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Tough call but right call on CIPR election

If you make a mistake the best course of action is to admit your error, take corrective action and move on. It will always be difficult but the pain will be short-term and you’ll be in a stronger place long-term.

The Council of the CIPR did exactly that on Monday in calling for a fresh election for the post of President for 2014 after mistakes emerged in the election process.

The meeting on Monday was the toughest meeting that I’ve participated in during my two years on the CIPR Council. But as the CIPR’s governing body we did the right thing.

Here’s how John Owens and Matt Cartmell have reported the story for PR Week UK.

A statement follows from the CIPR’s CEO Jane Wilson below.

I want to take this opportunity now to apologise to both candidates, who put a tremendous amount of effort into their campaigns and to all members, particularly those who voted in what they believed to be a valid election. In this instance, we did not meet the high standards that our members expect of the CIPR.

At the close of nominations at noon on 24 September only one candidate had been nominated and they were informed that they stood unopposed. That evening, an appeal to consider a late nomination was submitted to me and then considered by the CIPR President. The late nomination was received and considered in good faith and flexibility on the deadline was allowed on this basis. The election then proceeded with two candidates.

In the week following the announcement of the election result, a complaint was made about the decision to allow the late nomination. In line with the CIPR’s election regulations, a report was prepared for Council about the complaint. Council voted to take action based on the late nomination and a fresh election has been called. The basis of this decision was that there is no provision in the CIPR election regulations for the deadline for nominations to be appealed and that the decision to allow the late nomination invalidated the election.

This was a tough decision for Council to make and one which they knew could cause immediate reputational damage to the CIPR and the trust in its processes and procedures. In reaching this decision, I believe that the CIPR Council has put a requirement for transparency, an adherence to our Regulations and the long-term trust of our members as their first priority.

I am sorry for the reputational damage caused to the CIPR by our original decision. Council’s action is the first step to rebuilding trust in our election process.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

16 Comments

  1. Well said. I don’t think the Council had any other option but to re-run the elections. If you had let the result stand in the face of the mistake, the CIPR would have seemed untrustworthy. At least it has has bitten the bullet and owned up to being wrong. Shame there’s so much uninformed comment flying around in some quarters but I guess that’s only to be expected. Now, let’s move on.

    • Hi Eva

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. It’s much appreciated. I’m never sure if anyone reads my stuff.

      All the best,
      Stephen

  2. @ Eva

    To reiterate my previous comment to CIPR’s Philip Morgan, whilst the continued chanting of the ‘Mea Culpa’ line-to-take is understandable (and at least partly correct), the real issues here are being swept under the carpet. Namely, who made the complaint about the decision to proceed with the Election and why only AFTER the result? Why was the President convinced that they had the authority to rule on the late Nomination (which now appears was wrong) – who provided this advice to the President? Why did the CIPR Council ignore the clear recommendation of its own Report, which stated that the Election result was legitimate, valid and should stand?

    The real problem here is that this situation has been transformed from what should have been simply one of defending a legitimate decision taken by the CIPR President into a complete shambles, with deeply worrying undertones that certain people on the Council had an ‘agenda’ to ensure a particular Winner emerged from this Election.

    With PR Week now giving prominence to this story, CIPR’s reputation is being seriously damaged and trust may only be restored by someone at the top of CIPR ‘falling on their sword’ over this issue…

    • Hi Martin

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. All the issues that you raise are addressed in the responses from Phil Morgan or information that is publicly available. If you still have any further questions I’m sure Phil will answer them directly.

      As I posted in the LinkedIn discussion on the CIPR page tonight, the governance of the CIPR is unusual in that its a democratic member-led organisation.

      Council voted on the conclusion of the report last week and rejected the result of the election for the reasons disclosed. I’ve read the report as a member of Council. All the material facts are public.

      The CIPR has issued a statement and publicly apologised via its site and trade media. A plan for a new election is in play. The organisation have been decisive and is moving on. This is how it will rebuild trust and its reputation.

      All the best,
      Stephen

      • “The organisation have been decisive and is moving on. ”

        Sadly Stephen, in the wrong direction…

          • Stephen,

            To reiterate my earlier comment elsewhere, whilst the continued chanting of the ‘Mea Culpa’ line-to-take is understandable (and at least partly correct), the real issues here ARE being swept under the carpet. Namely, who made the complaint about the decision to proceed with the Election and why only AFTER the result? Why was the President convinced that they had the authority to rule on the late Nomination (which we are now told was wrong) – who provided this advice to the President? Why did the CIPR Council ignore the clear recommendation of its own Report, which stated that the Election result was legitimate, valid and should stand?

            The real problem here is that this situation has been transformed from what should have been simply one of defending a legitimate decision taken by the CIPR President into a complete shambles, with deeply worrying undertones that certain people on the CIPR Council had an ‘agenda’ to ensure a particular Winner emerged from this Election.

            With PR Week now giving prominence to this story and the PRCA probably laughing their socks off at the ineptitude of it all, CIPR’s reputation is being seriously damaged and trust may only be restored by someone at the top of CIPR ‘falling on their sword’ over this issue…

          • I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree. All the material facts are public as is the resolution. Phil Morgan may have more to add.

  3. Eva

    Moving on and moving forward is definitely the right approach to take. However, as has been identified through the free discussion taking place on the CIPR International group page (http://lnkd.in/2HwcsH) by Juan Castanedas, it is important to learn from the mistakes that have been made and amend the processes so that such a mistake does not occur again. Simply brushing the issue under the carpet is not the way forward. You referred to uninformed comment that has been flying around. Surely the way to clarify any misunderstanding in communication is through informed discussion. Or am I mistaken? There is still a lot to learn from what has happened on this occasion. It is only then that we can make sure the same mistakes don’t occur again.

    • Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think there’s any danger of anyone “brushing this issue under the carpet”. The Council acted decisively last week in rejecting the result of the election for the all the reasons that have already been cited publicly. The CIPR has issued a statement and apologised via its site and trade media. A plan for a new election is in play which will include a review of the issues from the last election.

      All the best,
      Stephen

  4. Martin and Matthew

    Nothing is being swept under the carpet. To say so is to ignore the fact that the whole issue is being debated by CIPR Council.

    The complaint was recieved after the ballot because the regulations governing elections say “Any complaints about the conduct of the election must be made within one week of the result being published on the CIPR website as prescribed in the election timetable.” This, and other aspects of the regulations, need to be reviewed.

    The Election Regulations make no provision for an appeal to the President, but elsewhere in regulations governing the CIPR, the President CAN act as a final appeal on issues of procedure. This is the interpretation of the regulations on which Council has focused their attention and decided that in the case of the deadline for nominations, was misplaced. The decision by Council is known and has been explained and the anything else will be published in the minutes.

    It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I disgree with your proposed method to restore trust. Its a serious issue, so lets deal with it appropriately, thoroughly and effectively. We’ll take the justified criticism for the original decision but then it would be wise to reserve judgement and see whether the CIPR emerges from this to be a better and stronger Institute.

  5. Hey guys – sorry for my silence but I was away on business in Germany and, at times, amazingly even the CIPR has to take second place to work. Anyway, as Martin and Matthew specifically and publicly called on me to respond I feel I should do so.

    Stephen and Philip have, however, I think dealt with the issues you raise and I have little to add except that to say that things have been swept under the carpet is to ignore what has been going on. The easiest way to ensure informed comment is to pick the phone up to those who know.

    The CIPR has made a good effort to respond fast and openly on this issue and emailed all the members on the evening of the 19th or 20th. All the information, including a FAQ, was on the website by the 20th. The answers to many of the questions raised since are, in fact, in the various documents. In addition, the CIPR has from the beginning made it very plain that it is ready and available for comment and answer (thanks, Phil).

    I really think the important thing now is, yes of course, learn from what happened, but let’s stop beating ourselves up about it. We do need to move on. The CIPR plans to evaluate the current regulations governing elections. That will be an important step towards making sure that we are better placed to serve members’ needs.

    • @ Eva

      Thank you for your thoughts here Eva.

      So, in the interest of transparency and in view of the fact that it is a question NOT addressed in the FAQ you refer to, could I ask who made the complaint post-Election?

      A perfectly simple question which I have asked previously but has not been answered so far?

      Do you have any idea why might that be?…

      • There is a general rule of confidentiality around complaints raised with the CIPR which we are making our best efforts to observe. If any issues arising from this are referred to the Professional Practices Committee for further consideration, the confidentiality of the party to the complaint must be respected.

  6. I really don’t like to see all this controversy following on from the elections – personally I am happy for the CIPR Council to decide what the process should be going forward.

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