CIPR election: critical friends, issues and ideas

CIPR election: critical friends, issues and ideas

This year’s CIPR election for President has raised important issues about the future of the CIPR and its role serving the profession. I’ve voted for Mandy Pearse.

Mandy Pearse and Rachel Royall are campaigning in the election for CIPR President in 2021. The polls close on Monday, 16 September at 5pm.

Membership value, mental health, support for practitioners in regions and nations, and public sector public relations have emerged as issues.

Critical friends

There are two challenges with elections for membership organisations.

First, a limited pool of candidates means that elections frequently become a popularity contest in which the individual able to mobilise the biggest network wins.

Second, when original ideas are debated it can appear critical of the organisation and potentially to its reputation.

I found the debates between Dr Jon White and I in 2013 difficult but they pushed me to listen, learn and ultimately made me a better President.

Issues and ideas

It has been good to see a positive exchange of ideas during this year’s election. I’ve no doubt that it has been testing for both candidates.

Both candidates have focused on three broad themes: leadership in practice, training/education and CIPR membership. Rachel Royall addresses each theme via a statement, whereas Mandy Pearse breaks it down into a series of pledges.

The candidates have exchanged views via CommsCampPRMomentPRWeek, blogs and Twitter as follows.

Mental health and wellbeing

The CIPR Health group published a guide and webinar about mental health in the public relations profession on the first day of the election.

Walking meetings, fresh fruit and yoga only help promote positive mental health and wellbeing if an organisation has a supportive culture. Poor mental health typically results from poor management, lack of communication and outdated processes.

To date mental health initiatives have focused on sticking plaster solutions. Instead we need to address agency and communication team structures and address management change.

It’s an issue that CIPR Past President Sarah Waddington and 2020 President Jenni Field picked up in a blog post.

Public sector representation

Phil Morgan, deputy CEO, CIPR commenting in PR Week acknowledged that the nature of the CIPR’s public sector membership has changed due to austerity.

“The job figures speak for themselves with a loss of 700 [full time] equivalent posts in the sector in just four years. We need to encourage as many of the 2,700 remaining to join CIPR,” said Mandy Pearse suggesting that the joining fee be dropped.

“Let’s have a proper conversation with public sector PR about [the] value of membership and have a programme to incentivise corporate affiliate membership. […] We need a robust commercial strategy so we can invest in development - simply cutting membership fees isn’t viable,” said Rachel Royall.

Membership cost and value

The cost of membership isn’t solely an issue for public sector members. The two candidates shared their views on Twitter.

Rachel Royall pledges to "focus on member engagement, making it easier than ever to reap the benefits of membership, and promoting opportunities to get more closely involved in the Institute’s work".

Mandy Pearse’s viewpoint is that “It’s time for a debate on subs. Drop joining fees and give incentives for those on lower incomes to help diversity. There is a huge gap between top earners on over £80,000 average salary at just over £51,000, the median at £30,000.”

Importance of regions and nations

Writing in PRMoment Mandy Pearse highlighted the CIPR’s own data that as many as three quarters of CIPR members work outside of London.

The last decade has seen a shift by organisations and public services away from the capital. Technology and better transport links mean that public relations is growing in the regions.

The CIPR relies on volunteer networks to engage with members outside of London. Less than one percent of the CIPR’s budget in 2018 was spent directly supporting groups and their volunteers.

Mandy Pearse says that she wants volunteers to have a greater say in how activities are delivered in their region, nation, sector or country.


Voting in the CIPR Election ends at 5pm Monday, 16 September. The successful candidate will be announced shortly thereafter.

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