Public relations

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.

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.

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.

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?



Don't just think outside the box, spin it around

Propology office internal Propology's Cherylle Millard-Dawe

It's not often that we do a real unashamed plug for the business but when you get a testimonial like this, it would be wrong not to share it.

Propology is a brand that we've been working on with Twentyseven Design and it's a piece of work of which we are really proud.

If you are looking to find or create your dream home or lifestyle, you need Cherylle Millard-Dawe in your life - have a look at the website, it will tell you everything you need to know... Thank you for the opportunity to work together, Cherylle.

And here is what she had to say about us:

"Sarah Hall and her team at Sarah Hall Consulting do a stellar job for us here at Propology, not only are they totally professional about our company, they actually take ownership of it as if it were their own, going well and above the call of duty in their quest to put Propology up there with the best.

"From the day I met Sarah I knew she 'got it'. Her genuine passion for the brand and belief in me as a client has built an incredible reciprocal confidence that has endured throughout the entire process.

"Sarah thinks outside the box by turning it round and spinning it inside out and adding to that passion, energy and fantastic results. Savvy, great fun to work with and gets the job done. Thank you!"

Cherylle Millard-Dawe, founder, Propology.



Top five tips for freelancers

Planning carefully can avoid headaches. (Picture from The other day we were asked by The Drum and the CIPR to put together our top five tips for freelancers to mark National Freelancers Day.

In case you missed it, here's what our managing director Sarah Hall had to say:


1)   Write a really good business plan and keep it by the desk. This is critical to achieving your goals. For example, doing this will give you confidence there is a market out there for you and that you are targeting the right prospects in the right way. What’s more, carrying out a competitor audit will help you identify what your USP is and inform the fee structure you put in place.

2)   Work out what you want from your business. If it’s a lifestyle business and you want to spend more time with your friends and family, that’s fine - just make sure you structure things accordingly and manage your own and others’ expectations. If your ultimate dream is to grow, make sure you build a talented team around you with the same vision and reward them as you reach key milestones.

3)   Get networking.  One of the best things you can ever do is to get out and about so people know who you are. You can network successfully on and offline and it’s a great way to raise your profile – just don’t bore people with a hard sell!

4)   Never start work without a contract in place or at the very least having clear terms and conditions set down in writing.  Being clear on what your payment terms are should help avoid any difficult conversations and issues further down the road.

5)   Get a great accountant who you understand and who understands you. They are out there! This will stop you missing any key dates or being landed with a tax bill you weren’t expecting. You’d be surprised how many people get caught out.