Public relations

Gender pay gap: Think, Act, Report

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is shortly to publish draft regulations for gender pay gap reporting as part of its drive to bring about gender equality in the workplace.

It’s a critical business issue: McKinsey estimate that the UK could add £0.6 trillion of additional annual GDP in 2025 by fully bridging the gender gap.

I’ve written extensively about the gender pay gap in PR and look forward to seeing how far the regulations go. As ever the devil will be in the detail.

The GEO has already shared ‘Trailblazing Transparency: Mending the Gap’, a report produced with Deloitte and sponsored by Think, Act, Report which documents some of the challenges, opportunities and innovative action businesses are taking to successfully tackle this problem.

I’d urge you to read this. Not only is it jam packed with help and best practice on how to tackle the problem within the workplace, it sets out exactly what the benefits for organisations are.

We all have a role to play in closing the pay gap. Those in public relations also have a responsibility to accelerate the rate at which this happens. After all, a female-dominated industry like PR should be an exemplar to other sectors.




Key considerations for start-out public relations consultants

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I regularly get asked for advice by people interested in setting up a public relations consultancy. Here are a few of my top tips if you want to go it alone as a contractor.

If you were to ask me about setting up a public relations business, my first questions would revolve around why and the type of business you’d like. What’s the dream and motivation? Is your personality fit the right one?

Personality is actually more important than you think. If you thrive in a group scenario, working alone might not be for you. Similarly if you find it hard to get out of bed on a morning, ensuring you have a place of work to go to might be better than a home office. Getting this wrong sets you up to fail.

Whatever your goal, the opportunities are much greater than ever before. Working from home is now widely accepted, as are virtual agencies, which have dispersed teams working from different locations, potentially across different timezones.

Freelancers now also have the opportunity to tap into organisations matching practitioners with contracts, The PR Network being a great example. For mums returning to work after maternity leave, there’s

Whether you want this or a formal office with a team will help you decide what legal structure your business should have, which can make a big difference to how you are remunerated, the tax you pay and your liabilities if the business makes a loss. All these things need careful consideration up front.

What’s the business plan?

Thorough planning is critical. I’m regularly astonished by the number of people who come to me without a business plan or having done any research at all, wanting me to share commercial data. The only secret to success is hard work.

Launching on a firm footing requires being clear on your market, your competitors and your services. The information you gather informs your pricing and enables you to forecast sales, helping you understand what you need to sell in order to cover your costs.

It’s a natural progression, you then have to think about the new business pipeline. Where are your contracts coming from both now and in the future?

It’s a rigorous process which has real value because it forces you to be realistic about whether you have the finance needed to tide you over initially and consider what your USP is in the marketplace. What’s the marketing plan? Have you the qualifications, credibility and profile to stand out from the crowd? If not, how are you going to get them?

Ultimately you can give it a go without a business plan, but it’s unlikely you’ll get very far, unless by luck or chance. You’ll also not achieve the profit margin you might have done with a bit of effort up front.

Don’t forget the formalities

Once you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to start work, there are further formalities to address.

Contracts and insurance are there for one purpose and that’s to protect you.

The purpose of terms and conditions that both the consultant and client sign is to set out the programme of work to be undertaken, as well as the desired outcomes to avoid confusion. They provide a safety net if you need to enforce your agreement (for example if the contract is terminated early for no good reason) and minimize the chance of a legal dispute.

If you’re pitching for a public sector contract, having professional liability and possibly employers’ and public liability insurance is likely to be a pre-requisite. Either way you’d be foolhardy to practise public relations without this cover.

You never know when you might receive a claim because a client has an issue with the work carried out - stressful enough whether or not you’re at fault. Having insurance in place gives you peace of mind you can secure compensation to cover the cost of any corrective work to be carried out.

Commit to being the best you can

Finally, my last piece of advice is if you want to be a public relations consultant is to commit to being the very best you can.

Membership of the two main industry bodies, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and PRCA might seem an added expense but the value you’ll receive will more than repay the investment. Both have a wealth of information for practitioners whatever stage of career you’re at and the CIPR offers free legal advice and discounts on member products and services like insurance.

What’s more, membership of one or both bodies demonstrates you are signed up to a Code of Conduct and shows your commitment to continuous professional development – two clear signals to employers that you’re well worth hiring.

This blog first appeared via the Hiscox website in November 2015.

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.

Mumpreneur: How to patronise working mothers

I'm a mum who runs her own business - not a mumpreneur Language is important in tackling lazy stereotypes, addressing equality and celebrating a multi-billion pound market.

eBay recently published research that claimed businesses set up by so-called mumpreneurs last year generated £7.2bn for the economy and supported 204,600 jobs.

Fantastic, and something worth celebrating. Except I couldn’t get past the mangled word mumpreneur.

Mumpreneur is patronising - and I’m an entrepreneur and a working mum.

I have several issues with the term and having tested these out among my community on Facebook, it seems I’m not alone.

Firstly, I don’t see why I should be pigeonholed just because I have kids.

My professional identity is not linked to my children and while I am proud of my two boys, I am also proud of owning a successful business that continues to grow.

Entrepreneur is a non-gender specific term

Secondly I don’t see why professional women with children should be singled out from those who don’t. Men wouldn’t be divided in this way, so why do it to women?

All female-led businesses deserve to be celebrated – it’s not just men and mums who are helping shore up the economy.

As a term, mumpreneur is unnecessary. The word entrepreneur is non-gender specific so it makes no sense to define female business owners by their personal status.

The fact that Wikipedia doesn’t have a listing for Dadpreneur but describes a Mumpreneur as “A mother who works as a business entrepreneur in addition to her family commitments” tells you all you need to know about this gender issue.

Men simply aren’t defined by being a parent.

We are all busy building businesses so drop the tags and let us get on with it.

Reinforcing gender stereotypes is dangerous

No doubt, the eBay team would argue that the word mumpreneur is actually a form of positive discrimination.

But when the media runs a story such as this, they invariably – as in BQ’s case – also use a story of a harassed looking woman in a business suit sat in the kitchen, juggling a laptop, phone and baby.

It doesn’t create a very favourable impression and it’s at odds with reality.

Most of the working mums I know have daily life planned to precision in order to accommodate the pressures that come with their different roles. They are much more professional than such a lazy title suggests.

Through almost two years of leading the gender and diversity work at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), I can say from experience it’s important not to underestimate the power such words and phrases can have.

Mumpreneur does us a disservice

The language we use is critical in the fight for equality.

The PR industry has a serious issue with senior female talent dropping out after maternity leave. Many practitioners cite being unable to balance work and life pressures.

The CIPR teamed with Sheila Wild from the Equal Pay Portal to look for potential solutions. One of her pieces of work was to help us develop return to work policies and to embrace the term agile rather than flexible working.

It might seem a small difference but it’s not. 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.

Using non-discriminatory language is critical in the movement towards equality in the workplace.

And please stop using the label mumpreneur.

This article was first published on Business Quarter's website in August 2015.

LinkedIn sexism debate: Charlotte Proudman has made it harder for others to speak up and be heard

Charlotte Proudman One of the hot topics on Twitter this week was the case of Charlotte Proudman, who publicly shamed a partner at law firm Brown Rudnick for calling her LinkedIn profile picture 'stunning'. 

Charlotte took to social media to share the message she'd received from Alexander Carter-Silk and her response, in which she stated she was not on the networking platform 'to be objectified by sexist men.'

While there's no doubting that Carter-Silk's message was poorly thought through, the tone and content wasn't unpleasant and referenced the fact he wanted to understand Charlotte's skills and how they might work together.

It's hard to know what was in Carter-Silk's mind when he penned his unfortunate note, but it's unlikely he was expecting the aggression in Charlotte's reply.

Shaming someone is not the answer

By turning this into a public issue via social media, Proudman did everyone a disservice.

Every day people compliment each other on their appearances and achievements. Sometimes there is hidden agenda, most of the time there's not.

In this situation, many would have just taken the compliment and moved on, especially as there was nothing sinister in the text. Some people would have enjoyed the attention. Others would have just turned the focus straight back to business, asserting themselves that way.

But by pushing the exchange into the public eye, Charlotte shamed a barrister and missed an opportunity to potentially achieve behavioural change on a one-to-one level. She also behaved in an unprofessional manner by not dealing with it privately and escalating what was in essence a fairly harmless exchange.

By complaining loudly about something trivial, Charlotte made it even harder for those experiencing something serious to speak up and actually be heard.

Every day sexism happens and it needs to stop

I've had my own experiences of every day sexism, from  inappropriate out of hours messaging right through to gropes of the bum and it's deeply unpleasant.

However there are ways and means of dealing with it and turning immediately to a public forum is not the solution. Those likening what has happened here to rape culture take it way too far and it's not helpful to the wider sexism and gender debate.

The fact that the majority of people seem to agree Alexander's message was a cack-handed, badly judged but harmless compliment says a lot.

Think about it this way. If Charlotte had gently and privately outlined her discomfort with his message and signposted Alexander to the #HeforShe campaign, she might have made him think twice about the discrimination faced by women and girls every day, which would have been a start.

She might have also avoided a lot of reputation damage for all the people and organisations concerned.

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.

Your #PRStack ebook: a go to guide for PRs

   Back in February, Ketchum Partner and Chief Engagement Officer Stephen Waddington launched #PRStack, a crowd sourced directory of over 200 PR tools mapped against workflow. 

He's now at it again, this time with a #PRStack ebook, which I've been fortunate to contribute to alongside 18 others.

The ebook contains a range of case studies, which demonstrate how different tools add value to whichever part of the process you're in and provide a step by step guide to implementation. 

The case studies are all broken down under general headings to make the ebook easy to navigate and so you can quickly find what you need:

  • Social listening and planning
  • Content
  • Curation
  • Building relationships online
  • Example #PRStack workflows 
  • Project management.

A different article will be posted by Stephen every day. My submission looks at how to use Hemingway Editor to sharpen your written content and goes live on 2nd June.

My thanks go to Stephen for the opportunity to contribute and to the team at Prezly for helping to develop the app and ebook, which I personally find helpful. It's a great initiative to be part of. 

Once upon a time - what Easter can teach us about the art of storytelling

  Kids have a lot of Easter wisdom

Whether or not you're a Christian who believes in the resurrection, Easter weekend is a powerful reminder of the potency of story telling and how a narrative can endure throughout the ages.

My two boys Toby and Ben (aged 4 and 3) are in reception class and nursery and this week for the first time told me all about how Jesus died and returned from the dead to save us. Ben was particularly intrigued by the fact Jesus 'stayed in a cave until he came back'.

This type of story telling is ultimately what we do as PR practitioners - we share stories about brands and create ambassadors who spread the 'good news' too.

Quality content management draws heavily on these skills, especially when the objective is to secure third party endorsement from customers and their personal networks to grow brand awareness and increase sales.

Here are three ways we can all improve our story telling abilities:

1) The truth matters, as does how you tell it. Modern day stories need to have more than a grain of truth to them, not to mention something at the heart that makes people believe, if you want them to stand the test of time.

We seek authenticity and look for evidence that something is true. Being honest about a product or service helps to build trust and create advocates who spread the brand love far and wide.

Think about creating a little magic. Fairy tales are a great example of how we first learnt about good and evil - how can old and new formats be animated and made more human? Ultimately we all want to hear tales about how life can be better and which resonate with our personal situations.

2) A picture paints a thousand words. Use imagery to bring your story to life. From Egyptian hieroglyphics to street art today, the story of life has long been passed down from generation to generation in picture format.

Art offers a simple way to cross cultures and geographical boundaries and can also be a clever way to emphasise brand heritage. Similarly, video and music are visual story telling tools that are often under-used. They can and should be embraced.

3) The power of three. One of the challenges to story telling is how to keep things simple enough for people to understand and to avoid Chinese whispers distorting the message. Ben's response proves that clarity and reinforcement is an important part of a story as it is shared.

Way back in 1885, Thomas Smith wrote a guide on Successful Advertising that was based on research around message retention. According to the guide (which is still used today), until we've seen or heard a message three times, it doesn't penetrate.

Another school of thought is that people consume messages better when there are no more than three to absorb at any given time.

Focusing your writing provides key points for others to retain and pass on more easily. Tony Blair used this technique successfully with his 'Education, Education, Education' speech and grouping into threes has actually long been a device used by Christianity. The 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' and three wise men with their 'gold, frankincense and myrrh' being just two examples.

We've all our own ways of telling our stories and favourite examples of brands that do it well. Why not share yours here - it would be interesting to hear them.


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.

Make 2015 the year you enhance your leadership skills. Here’s how.

IMG_6887-1.JPGEver wanted to enhance your leadership skills? Decided 2015 is the year to do it? If so, Seth Godin’s Tribes should be top of your reading list. If you've read Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers and found that of use, think of this as a turbo-charged business version.

The thrust of Godin’s book is that it only takes a shared interest and a way to communicate to turn a group of people into a tribe. Provide a purpose and the tools to achieve the group’s (highly defined) goals and you’re on your way to being a successful leader.

According to Godin, all that’s needed to lead is the desire to make something happen.

Here are my top ten quotes from the book to whet your appetite and get you started:

1)   Technology is just an enabler, it’s all about people

Before the Internet, coordinating and leading a tribe was difficult. Twitter and blogs and online videos and countless other techniques contribute to an entirely new dimension of what it means to be part of a tribe. New technologies are all designed to connect tribes and to amplify their work. But the Internet is just a tool, an easy way to enable some tactics. The real power of tribes has nothing to do with the Internet and everything to do with people.

2)   A changing status quo brings opportunity to marketers

Marketing used to be about advertising, and advertising is expensive. Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.

3)   Anyone and everyone can lead

Tribes give each of us the very same opportunity. Skill and attitude are essential. Authority is not. In fact, authority can get in the way. Leaders don’t care very much for organisational structure or the official blessing of [wherever] they work. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organisation works, because this awareness allows them to change it.

4)   It’s about quality of fans, not quantity

Too many organisations care about numbers, not fans. They care about hits or turnstile clicks or media mentions. What they’re missing is the depth of commitment and inter-connection that true fans deliver. Fans, true fans, are hard to find and precious. Just a few can change everything. What they demand, though, is generosity and bravery.

5)   Don’t let fear of failure stop you leading and innovating

Fear is hardwired. It needs to be drowned out by a different story…the story of success, of drive, of doing something that matters. It’s an intellectual story about what the world (or your industry or your project) needs and how your insight can help make a difference. The essence of leadership is being aware of your fear (and seeing it in the people you wish to lead).

6)   Embrace discomfort (the best quote in the book in my opinion)

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable.

-       It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.

-       It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.

-       It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.

-       It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.

When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

7)   You can’t please all the people all of the time

Great leaders don’t try to please everyone. Great leaders don’t water down their message to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead, they realise that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group could ever be.

8)   Don’t lead when it’s not from the heart

Sometimes it may make more sense to follow. Leading when you don’t know where to go, when you don’t have the commitment or the passion, or worst of all, when you can’t overcome your fear – that sort of leading is worse than none at all.

9)   Leadership is actually simple

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

10) Good communication is key

What’s helpful is to realise that you have a choice when you communicate. You can design your products to be easy to use. You can write so your audience hears you. You can present in a place and in a way that guarantees that the people you want to listen will hear you. Most of all, you get to choose who will understand (and who won’t).

Hopefully you’ve found this useful and if you do find yourself ready to lead a tribe, grab the book and look up Godin’s five things to do and six principles for creating a micromovement. I won’t share them here but I’ve seen them put into practice and they really work.

Happy reading!