Meeting CIPR President candidate Mandy Pearse

Meeting CIPR President candidate Mandy Pearse

The candidates for CIPR President in 2021 have been announced. I’m supporting long standing CIPR volunteer and trainer Mandy Pearse. She’s an MBA and board level practitioner.


I valued Mandy’s counsel on CIPR Governance issues and engagement with public sector communications communities during my time as President in 2014.

As an MBA holder she’s among a group of practitioners that have been driving communications at board level for more than two decades. She sits on the CIPR Board, has been a Council member for five years and volunteered for ten, most recently as Chair of the Local Public Service and Policy committees.

I caught up with Mandy this week to discuss her motivation and aspiration for the role. We talked about member engagement, professional development, networks, and practice.

Member engagement

What’s your motivation to stand as CIPR President for 2021?

Put simply I want to deliver for my profession, my institute, our volunteers and members. 

I’ve been a CIPR member since 2002 and a volunteer since 2010 as group Chair, Council and Board member I have a long track record of giving my time. 

Nine years ago I fought cancer. It gave me new perspective about what is important and my passion for my profession is central to who I am.

What’s your pitch to CIPR members?

I want the CIPR to deliver great value to members, supporting them with training and research at all stages or their career regardless of their location or, background. I am determined to be an inclusive President who gets out to regions and nations, engages with sectoral groups and champions talent and diversity.

Most UK public relations practitioners aren’t members of the CIPR. How do you plan to tackle this?

The two reasons I get given for not joining are relevance to their work or career level and access to training and events. I’ve talked about how to make training more accessible through structured online learning and more regional events in my blog. I’ve also identified how by working with other professional bodies we can provide broader management training for those at that stage in their careers where they are advising boards or running their own agencies.

Professional development and practice

The reputation of public relations is defined by the media and dodgy practice. How do we overcome this challenge?

Ethical communication is at the heart of this. I’ve spent years working with CEOs and political leaders on some of the toughest PR challenges such as deaths in care, dealing with the impact of taking hundreds of millions of pounds out of local services and major incidents such as fires, shipwrecks and flooding. Real stuff affecting people’s lives. Honesty and transparency have to be at the heart of what we do.

Less than a fifth of CIPR members invest in personal Continuous Professional Development (CPD) at a time when practice is changing faster than ever. How do account for this?

The simplest way is to make it easy. I don’t believe only a fifth of members do CPD I think only a fifth log it. When I speak to practitioners, they are doing all sorts of development which will qualify as CPD but they don’t realise they can log it.

We can improve and modernise by linking event/training bookings and volunteer activity directly rather than requiring logging and work closely with non CIPR event organisers to get CPD points allocated in advance.

We also need to convince the C-suite that given the pace of change only a practitioner undertaking CPD will provide the best up to date counsel.

The drumbeat of public relations as a management discipline has grown louder and louder in recent years. How will you address this?

We need to show the economic value of PR, conduct research to quantify the value we add and we take the conversation into the business and governmental space. It’s all about going to the places where the key decision makers are rather than expecting them to come to us. 

Professional networks

We need a strong community of practice between academics and practitioners in public relations. What’s your plan for a research fund?

Research is a key part of the CIPR’s Charter. I plan to set up a fund which all CIPR members can pitch to for seed funding this will ensure the process of fund allocation is open and transparent, engage a more diverse set of members to be involved with research, provide opportunities for new talent and complement the fine work done in the academic environment. Making that bridge between academia and practitioner is incredibly important.

 You’ve been outspoken about a London bias within the CIPR. What do you mean?

Simply that the majority of CIPR members are outside London yet the majority of investment is focused on the capital. We need to transition from a model where our activities are based on a more flexible, agile model.

The majority of all learning events in the regions are organised and run by volunteers in the evenings because that is where and when practitioners can attend. We need to think outside the box. A great example is the Comms School learning and discussion group set up by yourself and Marcel Klebba.

CIPR vs PRCA. Where do you stand?

It’s not an either or for me. Both bodies do fine work for the PR industry. The CIPR is the Chartered body providing the individual PR practitioner with qualifications, training, events, networks and the pathway to becoming a Chartered Practitioner. The PRCA has long provided a strong trade body voice especially for agencies. I welcome joint working by both in the key issues while acknowledging the different constituencies.

Personal aspirations

Leadership of a voluntary organisation is a lonely job. Who do you turn to for counsel and advice in your professional career?

Over 25 years in the business I’ve developed a real network both within the PR industry and in the C-suite. I’m still in regular contact with CEOs I worked with early in my career. Many of my cohort of PR folk now occupy Dir of Comms, CEO roles or run their own agencies and they have always been generous with their time and wisdom. I’m not afraid to ask for advice. But I also get inspiration and constantly learn from the young people I brought into the industry.

What experience and skills will you bring to the role of President?

I’m happy to lead and make tough decisions quickly when required but I like to spend time listening and engaging with stakeholders as I believe it results in better decision making. I’ve plenty of board experience. I understand the governance and ethical issues that arise. I am also aware of my own strengths and weaknesses in skills and experience and would seek to use Board appointments to complement these.

Share something surprising that CIPR members don’t know about you?

I competed for Britain internationally at trampolining and 10 years in the sport taught me a huge amount about personal resilience, knowing yourself and giving your best no matter what challenges, you face.

What question should I have asked you but haven’t? And what would your answer have been?

I would say you should have asked how I’m going to make time to really deliver as CIPR President given how much I already do for CIPR, my own business and other voluntary activities.

I’m prepared to give the Presidency the time it needs so that I can attend events in the regions, Chair Council and Board, speak at national and international events, engage with business leaders and be available to champion industry issues. I can do that because I run my own consultancy and can work from anywhere. I will also scale back other voluntary work.

Further information

Mandy has shared her manifesto, six pledges for CIPR members, and developed many of the issues outlined here on a campaign Tumblr.


Voting in the CIPR Election kicks off on Monday, 2 September and runs to Monday, 16 September. The successful candidate will be announced shortly thereafter.

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