Helping the industry is helping my own development

First, some context

I’ve worked in public relations for over 17 years.

I’ve been a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) for around 12 years. I’ve been a Fellow of the CIPR for three years and a Chartered Practitioner for two.

I’ve always dedicated myself 100% to anything I’ve been passionate about. I want to be the best I can be, for my clients and for myself.

I love public relations. I love what is stands for. I love what it has the ability to do and I love my job.

17+ years in public relations

I started off my life in PR working for a small luxury PR agency, working with big names like L.K. Bennett, Laing the Jeweller and we worked alongside brands such as Bvlgari, Cartier and Patek Phillipe.

My role was hugely varied and very integrated. From managing the media, negotiating and booking ad campaigns through to design and event management. I was integrated before my time…

It wasn’t long before I moved in-house for a restaurant group, marrying my skills and education in Hospitality and PR, working to develop the business’ reputation, relationships with big industry bookers and media, developing the brand into something ready for the next level.

Two years later I moved back to agency land, working in a small agency which ran very important 24/7 press offices. We worked with the likes of Amey plc, Strathclyde Safety Camera Partnership, the A77 Safety Group and some consumer clients.

This was a different kind of PR from what I was used to, but a big learning opportunity, getting to grips with crisis communication, press office administration, teams and rota working, plus the start of what would become social networking – we set up and ran forums on websites for public sector clients as a means of consultation and two-way engagement.

From there I went to lead a PR team at Scotland’s first truly integrated agency, for two years, and from there, I was headhunted to open a Glasgow office for a Scottish PR agency.

Nine months later, I co-founded Aura. Four years later, I bought out my business partner and started my journey as an independent practitioner.

I’ve been head-hunted twice, made redundant once, started two businesses (the other was Dynamic Young Women, a networking group for future female leaders) and wouldn’t change what I do. I’m carving out my own path.

Continuing to develop to keep abreast of emerging skills

I was first encouraged to take part in continuous professional development (CPD) in my third PR job, around 13/14 years ago. Then, it was more about keeping up with the others in the team, more than focusing on my own strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

At the start, I was getting CPD points (I needed 60 a year) from doing this and that, going to events and networking evenings, but I sat back and wondered what the point really was. I was just collecting and not really progressing.

I took responsibility for my own future. I devised my own goals dependent on what I was told I needed to work on and what I looked and saw others being good at, and wanted to be good at, too. I listened to clients and I listened to the industry.

So, fast forward to 2014 when I was elected as CIPR Scotland Chair, I started to get passionate about getting others motivated to learn for their own benefit, which in turn would benefit their organisation / clients.

I was then on CIPR Board, Council and I still sit on its Council.

Now, I’m pushing for our whole industry to become Chartered. I started the hashtag #GetChartered the day I sat my Chartered assessment and CIPR still use it! The ambition of many, which I am fully behind, is to set the standard, push for quality and not quantity and really elevate the status of PR practitioners through Chartered status.

In my bid to get people on board and to demonstrate how people can participate in CPD and realise their own strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, I started the world’s only festival for public relations – PRFest. This June saw the third festival and probably the most thought-provoking to-date. You take from it what you will. You then action from your learnings and implement. It’s up to you.

It’s up to you to take control and invest in yourself

PRFest – the world’s only festival dedicated to public relations

One of my messages this year at PRFest was that – it’s up to you. You won’t be led by others where you want to be, you will never know everything and it’s up to you to take control of your own destiny in PR land.

People can be very small-minded and lazy, waiting for people to do everything for them and put in as little work as possible. People often ask me how I manage my work, business, social activity, events, networking and all my new ideas. I can because I love it! I’m passionate about it.

I’ve recognised that I can help other people. Why me you may ask? Why not?! I also know that to help others will help me and the industry. If we grow, so will our industry.

I connect with people across the world. People across the world connect with my thinking and ideas. I love that! I hope to inspire others to jump on the CPD train and help take our industry to become the most respected in the boardroom, business world and we’re the first people to be consulted about business and organisational decisions, as well as help input into the decision making, and help develop the strategies.

People who don’t work in public relations or don’t have any experience of working with practitioners, don’t tend to understand what we do, how we do it and the value of public relations. People are amazed when I explain what I do and how I do it. Heck, some of my new clients have been inspired and want to apply the thinking to other areas of their businesses.

Public relations as one of the most important business functions

If we can all modernise and keep up-to-date with our skills and knowledge, if we can work more collaboratively and if we can all develop strategies which support business goals and we can demonstrate this through robust measurement and evaluation, surely we can all help take public relations to being one of, if not the most, important management function in any business?

If you don’t have a good reputation, it impacts the bottomline. If you make the wrong decision relating to how you handle a crisis, it impacts the bottomline. Reputation is everything for a brand. That’s why public relations looks to engage ALL audiences, from internal through to external.

Now it’s your turn to give back and help lead the industry

The CIPR elections for Council and the President for 2020 will take place soon. I would urge you to consider standing.

What can you expect?

Well, Council meets every quarter to discuss, debate and approve ideas and decisions. It is the conscience of the Board and helps them make strategic decisions. Don’t apply if you want the title on your CV and aren’t prepared to do any work. Those types of people are spotted a mile off. Roll your sleeves up and get involved.

There’s a three year plan in place and it’s now starting to take shape and gather momentum. From membership drives to membership retention, to initiatives, training and qualifications which add value to the membership.

I’ve met some amazing people over the years as a volunteer. Many whom have appreciated my ideas and my energy. Many whom I am now friends with.

CIPR is not a clique. Of course there are pockets of people with similar interests and views who get on, but CIPR is an inclusive organisation and needs the diversity from across the membership.

You need to dedicate time in your diary most months to be working on something worthwhile, along with your CIPR colleagues. At the moment, I’m leading on the Fellows’ Forum and currently undertaking research in order to develop a strategy. Last year, I led the volunteer engagement strategy and ended up delivering a social networking platform (CIPRNet) for the 350+ volunteers of the CIPR. I love being practical and making a difference.

Please consider doing the same. Our industry will only get better with the involvement of those who work in it, and I’m passionate about the CIPR because it’s the Chartered Institute, it has a responsibility and the more collaborative it is, the better it will become.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have or have a chat if you’re thinking about standing for Council (or President). Let me know!


Thanks for reading my blog. Would you mind sharing it in case I can help inspire others, or in case they too would be interested in getting involved with CIPR?