Planning for the CIPR’s 70th anniversary

2018 is an important landmark for the CIPR. It's 70 years since it was founded at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London in 1948. Plans are already well underway to celebrate the occasion.

The formation of an Institute for Public Relations (IPR) was first proposed by Kenneth Day, a practitioner from Erith Borough Council. He brought together other Local Authority practitioners to discuss the idea.

The group saw the benefit of an association with a wider membership than local government and approached Sir Stephen Tallents, a leading figure in the profession, to see if he would be willing to bring in a group of wider practitioners from industry and central government.

Sir Stephen was appointed President and the original group of practitioners formed the first Board. It would take almost 60 years for the IPR to achieve Chartered status and become known as the CIPR.

Past President Stephen Waddington worked with deputy CEO Phil Morgan to write a brief history of the CIPR for an after dinner speech at the History of Public Relations conference at Bournemouth University in 2014. It’s worth a read.

Celebrating our vision and purpose

70 years on, the CIPR and the wider profession has much to be proud of and look forward to. Our vision of promoting professionalism in public relations for practitioners, and in the public interest, remains absolutely faithful to the purpose set out by our founders.

I’m incredibly honoured to be President in 2018. It’s an important celebratory year for the CIPR.

The year will see a continuation of President Jason MacKenzie’s professionalism drive, and will pick up on themes and issues characterising the industry, centring on the pledges I set out in my manifesto during the election last Autumn.

At the forefront of activity will be a celebration of everything that has been achieved and a formal recognition of all the volunteers across the UK.

Planning for the anniversary year

Planning is underway for the 2018 celebrations. The organising committee led by CIPR Fellow Simon McVicker will publish a detailed plan closer to the time.

We’ll be calling for help once a framework of activity has been agreed with the regional, national and sectoral groups however we can already share the following, as approved by CIPR Board and Council.

Anniversary celebration, reception and Fellows’ Lunch, London

We’ll return to the location of our foundation; St Brides, Fleet Street, on 9 February for a celebratory service and reception. This event is open to members of all faiths and denominations.

A reception will take place nearby afterwards for members wishing to stay on and celebrate. We’re also aiming to organise the annual Fellows' Lunch to take place after the service.

Sir Stephen Tallents Memorial Lecture, Edinburgh

It’s a pleasure to announce that the committee is relaunching the Sir Stephen Tallents Memorial Lecture. This event will be in Edinburgh and feature a speaker from the wider industry who represents the future of public relations.

Celebratory conference looks to future of practice

The National Conference will form a key part of the calendar, incorporating a high profile keynote speaker and practical workshops addressing key areas of change, as well as academic input to bridge the gap with practice.

Leading the profession: content and conversation

Keep your eyes peeled for our 70 at 70 – a year-long initiative we’ll be launching to celebrate public relations pioneers; and we’ll be crowdsourcing content for a media campaign and special anniversary booklet so watch this space.

My thanks to CIPR Board, Council and the anniversary planning team led by Simon McVicker for all their work so far on the anniversary project. It’s going to be a very special year.

Are you ready to #GetChartered?

Chartered Public Relations: Lessons from Expert PractitionersThe Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has simplified the route to Chartered Practitioner status, widening eligibility for members in the drive to professionalism. The status recognizes the highest standard of knowledge, expertise and ethical practice within the PR industry and is a benchmark of professional excellence and integrity.

Previously the process involved a statement of experience, written paper and formal interview. To apply candidates had to have worked in a public relations or communications role for at least ten years (reduced slightly for those with a CIPR recognised qualification) and be signed up to CPD.

Public relations professionals within CIPR membership can now apply for an assessment day if:

-       They have completed three consecutive years of CIPR CPD.

-       They have completed two years of CIPR CPD and hold a Masters degree or the CIPR Diploma.

Lead examiner Paul Noble described the move this way: “Previously we awarded Chartered status to those who had reached the pinnacle. Now we want to recognize those future leaders who are very firmly on the journey to getting there.”

The very first assessment day under the new regulations took place earlier this week. I was one of the cohort of professionals to test the system. I’m pleased to report I passed and achieved the status of Chartered Practitioner.

How does it work?

If you meet the criteria and believe you’re ready for Chartered, the process to follow is quite simple.

The 2016 dates for assessment days will be published by the CIPR on the website. To apply you register online, pay the fee and submit a scan of your Masters degree certificate if you are using that as part of your application.

There are a number of competences you need to demonstrate in order to pass, focusing mainly on Ethics, Strategy and Leadership.

The Assessment Criteria states: “Candidates must show a broad knowledge of the context in which the public relations function operates and an ability to relate public relations activities to the wider organizational considerations of clients or employers.”

What it’s like to do

On the day, you are introduced to your assessors and placed into a group of people with whom you participate in three panel sessions. The vibe is kept fairly relaxed and there are regular breaks throughout the entire process. While some of the questions were fairly tough, I actually quite enjoyed it.

Your group is later changed for a peer review, during which you talk through and agree CPD plans for the next two years – a piece of work you are expected to have prepared in advance and which is part of the criteria to pass.

To complete the day there is a talk by a Chartered Practitioner and then successful parties stay on for drinks and a certificate presentation.

Think carefully before you apply

I’m pleased I applied and would encourage others to follow suit but it’s not something to do on a whim. While Chartered Practitioner status can be a lot swifter to achieve because the assessment hinges around one day of assessment rather than a three stage application, it is still a very rigorous process. Not everyone passes.

After each session and before the peer review, the assessors mark you as a clear pass, borderline or clear fail. If you fail the first two sessions, you are asked to leave there and then. If by the end of the day you have received two borderline assessments, your case goes to deliberation by the assessors and is decided by majority vote. It feels harsh but it works.

If at any point you feel you’re not presenting yourself to best effect, you are able to withdraw (you’re told what the deadline is to do this) and can register for a later assessment day without paying an additional fee.

Everyone applying has to have read the Chartered Public Relations: Lessons from Expert Practitioners book. I’m fortunate in that much of the thinking in the #FuturePRoof project I recently launched picks up many of the same themes. I’d have needed to do much more research and background reading had that not been the case.

My recommendation is that if you think you’re ready, go for it and in the meantime start your preparation now. It’ll stand you in good stead. You’ll also be a better practitioner for it.


Mind the pay gap: How to achieve parity in PR

#FuturePRoof #FuturePRoof launched earlier this month with the purpose of asserting the value of public relations as a management discipline. A new chapter is being shared every day on the site. Here's my contribution, the very last chapter, released early to mark Equal Pay Day. You can find out more and download the full book via Join the conversation on Twitter at @weareproofed. 

UK business has a major issue with equal pay, with women working ‘for free’ for 1 hour and 40 minutes a day according to research by the Chartered Management Institute and XPertHR.  In female-dominated industries like PR, the problem is even more acute. Parity in the workplace can be achieved: here are some steps you can take to make this happen.

In July 2015, the Conservatives announced plans to force large companies to publish the difference in earnings between male and female staff in a bid to ensure equal pay.

Currently in Britain, female workers are paid on average 19.1% less than their male counterparts and this applies across both full-time and part-time positions, according to the Office of National Statistics.

While the stringent new regulations will only apply to those employing more than 250 staff, it’s a step in the right direction. Gender pay transparency is one sure fire way to creating a fairer job market.

Management teams need to be accountable for the recruitment and reward measures they put in place if parity is to be achieved and then maintained.

Publishing salary data means directors have nowhere to hide and forces them to deal with discrepancies.

Change can be fast and effective

Despite the change in law not coming into effect until 2016, there are a handful of UK businesses already committed to this course of action. Their results underline how quickly change can be effected.

Take PwC, which in November 2014 was the first in its industry sector to undertake and publish pay gap analysis after two years reporting its diversity targets.

It identified an immediate issue with the balance of senior talent and trebled the number of female internal promotions compared to the previous twelve months. A lack of women in senior positions often plays a sizeable part of the pay gap.

The top four accountancy firm also introduced a range of initiatives that help its people achieve their potential, from Board level mentoring schemes, women’s leadership programmes to diversity training.

While emulating its now annual equal pay review may admittedly be beyond the capabilities and cost base of many smaller companies, PwC’s best practice and forward-thinking stance is one we can all learn from. Employers should look to follow suit.

Sadly it’s hard to name one employer in the communications business focusing on the problem in this way.

We can’t wait any longer

It’s a critical issue for the PR sector and one we need urgently to deal with.

For close to two years now, gender parity and the pay gap has been a key policy area for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Its State of the Profession Survey identified a salary discrepancy of £8,483 in favour of men. This cannot be explained by any other factor such as length of service, seniority, parenthood, or a higher prevalence of part-time work among women.

It’s a sobering thought when over two-thirds of practitioners in the profession are female.

This major disparity is compounded by the problem of senior female talent dropping out after maternity leave. Many practitioners cite being unable to balance work and life pressures.

It is imperative we break down the barriers that prevent women progressing in the workplace.

Policies are in place

Some work is underway. In 2014 the CIPR teamed with Sheila Wild from the Equal Pay Portal to look for potential solutions to the issue and provide policy direction.

The return to work process was identified as one creating issues for employers and employees alike, resulting in the production of ten practical best practice guides developed with the help of The Talent Keeper Specialists.

From handing over and keeping in touch through to role renegotiation, the toolkits help those involved find a solution to suit all parties.

The CIPR’s production of nine recommendations for enabling flexible working in PR has also been useful in making strides forward.

Aimed at helping employers manage the shift to a round the clock service provision as dictated by 24/7 online and offline media, while delivering work-life balance for staff, the guides are equally beneficial in helping parents achieve hours that are better suited to managing both work needs and childcare.

Useful as they are, the next step with these guides must be to replace the word flexible with agile. While this might seem a small difference, it’s not. Using non-discriminatory language is critical in the movement towards equality in the workplace.

Agile working is seen to be about keeping pace with the way the working environment is changing, as well as a way to help staff strike a balance between work and home.

In contrast, flexible working is tarnished with being something that in the main only working mums want and need, with a lack of commitment almost implicit within this.

Changing perceptions is part of the answer and it’s something everyone can help with.

It’s also a question of skillset

The truth of the matter is that the gender pay gap will only become a thing of the past when all organisations have to publish salary data to show they are complying with legislation.

Employers can make a big difference however if they are prepared to be ethical, honest and employ best practice.

Human resources is a case in point. A serious issue with pay in the PR industry is a lack of experience by those managing people and performance.

Outside of the largest agencies and public sector, the industry is dominated by SMEs where the human resources (HR) function is often managed by a member of PR staff. Internal or external HR specialists are rarely brought in.

Without best practice policies or the use of competency frameworks, it’s easy to see how and why the system fails without oversight of an expert eye.

It’s a business not a gender issue

The Government Equalities Office states that closing the gender pay gap could add 10% to the size of our economy by 2030.

This is most definitely a business not a gender issue.

A female-dominated industry like PR should be an exemplar to the rest of the UK. The challenge is for us to make it a reality.

Ten steps for achieving parity of pay in PR

  1. Be transparent with your pay structure
  2. Use an HR specialist for your people and performance needs
  3. Have a Board with an even gender balance (if deemed necessary only ever use quotas as an interim measure)
  4. Monitor hires and promotions by gender and diversity
  5. Adopt agile working as a business model and consider part-time and job share solutions, as well as freelance support
  6. Support parents in identifying and securing affordable childcare
  7. Enable access to leadership programmes
  8. Signpost to / deliver mentoring schemes
  9. Normalise shared parental leave
  10. Use language carefully – agile over flexible working every time.

Made to measure: why PR campaigns need measurement and evaluation

Measurement matters It’s a fact that the majority of PR practitioners still don’t measure and evaluate well.

Ask around and the reasons why will often be the same: client disinterest, lack of budget, scarce resource, limited knowledge or plain old laziness.

Some will still be measuring with Advertising Equivalent Values (AEVs) and think that’s enough. None of these are reasonable excuses for failing to report the outcomes of PR campaigns. Measuring solely to justify the PR budget is equally unacceptable.

Practitioners need to demonstrate the value of campaign activity and how it helps businesses achieve their commercial objectives if PR is to step up as a profession and thrive.

PR’s credibility and influence will only be widely accepted once we can prove its contribution to strategic business decision-making and organisational success.

Good measurement is also an indicator of how good a practitioner you actually are.

Outcomes over outputs

The biggest shift that has taken place within measurement and evaluation is a move from reporting outputs and out-takes to outcomes.

Outputs, from media evaluation and web analytics to numbers of people attending an event, have always been an easy way to record what messages have gone out and their degree of exposure and audience reach.

This quantitative way of measuring has traditionally been supported by a qualitative approach to out-takes. Surveys of target audiences, search volume trends and sentiment analysis all being good examples of gauging how much an audience has been made aware of a message, understood and retained it.

Analysing outcomes requires a significant and longer-term change in approach because this relates to the degree to which a campaign has changed audience opinion, behaviour or attitudes. There’s no arguing with the value that comes from understanding the impact on target audiences, from awareness and recognition right through to recommendations and purchasing habits.

The analysis enables you to inform the PR programme and is also a language that is understood by those outside the PR team, such as members of the Board.

Business results trump outputs every time

While the better PR practitioners demonstrate outcomes within their measurement and evaluation, the best ones take it a step further and feature business results within their reports.

Communications campaigns help to deliver an organisation’s commercial goals and those wanting to prove PR’s worth – and their own - know this.

The key is to establish clear links between organisational objectives and PR outcomes so that everyone can understand how PR has helped the company achieve what it set out to. From revenue/turnover and market share to employee retention, analysis should display how PR has played its part.

Help is available

There is lots of advice and training available if you need help with measurement and evaluation.

As a starting point, every practitioner should be familiar with AMEC’s guidance on Measuring the True Value of Public Relations. Both the PRCA and Chartered Institute of Public Relations offer training and guidance on best practice.

Even so, beware introducing new metrics without wider buy in. How the Board measures performance and what its members define as success versus organisational objectives is key to how PR measurement is framed. PR practitioners must work closely with the management team and have an in depth understanding of the organisation’s business plan.

Ensuring PR campaigns are aligned to this and agreeing appropriate evaluation techniques will bring the greatest success all round.

This post first appeared on Hiscox's blog in June 2015.

Narrowing the PR gender pay gap - the CIPR's four point plan

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.33.45The CIPR away day last week saw the Board discuss the strategic priorities for 2015. Top of the agenda was the PR gender pay gap following the results of the State of the Profession Survey, which show a clear discrepancy of £8,483 in favour of men.

Startingly, this is a figure that cannot be explained by any other factor such as length of service, seniority, parenthood, or a higher prevalence of part-time work among women. 

The CIPR has committed to tackling the issue head on and has published this four point plan, which sets out what the Institute intends to do to help employers narrow the pay gap going forwards.

We are an industry in which over two-thirds of practitioners are women and as such can no longer ignore the gender pay gap issue. Engagement around the State of the Profession survey has clearly shown that both members and non-members will no longer accept the status quo and are looking to the Institute to provide strong leadership.

As the CIPR's lead for its gender and diversity work, the call to action has very firmly been accepted. Our ambition is a bold one - to make the CIPR an exemplar for other sectors. However equal opportunities will only come with organisational change.

The CIPR will provide the guidance - the gauntlet is then thrown down to members, and the wider profession, to make this much needed change happen.


Communicating with conscience

Absolutely Fabulous? Absolutely not. Twenty Twelve’s Siobhan Sharpe. Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. Charles Prentiss in Absolute Power.

There are just a few of the communications characters we’ve seen on television in recent year. Typical PR people, right?

Forget it. Absolutely Fabulous, absolutely not.

PR professionals are guilty of reinforcing lousy stereotypes of the industry by placing corporate profile, power and profits at the heart of everything we do – rather than helping organisations find their social purpose.

It’s not enough for a practitioner to sign up to a Code of Conduct through a professional membership organisation such as the CIPR or trade association such as the PRCA.

It’s time for us to take collective responsibility and reframe how we practice PR.

Time for a change

There are plenty of forthright individuals in academia and industry that are doing just that.

Professor Robert L. Heath, a leading expert on society theory, believes that PR can either harm or help collective interests.

He believes that PR is best when it “challenges and helps organisations be effective not only by what they do for themselves but also within the communities where they operate and on whose resources they depend.”

Rather than concentrating purely on corporate goals, Heath suggests that organisations should work with their stakeholders to solve problems and make collective decisions for the common good.

Organisations playing their role within society and creating structures in which communities can work on an equal footing with business, are the ones that will achieve real engagement and ultimately commercial success.

It’s a powerful call to action.

Finding a higher purpose

Professor Anne Gregory, one of the UK’s leading academics and chair of the Global Alliance talks passionately about the four Ps of public relations leadership: purpose, principles, people and process.

Like Heath, Gregory also believes that real PR leadership has a much higher purpose and “our role is to help build societies that work…by ensuring our organisations are part of the solution to the challenges that face [people], not the cause of their problems.”

Anne believes that the real leaders in the PR profession are those not only transforming their organisations, but also the communities around them.

Fighting the good fight

But it’s not just academics saying this – there are heavy weights from the PR industry driving to make PR a force for good.

Ketchum’s European CEO and senior partner David Gallagher, puts it clearly and succinctly.

“Today PR exists to help change the way in which companies operate, not just communicate. We are the ones guiding the at times reluctant, awkward and ill-prepared into the sunlight of public opinion.

“We are the ones encouraging a positive dialogue between mighty, towering organisations and ordinary citizens, bloggers and journalists.

“Economic prosperity is driven by commerce, and commerce depends on the constant exchange of accurate information. Social progress depends on motivated and organised communities, connected and inspired to address problems, issues and injustices. We can help to deliver both.”

Evolution of PR

It’s time for PR to grow up. We have a responsibility to review how we work with those employing us and, to quote Professor Anne Gregory again, to “help our organisations clarify their purpose”.

David Gallagher believes that we should be proud of what we do, and doing things of which we can be proud. And for the majority of us, if we’re honest, we’re not quite there yet when it comes to helping our employers work within their communities to make the world a better place.

This post was first published by Hiscox in February 2015.

New measures tighten rules around advertising to children

Image reproduced from parent with thanks

The International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA) has today announced four enhanced commitments on health and wellness, one of which focuses on responsible marketing and advertising to children.

The Alliance, which comprises some of the world's largest food and beverage companies including Nestlé, Kellogg's, McDonald's, Mars, Unilever and Pepsico, is extending its current policy to ensure that marketing communications for products that do not meet nutrition criteria are not designed to appeal primarily to children under twelve.

The policy will now apply to all media, including SMS and mobile marketing, interactive games and product placement, having previously only applied to television, print and online.

Getting kids' communication right

Today's children and young people are growing up in an increasingly commercialised world and exposure to promotional messages is an integral part of their development.

In order to help PR practitioners navigate the challenges that come with marketing to under 18s, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has produced a best practice guide for communicating with children. Covering legal requirements, best practice and the application of the code of conduct, it also sets out a series of principles including:

  • the need to take into account the age, maturity level and gender of the children so appropriate language and communication tools can be used
  • the requirement to engage with children, parents and carers during the design and delivery of campaigns, taking on and responding to feedback
  • never encouraging children to desire things they cannot afford or would not be able to use
  • supporting any claims with clear proof and / or reasonable rationale.
Also included is guidance on the food and drinks industry, online communications, in schools communications and handling difficult issues, with case studies.  If you're involved with any campaigns aimed at under 18s, please do source a copy.

CIPR Council Elections: “I get stuff done” #VoteSarah

Image taken from with thanks. Voting kicks off in the CIPR Council elections next Monday, 1 September. Here’s why I'd be grateful for your support.

#1 Listener and doer, and regional offices As a member based in the regions and agency owner, I have represented member interests openly and successfully for almost a decade.

Here's an example: members have repeatedly asked for access to CIPR office facilities outside London. It’s an issue I have lobbied hard on.

By the end of the year North East members will have their own hub in Newcastle as part of a pilot project with Newcastle University.

Elsewhere members will have access to hot desk and meeting room facilities across the UK both in their local area and when they travel.

It’s part of adding value to your membership and a key benefit for everyone.

#2 Tackling the gender pay gap I'm working on my biggest project yet for the CIPR - the gender pay gap. The aim is to iron out the £12,000 salary mismatch that both CIPR and CMI data has highlighted.

This is a long term programme. I'm leading a hack day in autumn and am keen to ensure the results deliver change.

A vote for me will give me the opportunity to ensure that's the case - and could potentially help you too.

#3 “Be the change you want to see" I'm not in this because I have a product or service to sell to CIPR members or because I need the profile, but because I want to make our industry better.

It's always been that way as my track record will testify. I'm certainly proud of what's been achieved during my time as chair of the Professional Practices Committee as we move to professionalise our industry.

There are lots of strong candidates standing for Council. I'm here to represent you.

The CIPR has never had such a strong voice within the profession, business, government and internationally.

If you’re a CIPR member please #VoteSarah and if you’re not please consider joining us.

Thank you.

Feed your mind by finding and following thought leaders

Brian Solis I recently graduated from a Google-run digital marketing course called Squared and one of the big benefits was access to industry luminaries who shared their experiences & predictions for the future.

The coursework put me in the habit of regularly reading thought provoking content from a range of people, with digital analyst and futurist Brian Solis proving a particular favourite. If you haven’t checked out his blog, you should.

It made me wonder who other people turn to for inspiration and to keep their thinking fresh so I turned to some leading lights to discover their thought leaders. Here’s what they had to say.

Sarah Pinch, director of Pinch Point Communications and President Elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations: “One author I return to again and again is Hillary Rodham Clinton.  She offers great insight into how governments, organisations and individuals learn (or not) from success and mistakes.  She’s exceptionally frank and honest, and I’ve found inspiration to toughen up my not very thick skin.  I’m really looking forward to starting ‘Hard Choices’, her new book, in the next few days.”

David Laud, a partner in i2i Business Solutions LLP and Growth Accelerator Coach, said: “Thought leadership has become something of a hashtag trend but it's often misunderstood.  Saying you're one doesn't make it true.  For me an effective thought leader is someone who can not only present their own original stimulating ideas but also have the vision and humility to see and share excellence in others.

“Someone I would regard as a true thought leader is Guy Kawasaki. He’s an entrepreneur with an eye for the use of technology in communication. With a very direct and engaging delivery, Motorola and Apple on his CV plus a wide variety of successful investment projects he not only talks the talk, he's shown he can deliver and back winners.”

Angela Carrington, owner of The Bigger Picture Agency Limited, explained that thought leaders don’t have to be from within your own industry to be useful: “I haven't yet come across an inspirational thought leader within my industry and (perhaps controversially) I find a lot of photography 'thinkers' to be incredibly introspective. I prefer to gain my inspiration from the entrepreneurial community, looking at their lives as well as their results/successes.

“It may be a little predictable but I am genuinely inspired by Richard Branson. I regularly read his blog and find his honesty refreshing and insightful. His candid, 'matter-of-fact' advice really helps to put things into perspective for even a smaller business.”

Last but not least, Ross Wigham, head of communications’s for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, had this to say: "When it comes to inspiration I'm a firm believer that you have to try and take it from everywhere and anywhere. I try to keep an eye on things away from my own particular sector to help try and think differently - that could be an old book, a film or even good comedy. Twitter is an obvious home for thought leadership and there are so many good blogs out there.

“However the key, un-missable one for me is something you listen to rather than read: From our own correspondent. Each podcast is a beautifully crafted life lesson that brings the world to my little corner of the North East. I never fail to learn something or be moved by it."

Ross couldn’t have put it better - there is inspiration all around if you look. Make the time to search, because when you discover the right people and the right content, it’s amazing what insights you can gain. Each one can help make you and your business much bigger and better, not to mention fit for the future.

CIPR awards Sir Stephen Tallents medal to Sarah Hall










The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has recognised Sarah Hall with one of the highest industry honours.

A CIPR board and council member, and also chair of the professional practices committee for the Institute, Sarah has been presented with the Sir Stephen Tallents Medal, which is awarded at the discretion of the president to recognise exceptional achievement in public relations practice by a CIPR member.

The award was introduced in 1984 in memory of the CIPR’s first president Stephen Tallents, who was a founder of public relations in Britain and the BBC’s first controller of public relations and deputy director general under Lord Reith.

CIPR president Stephen Waddington said: As President of the CIPR I have in my gift the opportunity to present the Sir Stephen Tallents medal to an individual that I believe has made a significant contribution to the CIPR. Sarah has excelled in her contribution to the CIPR and the broader public relations profession.

“From the outset of her career in public relations she has been committed to supporting best practice as a CIPR member both personally and in the teams that she has led. As a member of the board and council this year she has helped significantly to drive our agenda on modernity, diversity and ethics.”

The owner-manager of Sarah Hall Consulting Ltd, Sarah leads a team of seven working with some of the North East’s most recognisable brands, including Sage Gateshead, Go Smarter, Rowlands Accountants, Spire Washington Hospital, Aspers Casino and Anderson & Garland. She has always volunteered with the CIPR and is also a Trustee for the Sunshine Fund, which provides specialist equipment for disabled children in the North East.

Sarah said: “It is a real honour to have received this award and I am privileged to work with an Institute that deeply cares about professionalism, ethics and making sure it is fit for purpose both now and in the future.

“As the business continues to expand, I am fortunate to be able to turn to the CIPR for help and support, as I have done since the start of my career and with this is mind it is only fitting to give something back.”

Founded in 1948, the CIPR is the professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK. With 10,000 members involved in all aspects of PR, it is the largest body of its type in Europe. The CIPR advances the public relations profession in the UK by making its members accountable through a code of conduct, developing policies, representing its members and raising standards through education and training.

How many of the Top 150 will have women in senior leadership positions?

Through the fantastic response to last Friday's #CIPRCHAT and recent coverage in PR WeekThe Drum and Communicate Magazine, I know many of you are fully up to speed with the CIPR's commitment to tackle equal pay and gender balance in PR. In terms of an update, work is pushing on apace, with a view to more information being available following the CIPR Council meeting in April.

Some great work is also being carried out elsewhere. In the course of this last week PR Week has opened up entries to its Top 150 Consultancies guide and consultant editor Claire Murphy has confirmed that they are asking entrants to say how many female board directors they employ. Although the question is optional, the aim is to gather a picture illustrating which agencies are actively promoting women into leadership positions and it is hoped there will be enough responses for the results to be statistically significant.

Claire said: "There's been a variety of pieces of research looking at the effect of gender diversity on corporate performance and most conclude that having women on the board is associated with elevated profits. This Credit Suisse report in particular has a nice, clear conclusion, that having at least one woman on the board means higher average returns on equity and lower gearing than those companies with no women on the board."

The deadline for submission for the Top 150 is close of business on Wednesday 9th April. I hope all those who enter take the chance to respond in full and if not, commit to looking in depth at why they feel unable to.

Equal pay & gender balance - the actions

Huge thanks go to all those who participated in the #CIPRCHAT in which we debated equal pay and gender balance. You can follow what happened here. Drilling down to the next steps is critical and time has been set aside at the April CIPR Council meeting in order to agree some appropriate and achievable courses of action.

Key matters to be considered include: - How we work with members to find ways to improve transparency and recognise best practice (coupled with how we engage with HRs to do this). - How we promote our female PR practitioners in senior management roles. - The development of a framework to help organisations better manage the maternity leave process and a code of practice for when the person returns to work. - Guidance on introducing flexible working and the benefits. - Support for individuals post maternity leave (eg a 'catch up' workshop on industry developments during their time away and / or a mentor network). - Whether a combined assertiveness / legislation workshop should be introduced to help practitioners better negotiate their packages and understand their legal rights.

There is much that we can do and we will be calling out for support to make it happen. Please watch this space!

In the meantime, please can I ask you to complete this short survey to help us gather information that will inform activity.

Thank you.

The PR gender pay gap - what to do next

Not quite reality The recent CIPR State of the Profession survey revealed an average gender pay gap of £12,000 in favour of men. I blogged about it here. 

So, what to do next?

At 12.30pm on Friday 7 March, in advance of International Women's Day, the CIPR is holding a dedicated Twitter chat dedicated to this very subject.

We'll be debating things like whether women are in part responsible for the discrepancy in pay, whether PR as a flexible career that is perfect for mums is a myth that should be busted and what we need to ask PR bosses to make the working environment a fairer place. And much, much more.

We need your input on what the issues are and what the solutions are too so please do join in. Let's release the elephant in the room into the wild. You can follow the discussion through the hashtag #CIPRCHAT. See you there!


When it comes to the PR profession and equal pay, we are in a state

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 20.28.06 The CIPR’s latest State of the Profession benchmarking survey makes for uncomfortable reading. Well, at least for those of us concerned with equality.

Again there is disparity chasm in pay between male and female PR practitioners. What are we – it’s a collective issue – going to do about it?

In the last fortnight the Office for National Statistics reported that the gender pay gap nationally has widened for the first time in five years. Unacceptable as it is, for those in industries dominated by men such as science and technology, this may not come as much of a surprise.

The numbers don’t add up

But for those dominated by women, like the PR profession, the report should make us hang our head in shame. Here’s just one statistic from the CIPR’s survey: of those PR practitioners who earn £150,000 or greater, two-thirds are men. So why is it taking so long to do anything about this? If we all agree that PR campaigns are more effective when practised by socially diverse teams, what is stopping us from putting them in place?

I had to start my own business to personally address the gender pay gap. It shouldn’t be that way.

Academic studies tell us that there are traditionally two key roles in PR – that of the manager (strategist) and that of the technician (implementer or ‘doer’).

However women have in significant numbers moved out of the driver’s seat and onto the passenger side before reaching destination manager. Whether by choice or by default the majority have become stuck in the position of technician, which by its very nature receives a smaller salary. Even when the practitioner involved inhabits both roles, as is often the case.

Work life imbalance and other myths

There’s a pervasive myth that does the rounds that PR is a highly flexible career choice suited to women with families or family plans. As an owner-manager with two children under four and someone who has employed numerous working mums, I dispute this.

PR is stressful, requires long hours at work, often outside of nine to five and this trend is on the increase with the rise of social media requiring out-of-office hours management.

Part-time employment is not easy to manage but is perhaps the lesser of two evils when facing the return to work.  Higher numbers of part-time workers would certainly explain some of the discrepancy in pay but it is still not enough to make it acceptable.

A 20-year old solution

The Dozier and Broom study on the gender pay gap was published almost 20 years ago. This is depressing.

There are many complex factors that come into play and I certainly have no easy answers to the problem. But what is evident is that there needs to be much greater transparency in terms of what organisations pay their staff.

And there is no shortage of solutions.

The Equality Act 2010 gives women (and men) a right to equal pay for equal work. It’s there in black and white but individuals need help to secure what they are due. If you’re an employer, ACAS has produced guidance to help you achieve gender equality within the workplace and that’s one good place to start.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has a five-step equal pay audit model that you can also follow.

Those concerned with whether they are being discriminated against need to stand up and be counted by asking to see how their salary fares against those of their counterparts and by being a positive conduit for change.

Are we complicit?

The salary pay gap is the elephant in the room when careers in PR are discussed. The issue has not and is not going away. The CIPR has a duty of care to its membership. We know what the issue is; the solution has been set out by academics and legislation.

As a Board member, I shall be asking how the Institute can take a stronger leadership role going forward. I’d like you all to do the same for the status quo has to change.

Doing nothing makes us complicit.

Avoiding #PricelessSurprises on social media

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The Brit Awards 2014 enjoyed a bit more than the usual hype when Tim Walker, a journalist at the Telegraph, shared an email from MasterCard’s PR agency House PR with the Press Gazette.

The email detailed certain conditions attached to the journalist’s Brit’s press pass, including a request for pre, during and post-event tweets using the hashtag #PricelessSurprises, with one even helpfully drafted up as an example.

The furore that followed was no doubt the kind of priceless surprise that MasterCard would have preferred to avoid. Amplifying the situation was the promotion of the hashtag on Twitter, which would no doubt have trended anyway - albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Difficult client conversations

While many practitioners may have laughed or sneered at the idea of a PR being so bold with journalists about what they wanted from the agreement, publicity in return for hospitality is nothing new and many may secretly (or even openly) have wished it was that simple a transaction. I’ve certainly been privy to difficult client conversations about the lack of coverage following a journalist’s invite to an expensive freebie.

Turning to the CIPR, I spoke to director of policy and communications Phil Morgan, who acknowledged that while House PR’s actions might not have broken the Institute’s Code of Conduct, the approach taken boils down to a question of integrity.

Phil said: “It is important for PR professionals to respect the codes of conduct of other professions, which didn’t happen in this case – the transaction falls foul of NUJ rules. Equally, as Telegraph writer Tim Walker noted himself, a lot of today’s journalists may not realise that inducements are unethical so there is work to do on both sides.”

The move could have backfired in a different way

The CIPR’s independent regulatory consultant Martin Horrox also points out that arguably the agency did nothing wrong - and that in fact agreeing to the accreditation criteria could still have seen House PR’s move backfire, but in a different way.

Martin said: “This was a clearly stated commercial transaction, like free holidays for travel writers. Journalists can always refuse to accept the condition and can make public the conditions of their accreditation (i.e. state a potential conflict of interest, just as travel writers acknowledge who provided the flights and hotels). They can also do exactly what Tim Walker has done - complain in public about the practice.

“If forcing the hashtag on journalists results in no publicity or bad publicity for the event, who is the loser?  Journalists who have been critical of an event or a company in the past have been refused accreditation to future events: that might be stupid on the part of the organisation, but I'm not convinced it is unethical.”

Whatever your view, it’s clear that this has not been a good week for House PR or MasterCard, but some sympathy has to go to the agency. The email was professionally written and Tim Walker was the only journalist to come forward to complain.

However, what’s done is done and if this opens the debate about expectation versus reward and helps others decide how to tread the social media tight rope, maybe that’s a good thing.

Why not have your say - please feel free to leave a comment.


CPD - separating the wheat from the chaff and protecting UK business

This week's Council meeting at the CIPR involved a debate about continuing professional development (CPD) and the role this should play in a PR practitioner's life. CPD is currently something that the Institute expects of its members through a designated scheme and although it is not yet mandatory, I am one of many lobbying to change this. As the CIPR's new President Stephen Waddington has said clearly on a number of occasions, the PR industry is on a slow march to professionalism. If we are to achieve this, making ongoing training and self reflection on ethics and competence something all members have to do is a critical part of the process.

Part of the reading material for the meeting was a paper by Andy Friedman called 'Strengthening Professionalism: Ethical competence as a path towards the public good.' Short and to the point, the paper strongly indicates that ethical competence can help differentiate PRs by separating the wheat from the chaff, but is also important in helping to protect vulnerable businesses, who may not know what to expect from their chosen practitioner.

What do I mean by this? Well, as Friedman points out, "Clients are vulnerable because they do not know which professionals available for hire are competent and ethical...and they lack the information to judge whether the professional they have hired is doing a good job."

So how can a company be confident that they are hiring someone who knows the job, can apply their knowledge practically (but also knows when not to pursue a course of action) and who acts ethically in accordance with a code of conduct? Well by choosing a CIPR member who can demonstrate they are using the CPD scheme and accessing all the best practice guides, skills guides, tool kits and much more at their fingertips through the Institute.

As chair of the CIPR's Professional Practices Committee, one of the goals for this year is making ethics a compulsory part of the CPD scheme. To quote Friedman again: "Ethical competence does not come automatically with the achievement of credentials...This path also requires vigilance, resources and institutional support, particularly from professional associations."

Suffice to say, we're on it. How about you?