I have been in public relations since 1990, worked with membership organisations since 1995 and have been a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) since 2005. This year I believe the time is right for me to combine these elements of my career so I have put myself forward as a candidate standing for election to the CIPR Council. I am eligible for one of the eight seats on the ‘open’ list, i.e. those not affiliated to a regional or sector group.
Why am I standing?
Council needs people motivated to stand up for what members need to develop both professionally and in business, and to make CIPR membership a mark of quality. The CIPR already seeks my views on issues relating to freelancing, and I would consider it a privilege to enhance this position by being part of Council and at the heart of decision-making for members.
An ivory tower … no more
At the time, the CIPR seemed to be an ivory tower with no relevance to me. Sure it represented members, but as for benefits to help members, especially me as a freelancer, my experience was that these were practically non-existent. Apart from the obvious benefit to all members of a free subscription to PR Week magazine, the only other benefit I thought there to be was access to training. When I looked at what the CIPR offered, the training was far too expensive for me.
Surely this cannot be right, a membership body that does little to benefit its members? I have worked for a few membership organisations, and this is a common cry. I spent six years as Head of Communications at the Society of British Aerospace Companies, the trade association for the UK Aerospace Industry, and the most common complaint we heard was that we were the Society of BOTH aerospace companies, as the industry was dominated by just two companies. The smaller companies felt marginalised.
The CIPR is barely recognisable from the early years of my membership and I am delighted that it is now a chartered body that is responsive to members and is leading the way for the profession to be taken seriously as a strategic management function. With my experience of membership organisations, from the inside, I have valuable knowledge to help the CIPR provide what members need, not just those who work in the biggest companies and have corporate budgets to play with.
What I want from my professional body
What I want from my professional body is the same as the majority of my peers. I want it to help me develop as a professional and in my business. To me, this means helping me learn the skills I need to be the best I can be for my clients in terms of the knowledge I have and the up-to-date skills to help them grow their business. It also means that I want guidance and advice on how to run my business, and win new clients.
I also want my professional body to represent the profession I work in and to position public relations as the valuable strategic management function we know it is. PR can have a major impact on business achievements and as practitioners, we know that the earlier we are brought in to decision-making, the more impact we will have on the success of the business.
Does the CIPR provide all of these? In terms of professional development, yes it does – the CPD programme is comprehensive, and largely free. When it comes to business development, I would like to see more done on this, especially for freelance members.
I want to work with the CIPR to make their services fit-for-purpose to help members’ personal and business development.
Why should members vote for me?
I do not want to sit back and see what happens. I want to be part of what happens. Now feels the right time for me to jump on board and get my hands dirty.
The CIPR now has a strong sense of direction. Stephen Waddington’s manifesto focuses on 10 words and 10 pledges, which I fully endorse. I also support President-elect, Sarah Pinch, and her five goals for the future of the profession which will move the drive to professionalism even further.
My nomination to Council gives three pledges, based on my experience and what I believe members need to develop both professionally and in business. They link to what Stephen and Sarah have in their vision for the Institute:
- Freelance Practitioners – I became a freelancer in 2004 after 15 years employed in PR for corporates and membership organisations. Until recently I found member services were largely irrelevant to a freelancer’s needs, this is changing but there is still a way to go. I pledge to work with the CIPR to ensure services are relevant and fit for purpose in both a professional and business development context for freelancers.
- Professional Development and Standards – with a wide range of activities so easily accessible through the CIPR website, all members should be registered for CPD and working towards Accredited Practitioner status, which I achieved earlier this year. I pledge to work with the CIPR to put the CPD programme at the core of member benefits and position Accredited Practitioner status as the minimum standard for a PR professional and a benchmark for excellence.
- Gender gap – the results of the latest CIPR State of the Profession survey, published in February this year, identified shocking facts about the gender gap in our profession. There is a lot of work to be done on this issue. I pledge to work with the CIPR to deliver further action on gender equality for the benefit of us all.
You can read my full nomination statement on the CIPR website (available to members and non-members).
Voting opens on 1st September, closing on 22nd September.
I will add more posts, developing my thoughts, over the coming days and weeks. Before CIPR members vote, I welcome discussions about my pledges, your views to how the profession is moving forward, and comments on the CIPR and how it is relevant to you. Just leave a comment below or email me directly.
As BT used to say … “It’s good to talk”.