manage successful businesses.’

Sage words indeed. Please consider this as a renewed call to action.

Chartered status at the heart of the public relations profession

There is more disruption coming to the world of public relations in the form of artificial intelligence and automation. With threats come opportunity.

It is imperative we look to the horizon and make sense of incoming change, both in a personal and professional capacity.

At the CIPR, our intention is to innovate and lead the way by promoting the elevated advisory role our members ought and deserve to occupy.

I’m going to close by talking about the CIPR’s ongoing drive to professionalism.

I look forward to the day when Chartered status is no longer something to aspire to, but is the norm. Where strategic, leadership and ethical skills are common place.

We must continue to develop skills that allow us operate at the top of our game, speak truth to power and give credible advice based on knowledge, experience and insight.

If we hold financial, business management and consultancy skills we can command the respect of management teams by speaking their language.

If we demonstrate what the true value of public relations is, the leaders of organisations will invest in it.

The business of public relations has a great opportunity to grow and succeed. We just need to step forward and take it.

Thank you for listening. Please join me in a toast to the CIPR’s role at the heart of public relations over the next 70 years.


Public relations as a strategic management function

Today the CIPR's Education and Skills Group held a fantastic Going for Gold workshop led by CIPR President-Elect and Loughborough University marcomms director Emma Leech. This was followed by its AGM. I was invited along as CIPR President to talk about the 2018 plan and why we need to reframe public relations as a strategic management function.

One of the CIPR's biggest assets is the strength, depth and dedication of its volunteer network. It has numerous national, regional and sectoral groups who are often the main or only touchpoint for members.

This afternoon I was invited to speak at the AGM of the Institute's dynamic Education and Skills Group under the leadership of chair Alison Tobin.

As the CIPR's 2018 plan is focused on reasserting public relations as a strategic management function, I spoke about the need to reframe our work in this way, touched upon social purpose and provided a sneak peek at some State of the Profession survey results. 

You can see my presentation here.


Talking about PR as a strategic management function acts as a useful prompt for us to feel proud of what we do, but also to develop skills that allow us operate at the top of our game, speak truth to power and give credible advice based on knowledge, experience and insight.

It puts Chartered status at the heart of CPD, ensuring strategic, leadership and ethical skills are given the attention they deserve and become mainstream. 

If we hold financial, business management and consultancy skills we can command the respect of management teams by speaking their language. If we demonstrate what the true value of public relations is, the C-Suite will invest in it.

As far as I'm concerned, the business of public relations has a great opportunity to grow and succeed. We just need to step forward and take it. 


From Two Pints of Lager to more than 150,000 Twitter followers

Ralf Little has promised to speak candidly with me about personalities in politics and the importance of speaking out about injustice in a CIPR discussion on 30 January.

‘Ralf Little video accuses Jeremy Hunt of misleading public’‘Ralf Little challenges Jeremy Hunt to a debate on the NHS’ and ‘Jeremy Hunt shut down by Royle Family’s Ralf Little in 42 tweets after double daring actor to challenge NHS claims’.

These are just three of the news headlines that Lancashire-born actor and writer Ralf Little has generated in recent months.

Little is best known for his roles in The Royle Family, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, and as the writer, producer and star of Sky One's The Cafe. But it’s his public support of the NHS and his challenges on Twitter to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, that has most recently brought him notoriety.

On 30 January at the CIPR’s first ever Influence Live! event, I’ll be interviewing Little about his new-found status as a vocal advocate of the NHS. We’ll also talk about the how the debate has affected him personally, his career prospects and plans for the future.

During the forty minute Q&A I’ll be asking Little about personalities in politics and individual responsibility. Do celebrities have the right to use their public platforms to hold power to account or is it an abuse of influence? I’ll also ask how he deals with trolls and what he considers to be best practice in managing social media at its murkiest.

Little has offered a wide-ranging and open conversation about his career to date so I’ll be discovering whether actors are taught how to build a public profile while they are training; how he approaches his own brand management; how proactive he is about managing his reputation and whether negative coverage keeps him awake at night.

I’ll also be asking about the experience of working with a publicist, the amount of control he has over opportunities and what his plans are for the future.

Whatever your views on Ralf Little, Jeremy Hunt and the NHS, it’ll be a fascinating debate and a great way to way to kick off the Influence Live! series. Book now.


How public relations practitioners can help businesses successfully navigate Brexit

As Brexit negotiations continue, here's why businesses should look to their PR practitioners – and ideally CIPR members - for support in navigating the complexities and long-term transition.

The results of the EU referendum sent shockwaves through the world and presented businesses with an unprecedented challenge.

Brexit represents considerable risk but also great opportunity for us all. It will cause monumental change, the impact of which is impossible to predict, across the economic, political and civic landscape.

But amidst the period of political turbulence, UK companies can rely on their PR practitioners to help support them through these uncertain times.

CIPR commissioned report

In a recent report Brexit and Public Relations in 2018 (opens as a pdf), the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) examined the role public relations is playing in preparing businesses for Brexit.

The survey found that fewer than 1 in 10 of the mostly senior PR professionals who responded felt that their organisations were happy with the Government’s approach to Brexit.

There was also concern among respondents that organisations weren’t yet preparing either quickly enough or appropriately.

Only 40% of respondents stated that their organisations were talking to staff about Brexit; just 30% of respondents felt their organisations were exploring their strengths and weaknesses against the requirements of Brexit; and few were changing policies to prepare for change.

Worryingly, the report found less than a quarter (22%) of respondents felt that their clients or employers were prepared for Brexit and fewer than that (21%) didn’t even believe that some of their employers or clients were prepared at all.

More than 60% of respondents to the survey agreed that better engagement through public relations would improve their organisation’s Brexit preparations.

PR’s role in helping business

So how can public relations practitioners help navigate the complexities of the next few years?

Working across the specialisms - internal communication, public affairs, media relations and investor relations - PR practitioners can help businesses build resilience through:

·       Strong, effective relationships with core stakeholders including staff, customers, suppliers, investors, Government and other key groups

·       Using all the skills of empathy that public relations can call on, as well as extensive social research

·       Leadership to ensure your organisation’s voice is heard

·       Political intelligence and influence

CIPR members are being supported by the leading industry body to help organisations prepare for Brexit with confidence and resilience.

To assist members, the CIPR will:

• Work with members through scenario planning meetings and sharing the recommendations

 • Offer a basic guide to Brexit, with regular updates on political activity as the date for the UK’s departure draws nearer, sharing key questions for professionals that arise from each significant development

 • Signpost useful information, key business contacts, best practice from other sectors and commentary on the possible impacts of Brexit

• Offer more guidance on the role of public relations at Board level, including analysis of changes affecting corporate governance and support for public relations as the practice that develops comfort with, and confidence in operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous macroeconomic environment

• Hold quarterly Brexit meetings

This activity will equip CIPR members with the information and tools they need to help the organisations they work with prepare for Brexit.

As the CIPR report concludes, much about the impact of Brexit is unknown and in times of unprecedented uncertainty, volatility, and ambiguity, organisations must find a new level of resilience.

With a significantly different commercial landscape ahead, organisations must be both receptive to new ways of working and communicative. Success will follow those led by flexible, highly-skilled public relations professionals with the depth of knowledge and experience to respond effectively to change.

Your 2018 CIPR plan: seeking your views

Today is my first working day as your CIPR President. I committed in my manifesto to consulting members regularly on what's planned and achieving as much engagement as possible during this very special 70th anniversary year. The Institute is here to serve its members and help strengthen the profession.

My first job as your President is to thank outgoing president Jason Mackenzie for his hard work at the CIPR. The last twelve months has seen membership increase and churn reduce. Jason has pushed hard the professionalism message, which is important if the business of public relations is to be taken seriously.

Thanks also go to Board, Council and all our volunteers for their contributions. It's through our volunteers that we are able to promote professionalism and ethics, help practitioners grow their networks and unlock their full potential, and are gradually making Chartered status the norm.

I'm looking forward to working with you all and especially the team at Russell Square in 2018, not to mention our new president-elect Emma Leech, who has equally ambitious plans for the Institute. 

About the 2018 plan

So onto the plan. The CIPR's purpose is simple. It’s outlined in a document, the Charter, agreed with the Privy Council and signed by the Queen. We exist to promote the highest standards in public relations, for practitioners, and in the public interest.

As such, the CIPR's plan for 2018 is rooted very firmly in the Charter objectives, outlined here alongside the activity I'd like to see take place.  

This working document was signed off by Council and Board at the end of 2017 so much of the activity is already in progress. It's important to say however that some areas still need further discussion and planning.

It takes a village - please get involved

This year the challenge facing the public relations industry is greater than ever as lines between disciplines blur and we face ongoing political and technological change, not to mention issues such as fake news and declining trust. But it also means there is an even greater opportunity to position ourselves as the trusted advisers we are meant to be. 

I was elected on a mandate for change so it's time to make change happen.

Firstly let's truly make the CIPR the inclusive organisation we aspire it to be. 

The Institute is not a clique. It is a place where everyone is welcome and we should come together with one purpose and agenda; to further the goals set out in its Charter. 

We need to be much more open and transparent. We need to work more closely with other membership bodies and organisations. We also need to appeal to the greater breadth and diversity of those working in public relations.

As such, you'll feel a difference in the way in which we communicate and engage this year. I intend to bring back the quarterly report, starting on 31 March, so members can track progress and hold us accountable. 

I am already ringing the changes.

For the first time on our Board we have two BAME women and strong female representation. It is time to truly represent the industry we serve and this is one small step towards doing that.

I have a vision of a dynamic, progressive and assertive organisation, that leads from the front, sets the agenda, promotes the value of public relations and I'm asking everyone, especially our Board and Council, to help me deliver this.

This is not and should not be an easy ride. 

I'm challenging all our members to scrutinise the CIPR's strategic goals and my agenda so whatever we deliver is outcome driven, relevant, agile and fit for purpose. 

There is no room for personal agendas - let's all unite in one goal to see the Institute succeed.

We have an exciting twelve months and more ahead. 2018 is the CIPR's 70th anniversary during which we get to recognise its distinguished history and celebrate its volunteers. 

The CIPR will also take up new premises in a move that will reduce its overheads and in time allow us to deliver new products and services for members.

Coupled with this we will have a much stronger presence in the regions and nations and cohesive delivery of the national plan.

I'm proud to lead this CIPR because I truly believe in all it stands for. I hope by the end of 2018, many more public relations practitioners see its relevance and value too. 

Celebrating the best of the best at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire CIPR PRide Awards

Tonight I have the good fortune to be in Leeds to celebrate the excellent work being carried out by CIPR members across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Here's a transcript of the welcome speech I gave.

Good evening and thank you for the warm welcome tonight. It's a real privilege to be here on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

It's also wonderful to return to Leeds. I'm from Newcastle, as you might have guessed from my Geordie accent and studied French and Media here in the <cough> late nineties. I worked behind the bar at Headingley Cricket Club and spent a lot of free time at Brutus Gold’s Love Train. Now that’s a night out.

I'd like to open by congratulating each and every one of you. Whatever transpires, you're already the best of the best as evidenced by your CIPR membership, commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) and shortlisting in the PRide Awards. 

Before I go any further, I'd like to ask everyone to recognise the hard work of Stefan Casey and the CIPR Yorkshire and Lincolnshire committee, plus the events team at CIPR, by putting your hands together. It's thanks to them that amazing nights like these happen. 

Public relations has much to celebrate. You may already know me from the #FuturePRoof books and community I created. One of the objectives of this was to act as a cheerleader for our profession. I'd now like to extend this to the CIPR.

Next year as your CIPR President I want to raise PR's standing and reinforce its value as a strategic management function. 

But I need your help.

Please, wherever you can, treat public relations as a business discipline and develop your management and finance competencies. Do whatever you can to speak the language of the C-suite and report accordingly. Finally - and it's a key one - promote public relations to employers and the wider business community at every opportunity.

Well that’s it from me – all that’s left to say is good luck and enjoy your night!

Thank you.

Has PR become so disrupted that it has become impossible for training to retain relevance?

Today's PRmoment conference 'Why there is a recruitment crisis within public relations?' took a long hard look at the talent shortage within the industry.

PRmoment hosted an event in central London today focused on the recruitment crisis in PR.

Attendees gathered to hear a range of experts speak on the talent shortage; the skills competencies required by modern public relations practitioners; the gender pay gap; improving diversity within the industry and much more. 

On behalf of the CIPR I spoke about the value of training for those in public relations, particularly where this is focused on the development of strategic, ethical and leadership skills, as demonstrated by those with CIPR Chartered status. 

Here's the deck I presented arguing against the motion 'Has PR become so disrupted that it has become impossible for training to retain relevance?' before a fireside chat with PRmoment's Ben Smith and Bournemouth University lecturer Heather Yaxley. 


The presentation looked at why it's important we include business, finance and management skills amongst our competencies; how these skills help us work with the C-suite and inform the nature of the continuous professional development we do. 

Thanks to Ben Smith and the PRmoment team for inviting me along and to all the speakers for the fascinating insights gained.

Fake news, ethics and professionalism in public relations

One of the big issues facing the PR and advertising industries is brand misplacement and the impact on reputation. I spoke at the CIPR North East's 'Fake news, ethics and professionalism in public relations' event looking at the role PR practitioners can play in mitigating risk.  

Last night the CIPR North East held its 'Fake News, ethics and professionalism in public relations' event as part of the CIPR's Ethics Festival.

Sally Keith (left), Sarah Hall and Clare Lee (right)

Sally Keith (left), Sarah Hall and Clare Lee (right)

CIPR fellow and independent practitioner Sally Keith talked through professional ethics and signposted attendees to the CIPR's decision tree, designed to help members think through difficult ethical decisions.

I spoke alongside SD Advertising account director Clare Lee on the role of public relations professionals as brand guardians in the face of ad and content misplacement and fake news. 

Here's the presentation we gave. 

Clare's content specifically looked at brand safety, accountability and media owners and ethics.

My contribution covered how this relates to public relations practice; crisis planning and issues management; brand purpose and rebuilding trust. 

The discussion concluded with thoughts on what the wider industry needs to do to address the burgeoning problem of fake news and contentious content and how we as professionals can mitigate risk for our employers and clients. 


Modern PR is much misunderstood as the Guardian's @OwenJones84 proves

Today's post by The Guardian's Owen Jones on Kevin Spacey's statement shows how much modern public relations is misunderstood. It's time to put the record straight. 

It's often said that the business of public relations has a public relations problem. Articles like the one by Owen Jones published in today's Guardian illustrate just how widespread the issue is. It also shows that the media are part of the problem. 


Responding to Kevin Spacey's coming out statement following an accusation that the Oscar winner sexually assaulted actor Anthony Rapp, Owen writes:

"When celebrities respond to scandals, they have a team of experienced PR representatives to help craft statements. And what do PR representatives try to do in these circumstances? They try to deflect attention by introducing a new story."

It's hard to equate this description with the public relations practised by thousands of professionals today.

Members of industry bodies such as the CIPR or PRCA sign up to a Code of Conduct promoting ethical behaviour. The suggestion that we practise spin or manipulate the truth to move a story on or change the narrative is as far removed from reality as can be.

In any given issues management situation regret, reason and remedy are much more likely to be advocated. 

I agree with the sentiment of Jones' article but feel obliged to put forward a counter view about the line of work I do. 

Public relations is a strategic management function which plays a clear role in organisational success. It helps businesses find their purpose in society outside of profit generation, acts as an ethical sounding board and manages reputation.

Practitioners need to be proficient in communications but also have management, finance and leadership competencies. The work is frequently 'aways on' and not for the faint hearted. 

It's clear members of today's media hold a view of public relations that is both outdated and tarnished from the industry's association with publicists and bad practice. It's now time for this to change and I'd welcome a discussion with Owen about this. 

Dealing with people who treat you like dirt - a book review of The Asshole Survival Guide

We all have times in life when working relationships affect our self confidence, moral and motivation and we feel disrespected and de-energised. I read The Asshole Survival Guide by Stanford professor Robert I Sutton to better understand bad behaviour and find work arounds. 


There are times when I really struggle to manage certain working relationships. In a stroke of fortune I came across The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I Sutton. Here are 18 of my favourite quotes that I’ll be keeping close by as I work on my resilience. 

  1. Start with self awareness
    ‘Be slow to label others as assholes, be quick to label yourself as one.’ Keeping this mantra in mind primes you to avoid falling prey to your knee-jerk reactions... people who act like assholes are often blind to their bad behaviour and how others experience it. Always apologise when you’ve behaved like an asshole - but only if you really mean it and then do it right.
  2. Empathy
    If you really want to understand an asshole problem and how best to tackle it, consider how your quirks, background and biases shape your feelings. Taking responsibility for your feelings - and understanding what drives those of other targets or witnesses - helps you (or them) figure out how to limit the damage.
  3. Rabbits and rotten systems
    Assholes tend to breed like rabbits because of what psychologists call similarity-attraction effects. Be careful however not to mistake one or two bad experiences or unpleasant people for a rotten system.
  4. Petty power play
    Petty tyrants wield power over some narrow but unavoidable domain. They are rarely in a position to ruin your life, but often wield their limited authority to make you suffer (and to make themselves feel more important). 
  5. Kindness as a tool
    It is smart to treat every asshole survival problem as a two-way street - where you both offer and ask for help. By giving help to troubled targets and witnesses as they try to size up to and deal with jerks, you not only do good deeds; you equip yourself to withstand and to battle the malice and incivility in your own life. Your allies will feel obliged to return the favour, to help, support, protect and fight for you.
  6. Power plays, provocation and caution
    You should try and get away from assholes, but don’t be an idiot about it. When people feel as if they are being treated like dirt, many feel a mighty strong urge to resign in abrupt or confrontational ways. But do so only with extreme caution: such impulses can be dangerous because, if you act on them, it might just provoke some powerful and mean-spirited people to make you pay for it later. 
  7. Being an asshole can be an infectious disease
    Even a single exposure to a rude person can turn a person into a 'carrier,' who in turn infects others with the negative behaviour - so it spreads much like the common cold. 
  8. Protection through distance
    When it comes to assholes, it’s sometimes wise to add rather than remove communication barriers - and physical distance is one of the most protective barriers.  
  9. Assholes and perverse kicks
    Some assholes take a [...] kind of pleasure in your pain. When they do something that generates a strong reaction from you [...] the pleasure centre in their twisted minds light up. 
  10. Forgiveness and letting go
    Even when a jerk doesn’t apologise, and you don’t express forgiveness to them, forgiving him or her in your heart can help you let go of the hurt - and you should do so without condoning, downplaying, or forgetting the offence.
  11. Not giving a shit
    Practising the fine art of not giving a shit about people who mistreat you - honing your ability to tune them out - can save your sanity, shield your physical health, and keep you from hurting the people you love.
  12. Look ahead to better days with better people
    Turn your full attention to those people who treat you with respect, to what matters most to you, and to the better days ahead.
  13. Righteous anger and passive aggression as means of defence
    When you are dealing with a pushy jerk who is undermining the greater good, even if they wield power over you, a flash of righteous anger can sometimes get them to back down. There are other times when subtle ‘passive-aggressive’ confrontation is best.
  14. Managing up and bringing assholes down
    If you want protection from powerful and prickly narcissists, there is an argument for kissing up in order to provide cover and to keep them calm while you work backstage to bring them down.
  15. Assholes are insecure
    Some people are grumpy, insulting, or overbearing primarily because they are insecure about their abilities and prestige.
  16. Revenge is sweet but short lived, fix the system
    Revenge is sweet, but can be useless and dangerous. Use the system to reform, defeat and expel jerks.
  17. Stop and listen
    Reduce your risk of treating others poorly by seeking out and listening to trusted truth-tellers and reflecting about your past behaviour to identify circumstances that bring out the worst in you.
  18. Strength in friends and family
    By realising you are not alone, by turning to people ranging from fellow targets to friends and to your family for support and wisdom, you bolster your chances of constructing better plans, traveling through difficult days with dignity and grace, and emerging from it all a stronger person.








    #MeToo to #HimThough: Why active language is so important

    Can I tell you about when I was 15 and woke up to find a friend of my cousin’s groping me? My younger cousin was asleep in the bunk bed below.

    How about when a university lecturer asked me out for a date. He marked my grades down when I said no. It cost me a first class degree.

    Let’s talk about the workplace: a male team had a bet to see who could sleep with me first.

    (Answer, none).

    How about the CEO that called me on a day off to say I needed to sack my co-manager because the business didn’t want working mums as “they’re not committed.”

    (I didn’t sack her and Kerry that was at your wedding. I’m sorry).

    Always and everywhere

    It happens whatever stage you’re at in your career.

    Two years ago while running my own business, a client grabbed my buttocks at an event. There were more than 200 people in the room.

    I brushed him off and said we’d talk about it later.

    He subsequently avoided every call and request for a meeting and fired my agency from the account.

    It removed the opportunity to discuss it face to face.  Thing is, he’d almost certainly have laughed it off as a bit of fun anyway.

    You’re almost certainly in wild agreement that these stories are unacceptable. You’ll almost all have versions of your own. We haven’t moved on that far from the seventies.

    Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are endemic in the workplace.

    The news about Harvey Weinstein might have opened up the conversation, but talk now needs to lead to genuine culture and behavioural change.

    #MeToo to #HimThough

    The #MeToo campaign flooding social media is only the tip of the iceberg but it shows exactly how widespread sexual abuse is. The experiences are not ‘just a joke’ and affect women across all walks of life.

    Some people are better able to raise awareness about it than others – for example it’s arguably easier for me as a white, middle class professional to speak up.

    Whether it’s a lingering touch of the arm, outright proposition or much worse, being hit upon is downright unacceptable.

    Turning down someone’s advances should also not affect your chances of success in life.

    In her interview with Emily Maitliss on BBC Newsnight, actress Emma Thompson said: “Does it only count if you really have done it to loads and loads of women or does it count if you do it to one woman, once. I think the latter.”

    She has a point. If you’ve ever behaved this way to someone in the workplace, you’re guilty of inappropriate behaviour. I’d argue the same about complicity.

    If you’ve watched it happen and haven’t stepped forward, you’re equally as guilty.

    We all have a role in speaking out

    So what’s the answer to this complex issue? One route forward is to stop using passive language.

    Liz Plank created #HimThough in response to the #MeToo campaign: “How many women will it take to say #MeToo before men talk about #HimThough? Imagine a world where the burden was on men to share their shame rather than women.”

    Using active language is more important than you think.

    News reports that talk about the number of sexual assaults on women rather than the number of sexual assaults by men take away the onus from the perpetrator.

    As Jackson Katz, the co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention, said: “The use of the passive voice…shifts the focus off men and boys and onto girls and women.

    “Blaming victims and minimizing the harms they have suffered is much easier than holding people accountable — especially the powerful and well-connected.”

    Professional communicators, take note. It’s a lesson for us all.

    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.