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Guest post: Why I’ve joined the CIPR

Jenny Andersson contacted me via Twitter after taking up the offer to join the CIPR. Here’s why. Perhaps her thinking will inspire you to do the same.

By Jenny Andersson

I’ve been in communications almost all my working life. I left a director role within the Shandwick Group in 1985 to set up my own agency at 26 which I ran until 1999. I’ve operated as a consultant and interim ever since. I’ve worked for some of the world’s most recognised consumer lifestyle brands.

I’ve never joined an industry organisation. Why not?

In the ‘80s and ‘90s fighting for boardroom representation and leadership on strategy against dominant advertising and media buying agencies I worked hard to develop proprietary measurement and evaluation methodologies, and deliver credible research and analysis services, which I saw as the way to boardroom credibility for the public relations function.

As early as 1986 I banished advertising value equivalent (AVE) from client management, and never lost a single client because I refused to be measured by them. It took industry organisations until 2010 to produce the Barcelona Principles which finally recognised that this ridiculous methodology was defunct, a milestone which wouldn’t have been achieved without the commitment of people such as Richard Bagnall.

During this period there was very little vision to position public relations within integrated communications of which I was an early proponent at a time when marketing communications functions still operated commonly in silos.

I also saw very little support for those practitioners more commonly involved in brand communications rather than corporate communications, which was then seen as the premiere function in the discipline.

At the turn of the 21st century, three important developments kept me in the communications industry; digital, the rise and importance of brands in society, and the recognition of the role of specialists in global narratives. Three developments that came together to create a truly magnificent opportunity for public relations.

And nothing happened at industry body level.

We need a new vision; led by people who not only understand the new communications landscape but have the courage to lead the industry forwards without the shackles of the past.

We need visionary leadership as never before, to continue to value our traditional roles and to clearly articulate our place in the new landscape. We need someone who can frame a new narrative which helps to place the old public relations function where it should be in relation to traditional tasks and new ones such as content capital and strategy, digital strategies, engagement and information management.

We need leadership that can help to ensure that the industry leverages the unprecedented opportunity to showcase why public relations practitioners are best placed to leverage the new communications landscape and to support global business – for the first time in 30 years we may just have that and so I’m signing-up.

I do wish you the very best of luck Stephen. I’m going to be a very interested observer.

About the Author
jenny-anderssonJenny Andersson is a strategic communications professional with 25-years experience working on national, international and pan-European campaigns across a wide range of communications disciplines. You can connect with her on Twitter @jenandersson1.

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Stephen Waddington

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

19 Comments

  1. Evening Jenny. I greatly enjoyed your post and agree with many of the sentiments you make. The only aspect where I don’t, is I am not signing up to the CIPR. Yet.

    The most graphic illustration for me of how out of touch the CIPR is, was the latest PR Week Power List. Only 22% of the great and the good are CIPR members, I’d love to know why, but I can hazard a guess.

    The CIPR has been asleep at the wheel for over a decade. As you eruditely say, when we were fighting off the rise and rise of management consultants: they did nothing. When we continue to fight megalomaniac marketing directors: they do nothing. When our reputation is trashed time again by ignorant journalists using lazy stereotypes: they do nothing. When too many within our industry navel-gaze obsessively and fiddle while our reputation burns: they do nothing.

    Like you, I am greatly encouraged by Stephen. But he is one cog in the engine of an oil tanker that has been on the wrong course for over a decade.

    I have no doubt he will use every ounce of energy, drive and facet of his considerable experience, but I shall leave my membership pending till his powerful, exciting rhetoric receives the needed support from within the CIPR to translate it into action.

    Till then, I’ll continue waging my one-man war against the armies of PR detractors, have no doubt about that.

    • Hi Alister

      My motivation is simple and my plans are absolutely transparent. You can either be part of the change that you want to see or not. I’ve chosen the former, you’ve chosen the latter.

      I believe I have the support to implement the plan I’ve set out and I’m a strong believer in collection action. I’m going to give it my best shot. Let’s review the position in 18 months.

      All the best,
      Stephen

    • Hello Alister, just back from Wales where wifi is occasionally like being in the Congo (sorry Wales) and have just read your post. I think we may be quite alike. For so many years I was so busy doing the job of communications (and loving it) that I didn’t really have time to even keep the CIPR on my radar. I didn’t need them, they didn’t do anything for me specifically, and I viewed them as a non-progressive bunch of suits.

      But it has changed. Yes, it has been slow, but we’ve all seen and worked with global corporations that can only institute change when they’re about to become irrelevant, so I don’t think anyone should judge the CIPR too harshly for past mistakes anymore. Now I think we can look forward. Because communications as an industry reached a critical point, the CIPR has also reached one, and I think it is responding.

      It has taken me 30 years of professional practice to realise that you can only change an institution from within. And I would probably never have reached that conclusion had I not in the past few years decided to move my energies into the NGO and education environment. I have changed many brands from ‘without’ so I never thought about this point before.

      I believe passionately that education is an important focus for the industry. I taught degree students in the past year who would go out into industry placements, come back and question what they were being taught about advanced research, analysis and measurement methodologies. Because they had gone into PR agencies or in-house placements and been told to measure press cuttings through AVEs. Still.

      I have found something I think I can contribute to our industry and I think I can only do that through the CIPR.

      I hope you can think about your position in this way, and find something very specific that you want to change or improve and join up.

      All the best
      Jenny

  2. Hi Alister

    Your comment is extremely useful because I think you are representative of a lot of PR practitioners and as a longterm CIPR member I’ve felt like that myself from time to time. And that’s exactly why I got more closely involved with the Institute and am now a board member and co-chair of the professional practices committee. Maybe in time, we can convince you to join and get involved too.

    I worked with Stephen on his election campaign because I believe (sorry to use this description, Wadds!) he is the poster boy for change. He has plenty of support and he rolls his sleeves up and does what’s needed.

    The appetite to move the Institute forward is already there to a certain extent and he (with others on the board like myself, Rob Brown, Sarah Pinch, Julio Romo and more) plus the CIPR team want to ensure we are not just relevant but forward-thinking and THE leading body for our sector. As such, things are already happening and there is much more to come.

    As for PR Week, there are a lot of things I wish for that publication. I’m personally more concerned about the lack of regional representation but I certainly don’t judge the CIPR’s success by how many members are in there.

    Anyway this type of feedback is great because it drives me even harder to help change your (and others’) perceptions. I’m only a volunteer but I think we both agree that this matters otherwise we wouldn’t be spending time commenting on this blog! :)

  3. Alister

    I too have been baffled by the PR Week Power Book, but let’s not set out PR Week as the most in touch publication.

    Your point about Stephen being a lone voice, is I am delighted to say, wrong. I am chair of the CIPR in the SW, a board member of the CIPR & I chair the membership committee for the board Many of Stephen’s ambitions are shared by members – in the regions and those active on Council

    The tone, mood & actions being taken by the members who sit on the CIPR’s Council (it’s governing body) has never been more proactive. The membership committee is driving through real change & Stephen is elected with a strong mandate from members and enormous support from the Council – including Dr Jon White, to bring about changes

    I have had a long held belief that it is best to join & bring about change (in any situation) than sit back & hope

    I sincerely hope you will join us. If not, look again in 12-18 months and I hope you will see huge change.

    Sarah

  4. Thanks both, and your ambition and energy is laudable. Have to say though, I take exception to the idea that the only way I change my industry is to part of the CIPR.

    I’ve been challenging perceptions my entire career as I adore PR and how it can help businesses. While Stephen may run me close, I am yet to find a stronger advocate for my craft than myself.

    My issue remains with the CIPR and the true appetite it has for change. It has been in a navel-gazing comfortable rut for years, and we all know the challenges and hard work change requires.

    I dearly look forward to being proved wrong. I want to be.

    I watch with gimlet gaze and strong self-interest at what happens next. I just wish he could get stuck in now, rather than in six months time. But don’t get me started on that.

    Alister

  5. What an interesting post, Jenny. It’s great that Stephen’s election has motivated you to join the CIPR. For it’s only from within an organisation that you can change it.

    You say you’re going to be an interested observer but actually the CIPR needs more people such as you not just to observe but to get engaged and help Stephen achieve his aims which, all 68 per cent of us who voted for him, support.

    You and Alister are right about the chequered history of the CIPR. Had it just been asleep it would not have been quite so difficult to rebuild. But we are in a new era. So let’s stop harking back to the past. We’ve had an energetic CEO who has moved the Institute in the right direction and our current President is pushing forward on many important strands of our development. Stephen represents an exciting future for the Institute of tomorrow.

    Membership organisations are notoriously difficult to engage. Yet I believe we are doing so.

    Membership of the CIPR is up by 13 per cent. Professional development, which is central to the Institute’s offer and fundamental to our future success, has led to almost a third more people completing their CPDs last year. The workshops have been a great success and attendance is increasing year on year. Webinars are reaching a much wider membership base than before.

    And whilst I am a great supporter of Stephen, after all I was one of ten who nominated him, he is not the only voice. He is supported by many, many able and enthusiastic people on the Board and on Council and in the membership who are passionate about the future of the CIPR and who are willing to work to achieve it.

    What’s more I have taken the recommended medicine myself. Having long been one of the apathetic critics from the sidelines, I decided to stir myself into action in the last two years or so. I was awarded a Fellowship, became chair of the International group, an elected Council member and I sit on the Professional Practices Committee. I don’t regret it.

    I am determined to play a part in making sure that PR practitioners hold their heads up high, claim the ground that is rightfully theirs and that CEOs and directors around the country believe that nothing less than a CIPR member will do for their organisation.

    Alister, won’t you reconsider?

    • Eva, you’re right. I hope I have already moved from interested observer to interested and engaged. But that’s because I happened to spot a CIPR tweet about PR education and know that is something I can help with as a volunteer.

      You’re also right about creating change from within – when it comes to institutions. I think one of the great difficulties for the CIPR in attracting even more new members is that such a large percentage of the practitioners are change agents from without (agencies/consultants/lobbyists) that we forget that maxim or we are simply too busy changing others that we don’t have time to work on ourselves.

      I wouldn’t have seen the education opportunity if I hadn’t been prepared to reconsider the CIPR because of Stephen’s appointment. Perhaps (CIPR) that’s something you could look at in the future – trying to find a better way to match up specific people to specific opportunities?

      All the best, Jenny

  6. I am really heartened by these posts, which confirm there are committed, passionate practitioners out there who are championing the PR cause – regardless of whether or not they are CIPR members.

    Under Jane Wilson’s tenure I have witnessed a real step change in the CIPR, and I truly believe the cart is out of its ‘navel-gazing rut’ and beginning to trundle forward. Stephen and a number of his CIPR board and council members are working hard to help it gain momentum.

    We need people like you Alister to help them accelerate this process. I hope one day to have the opportunity to join forces with you to continue the good work that has taken place over the past few years and help make the CIPR an organisation which you and others like you will be proud to be a part of.

    Louise

  7. You lot are very convincing…and I am encouraged that Stephen is not alone in his plight. But actions mean more than words, as genuine and enthusiastic as they are. So I will wait, but I will be watching with great interest. We’re playing the same game, just not on the same team. For now ;)

  8. Great news Alister & I sincerely hope you will see so much change, the only question you will be left with us : Why am I not a member?

    Sarah

  9. Alister, your reply to Wadd’s post echoed the views I had before I joined the institute.

    Indeed, the CIPR had been asleep at the wheel. It has failed on many counts, specifically the ones you mention.

    But something has changed. People have changed, staff have changed, Council has changed and the CIPR Board have changed. I am one of the people that nominated Wadds for the President. He is the right person for the role, not just to head of the institute, but change the perception of PR. And he is not alone.

    Let’s be honest, you and I know that reputation is worth a lot. Certain organisation’s list it on the balance sheet. Certain organisation’s employ staff who just have an address book of journalists. Today, to be a professional PR you need more than that and organisations are starting to realise this.

    The public and private sectors know that the quality of their PRs underpins the quality of their own reputation. This is one of the reason’s that our CPD is bring used within organisations. And a reason why our membership has grown.

    The landscape is changing, media is changing, the way in which people communicate and share opinions has changed.

    I joined to share my experience and help not just the CIPR, but the industry gain the respect it deserves.

    From my view, it is better to be within the CIPR that outside it. Organisations will soon see that Accredited and Chartered status gives them the security of knowing that those who care for their reputation are professional.

  10. Hello Jenny, hope you enjoyed Wales, even without wifi. What it lacks in Internet access, it more than compensates for in outstanding natural beauty. I’m not Welsh if you were thinking, but did get married in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Breathtaking.

    I agree, I think we are kindred spirits in many ways. One difference, is that I have had a relationship with the CIPR as a member only until the last five years. So I was only too aware of its shortcomings and the many, many opportunities missed to stand up for our profession: to be the ‘voice’.

    I do take your point that it is easier to change from within. But I have never ducked a challenge. And I have never said never to rejoining. In response to my original reply to you, I have been very impressed at the empassioned, erudite individuals helping support Stephen’s mandate for change. So much that I’m swayed, but not quite enough.

    I’m sure it won’t be long for Wadds to make his presence felt, especially so ably supported by people like yourself. So I’m therefore sure it won’t be long till I join you. I dearly hope so, anyway.

    Cheers

    Alister

  11. Alister, I was thinking, why don’t you come down to one of our CIPR Greater London Group events to meet some of us?

    The next gig is at the London Transport Museum on 3rd July (http://tfs.me/16WlaW8) where some of TFL’s team will share their insight on how they been managing the underground’s 150th anniversary.

    It should be a good event and you’ll meet of us.

    Hope to meet you there.

  12. Evening Julio

    So sorry I missed your earlier post, and thank you for the kind invitation to join you at the next London CIPR event. And I will take you up on it.

    I just need to play it by ear a little as I’m having my pre-operation appointment that morning in Birmingham, ahead of getting my shoulder fixed on the 8th (being a big lad and sliding tackles are not a good combination ;)).

    It would be great to meet you all and fascinating to hear TfL’s PR experiences.

    I truly hope none of you think I’m terminally anti-CIPR. And even at present I am a huge fan of the training it does, particularly the Advanced Certificate and Diploma, which are both excellent. Although I have genuinely been moved by the response and I am greatly encouraged that the future is in safer hands than I thought.

    Cheers

    Alister

  13. Morning Julio

    Delighted to say I got my dates muddled and happy to confirm I’d love to take you up on your offer.

    My pre-op is the day before; I’m sure you’re fascinated to know.

    Happy to pay for the train down from Birmingham, even happier if you could waive the 15 non-member fee to attend?!

    Let me know. Email me direct on fluidcomms@gmail.com or 07595 189 964.

    Cheers

    A

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