New Year ... New CPD

by Sarah Calderbank
14 April 2022

Just like that, we’re in spring, which can mean only one thing. OK, two if you count Easter eggs. It’s the start of a new CPD year!

It’s the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve achieved in your PR career in the past 12 months and set your new CPD goals and ambitions. The level to which you invest in yourself will be different for every one of us. Whether you’re starting out in your career, or you’re a seasoned pro, the one thing that unites us is a desire to continue learning and growing.

However, if, like me, you gaze at that shiny new 0 point balance each year with every intention of completing it way before the deadline, but suddenly it’s February and you’re on a last-minute hunt for points, it could be time for a New Year’s resolution!

I love the rule of three to improve my focus. So here are a few ideas to get me well on the way to my 60 points.

1. Feed my bookworm

From blogs to books and web articles to podcasts, professional reading counts - just remember to log your points. When it comes to reading, I’m a bit of a grasshopper and have usually got a PR book, an audiobook and a fiction title on the go at once - oh, and a business book at the moment! I love seeking out recommendations through my networks on Twitter and LinkedIn, such as the #ICBookClub.

My New Year’s resolution is to log the CPD points as I go and not leave it to the end of the year.

2. Put pen to paper

Writing may be second nature to us as PR professionals, but how often do you stretch your creative skills and zoom in a different direction with your penmanship? Self-reflection or thought leadership are powerful ways to consolidate new skills - or why not try writing blogs, LinkedIn articles, intranet stories, letters, professional forum debates, entering awards, reviews of conferences, voluntary work or simply writing for pleasure – it can all count as development.

My New Year’s resolution is to increase the variety and frequency of my self-reflection.

3. Lean into learning

Working in an industry that is continually evolving, with techniques and platforms changing at a rapid pace, as PR practitioners, we should all be leaning into learning to keep our tools sharp. One way I do this is by seeking a range of perspectives and experiences – this is often a challenge, especially for those of us who have been toiling away in PR since pre-internet days. Diversity of views and thinking is vital to ensure we, as PR professionals, are representing the audiences we are communicating with.

My New Year’s resolution is to ‘reverse mentor’ - to listen and learn from younger and different voices to inform and improve my leadership and strategy skills.

So those are my top three resolutions for this new CPD year - what are yours? Remember to log and Happy New Year!

How to Handle ESG

by Anthony Bullick
27 January 2022

With a business’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities influencing consumers like never before, companies that communicate their efforts transparently will achieve success in the short and long term.

ESG, traditionally the focus of investors, is increasingly playing an important role in people’s decision-making linked to recruitment and sales, which fundamentally affects the sustainability of the business model.

Your stakeholders have expectations of you as a brand; failure to meet those can lead to reputational risk. Entrusting your PR team with the latest senior management thinking on ESG will prove crucial, with clear and strategic communication leading to more positive outcomes.

Firstly, be open with your PR department about your organisation’s ESG weaknesses and opportunities. It will allow them to update and tweak their comms strategy to ensure the best possible key messages are told.

Two-way communication, such as focus groups and surveys, will allow for honest conversations between you and your internal and external stakeholders to understand their viewpoints as well as build trust.

Educational messaging, particularly aimed at employees and subcontractors, will help drive awareness and knowledge of ESG and the steps they can take as individuals as well as part of their department to support the company with its goals.

Bringing staff on the journey and demonstrating you are listening to their concerns and thoughts will also develop them into brand advocates, which could be your biggest ally if they are needed. Your PR team will also map internal ESG threats against stakeholder concerns to spot issues at the earliest possible opportunity and put a plan in place to mitigate risk.

Take an integrated approach to telling your business’ story to reach as wide an audience as possible to raise awareness and enhance your reputation. Share relevant news with the media so that independent, trusted third-party outlets cover it as editorial to add credibility.

Utilise your own channels effectively, as potential job applicants and clients will likely complete desktop research ahead of engaging with you. Is your ESG information easy to find? Is it told in multiple formats such as copy, video, and visuals, to appeal to more people?

Throughout all communication, ensure all stories are factual and honest to avoid allegations of greenwashing, which brings further reputational risk.

When it comes to measurement and evaluation, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor reporting and metrics to your own organisation’s objectives with a detailed and comprehensive framework by reviewing and researching valuable and common KPIs.

Progress your career with mentoring

by Natasha Calder
20 January 2022

I was five years into my comms career before I heard the term 'mentoring'.

Before then I wasn't a member of CIPR and my professional network wasn't much larger than the people I sat with in the office every day and my friends who worked in similar roles.  Maybe that's because for the first five years of my career, every day was a learning experience and I was still finding my feet and figuring out what I wanted.

But in 2020 that all changed. I was starting to feel too comfortable and less challenged. I was ready to take the next step but I wasn't sure what step to take.

My former boss invited me along to a virtual 'Women In Communications' conference and the successful female speakers explored leadership whilst recounting honest experiences of imposter syndrome and I was HOOKED.

When looking over my notes, I noticed that mentoring was a strong theme across them all.  Almost right away I began looking for mentoring programmes in PR. Initially, I struggled because the few schemes I found were either expensive or had one or two openings per year with limited spots.

I started to think that mentoring was a rather inaccessible pipe dream. That was until I found CIPR Progress, of course.

A free feature for members, CIPR Progress allows you to search for a suitable mentor, based on what it is you want to focus on, ie career development, internal comms, leadership, etc.  After sending my application to my chosen mentor (Laura Sutherland Chart. PR, MCIPR, FCIPR), we had an introductory call and the last 12 months - as they say - became history.

What I really liked about mentoring was the open and honest space it provided. I was able to be really upfront about my ambitions and the barriers I was experiencing without the agenda of my organisation making an unknowing appearance.  Laura acted as a reassuring voice. She was removed from the situations I was discussing with her, meaning I got some really helpful and objective advice.

Mentoring isnt exclusive either.  It doesn't matter if you are at the top or the bottom of a structure chart - if someone has been there and done it before you, chances are you can benefit from what they have to contribute to the conversation.

I found CIPR Progress really person-centred.  You have the opportunity to set goals with your mentor's support that really focus on what you want - not what your job or day-to-day objectives expect.

As well as giving you the confidence to reach your ambitions, mentoring is a great way to widen your perspectives. Someone once told me that you can't do the same thing over and over and expect a different result, which is why widening our professional network and talking to practitioners with different experiences is so important.  If we surround ourselves with a diverse group of professionals, we can make informed decisions and can give representative advice to colleagues.

Line managers can be really great but you can't always choose them. You can, however, choose your mentor.

So, if you value your manager but would prefer to also get the perspective of someone you can relate to, mentoring is the way to go!  For example, you may want link up with someone who lives in a similar area as you, who has the same religious beliefs as you or has experienced similar struggles to you.

For me, I wanted to learn from a strong and successful woman as I felt that a woman would understand similar experiences.  In contrast, I chose a mentor who had owned a PR agency and a consultancy, rather than another civil servant like me. I did that deliberately in order to gauge a different perspective.

All in all, it was a great experience. Laura and I have a fantastic, long-lasting relationship and I'm so grateful for the support she's offered me.

I'm hopeful I'll be able to benefit from mentoring again in the future, whether that be through Progress or a more informal relationship with someone whose work I admire.

So, why don't you also take the plunge this National Mentoring Month?

If you want to talk about mentoring further, you can DM me or CIPR North West on Twitter.

Taking Away from 2021

by Hayley James
16 December 2021

I think it's fair to say that, for a lot of people, the idea of just taking 2021 away entirely would be quite nice. Like any year, for some of us it’s been brilliant: new jobs, new homes, weddings, babies, DIY completed because – well – that’s what everyone did this year, right? For a lot of us, though, 2021 was a cruel follow-up to 2020. Many of us were either working harder than ever or not at all, with restructures at work and clients changing plans. It impacted our mental health, our relationships and our way of life.

However, I believe every day is a school day and I’ve personally had a few lightening moments this year that have meant I come out of this year better than I went into it.

Measuring success matters: this year we’ve embedded a new impact reporting cycle into our activity at work. The reason was to reflect the sheer amount the team does. However, the impact has been greater pride, credibility, focus and authority. Nothing is ever perfect and it has been hard and a lot of work, but this has been a big step for a number of people in our team and, for that reason, I’m grateful that people have trusted the process and that it's paying off. Measurement isn’t just for your Board or your client, it's for your self-worth, value and pride.

Stupid questions don’t exist (sort of): this year, or rather at the end of 2020, I took a leap and put myself forward to join the CIPR Board. It was a nerve-wracking thing to do. Who did I think I was, trying to be a Board Director? Ironing board maybe, but our professional body? I put myself forward, got advice and, while it’s been tough in ways I didn’t expect, I’ve learned that even at that level a stupid question isn’t always that daft. It can often lead to a better discussion. So back yourself, as you don’t know what’s going on in other heads around a room (virtual or otherwise). I’m looking forward to 2022 and the new volunteers joining the group – and more questions.

Networks work: I’ve made more effort this year – not as much as I’d like, but definitely more – to get back in touch with people I’ve not spoken to for over a year or more. Using LinkedIn mostly but also other channels, I’ve reconnected with people and it’s been brilliant. I have learned from people and I hope they’ve gained something from me. I’ve taken advice and given it and, as someone who is naturally extrovert, it fed my soul a bit and helped my mental health, so a nice secondary result of doing something just because I felt it would be a loss for me not to.

A few of these things resulted in CPD points, so even better!

So 2021 has been rubbish for lots of reasons – I started the year feeling totally miserable that my holiday was cancelled due to another lockdown, I sat in the makeshift office I’d created for more hours than I ever imagined I would and mostly with the light on because of the reduced daylight, and I just hoped that this pandemic would do one. It did a bit, then it didn’t. It dominated the year, but it didn’t stop me getting something from the year. I volunteered for injections I’d usually run a mile from – including a flu vaccine for the first time – and I tried new things and learned.

I know everyone’s 2021 was different but I hope that, from this, you can look at the year that’s gone and find some positives in there, even if it was just redecorating the living room.

Lonely this Christmas? We've got your back!

by David Tarbuck
8 December 2021

Shout-out to all the lonely communicators out there; this one’s for you. I’ve been meaning to write about this theme for a while, and I was reminded to do so when I recently heard the festive tearjerker “Lonely This Christmas” by Mud. And I didn’t just hear it once, dear reader, but several times as I ventured from shop to shop in my local town centre. The message was received and this blog duly written.

Being a sole practitioner can be lonely. Whatever field you work in, if you don’t have team members then it can feel like you’re in an isolated position. So, here are five tips that come to mind to stop you feeling “cold, so cold” this Christmas or indeed at any time of the year! *Apologies for the soon-to-emerge earworm*

You don’t have to be alone
Even if you are doing a fantastic job, everyone needs peers to bounce off. If they aren’t available to you in your organisation or immediate circle, check out all the groups that exist within CIPR. There are various committees you can get involved with, or there are virtual social events that you can turn up to and have a chat. For example, the CIPR Midlands group organises a regular open mic event for peer support and discussion.

Build networks
Your peers are your best asset and you need them to get things done. Cultivating good relationships is certainly helpful when you need urgent help or simply if you’d like them to bump your request up their to-do list. In turn, they will know you’re on hand to help them when they need support.

Don’t turn down a freebie
Let’s face it, we’ve all been asked to do something we don’t know how to do. Indeed, you may often be asked to do anything and everything that is communication-related – but none of us knows it all. Thankfully, the CIPR, AMEC and other reputable organisations offer huge amounts of free information and helpful guides to members and followers. For example: you’re asked to design a complex campaign from scratch and haven’t got a clue where to start. No problem, check out the civil service’s comprehensive OASIS guide to campaign planning.

Show your worth
Seldom do we communicators brag about achievements, probably because either we know that they are often a product of others’ work, or we are just plain embarrassed to do so. And yet we do achieve some awesome outcomes and if we don’t shine a light on them once in a while, no-one else will. How, then, can we fully demonstrate the value we bring? If you don’t already do so, give your leadership or clients a summary of comms successes once in a while to keep them abreast of what’s been achieved and what you plan to focus on next. Keep in mind “return on investment” to demonstrate the value of your work.

Take care of yourself
Reserve time in your diary to focus on your own requirements. Too often we let emails and tasks build up because there’s no-one to delegate them to. If you put a regular block in your diary once a week, you will not only clear the build-up but also prepare yourself for the week ahead. Also consider scheduling monthly slots for personal development and upskilling. If you don’t have something in mind, why not instead use the time to attend a CIPR event and meet new peers? As a member of the CIPR NW committee, I for one will be happy to greet you.

Looking at our future – post COP26 – great answers for small businesses

by Jeni Beattie
2 December 2021

We heard essential advice and a good debate, thanks to CIPR North West’s latest webinar this week – we brought together a panel of experts in a discussion about the role of the communications function in the wake of COP26.

Apart from saving the planet, we heard how the transition to net zero can affect us professionally and personally. Our speakers talked about supporting their organisations and clients, how they communicate internally and externally, and how sustainable practices can be embedded into every organisation’s strategy.

The panel was chaired by CIPR North West Chair, Anthony Bullick, and our guest speakers were:

•   Dr Geoff Mackey, BASF Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director
•   Michael Bennett, MD of specialist sustainability PR consultancy Pelican Communications
•   Sarah Calderbank, Assistant Head of Communications at the Lake District National Park

The debate was so good that we ran out of time, so speaker Michael Bennett followed the event with this advice for small business owners on how they might reduce their carbon footprint:

“Ways of reducing carbon in a small business are not always obvious. But if you adopt the same approach as you would in your personal life, you can make a difference. Try considering any of the following:

•   Swapping energy supplier to a renewables-only company.
•   Incentivise staff to take public transport to work or walk if they close by.
•   Engage and educate your staff by considering carbon literacy training.
•   Get involved in initiatives to cut carbon or improve the environment. At Pelican we supported ‘City of Trees’ and had a team day where we went tree planting.
•   Install recycling bins at your office and make sure they get used; you sometimes have to take away waste bins next to desks to get people to start participating.
•   Use sustainable web hosting services: hosting services are the invisible fossil fuel consumers. Unless you host your site yourself, your website likely lives on a data server in a warehouse powered by fossil fuels.
•   Turn off lights, printers and computers at the end of the day. So many people just turn off the screen, rather than powering down.”

11 things that count for CIPR CPD points that you maybe didn’t realise

by CIPR North West Committee
14 October 2021

CPD is all about training courses isn’t it? Wrong. There are so many ways you can earn CPD points, helping you achieve and maintain your Accredited Practitioner status. Your North West committee has put together this handy little list to inspire and get you thinking.

1. Our CIPR North West Chair, Anthony Bullick, hosts a PR and marketing conference for charities this month, which will earn points towards his annual CPD.

2. CIPR North West committee member Natasha Calder writes her own blog and gains CPD points for doing so. She also attended a Women in Comms conference last year, organised by Dods Diversity and Inclusion (gaining 10 points).

3. Attending any of our North West events, training courses or networking events earns you 5 or 10 points, depending on what it is.

4. Are you a fan of podcasts? CIPR North West committee member Natasha Calder recommends making time to listen to Calm Edge Rebels superb series. Gaining some ace insight and gaining 5 CPD points too for each episode ;-)

5. Maybe reading’s more your thing? Find yourself a good book on leadership, ethics - anything related to the profession - and you’re able to claim CPD points. CIPR North West Budget Manager, Amanda Coleman, has a cracking new book out on crisis communications strategies. Just saying, and with Christmas not far off ...

6. Did you know that volunteering to help with the North West CIPR team (or one its sub-groups: Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside+) can earn you up to a third of your annual CPD 60 point target? Worth thinking about. We always want newbies.

7. Every year, local gas network Cadent arranges for its media team - including CIPR North West committee member Kevin Hegarty - to attend TV and radio interview skills refresher training. It’s in-house training, but counts as 10 CPD points. Does your company organise any training for you? Remember to log it as CPD too.

8. Any networking activity counts towards CPD; it doesn’t have to be a PR event. Bridget Batty, one of our CIPR North West committee members, is able to claim CPD points as organiser of the Professional Oldham quarterly business networking group.

9. How many of you offer to speak at universities, colleges or schools, or attend careers events to help share your experience of the world of work and PR in particular? If you do, don’t forget you can log that towards your 60-points for the year.

10. We know so many of our wonderful North West PR community act as mentors - CIPR North West Budget Manager, Amanda Coleman, is one of the mentors on CIPR’s Progress scheme (exclusive to members), while fellow committee member Kevin Hegarty has just started mentoring at University Academy 92. CPD points for both!

11. Attending the AGM of the CIPR North West committee on 11th November earns you 5 points, but then stay on for the special extra event we’ve organised straight after, about getting chartered, and you double your points. Surely you’re tempted now!

Tactics for Zoom Media Interviews

by Jeni Beattie
1 October 2021

The “Zoom” type Media interview is here to stay!

An ITV reporter has just told me that DTL (Down the Line) media interviews via a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Skype, or Teams is here to stay! Coronavirus changed the way news is reported and the way radio and TV interviews are conducted. But how does this affect spokespeople?

Even though you may be familiar with speaking at conferences on Zoom or Teams, an interview with a journalist is very different. These interviews are usually live and often there are less than 120 seconds to get your point across. Plenty of time to make that point, so prepare well.

The interviewee becomes their own camera, lighting and make-up crew! Any TV news interview is a formal occasion. You may be at home, but you still need to dress smartly and look professional. It sets the tone of the interview instantly.

Use your laptop or desktop PC, not your smartphone. This helps the broadcaster record you in landscape mode.

Invest in a decent external camera and microphone. It will improve the sound quality. Try and avoid headsets, they do not look good on TV. If you use ear buds which include a microphone, be careful: the sound is often not broadcast quality. Make sure you have a good-quality broadband connection and use a cable connection directly into your router.

If you do not have a stand, put your laptop on a stack of books. I use two or three box files, so that the camera is at eye level. Do not look down into the camera, it just gives the audience an unpleasant view of your nostrils and makes your face look fatter.

Sit far enough away so that your head, shoulders and chest are visible. This makes it easier for the broadcaster to frame you. Roughly, your body should fill two thirds of the screen.

Your background needs to be as neutral as you can make it. This makes the viewer concentrate on you and what you are saying - NOT the artwork on the wall, the books on your shelves or your ceramic collection! Make sure electronic devices are on silent and try to keep pets and family members from distracting you.

Next check how well-lit you are. The light source needs to fall on your face, so do not sit with a window behind you as viewers will only see you in silhouette. The best position is at the side of a window which floods you with natural light. If that is not possible, place a lamp at the side of your computer screen but avoid 'ring' lights as they reflect on spectacles (and sometimes on the iris of the eye, which can look quite strange!).

Always do a test interview with a colleague beforehand. Get the camera angle right, check your audio and your background. Just before it is time to start the interview, ask the technicians at the other end if your lighting and framing is good. It is your interview, and you have 10 seconds to make a first impression!

During the interview, keep looking at the camera, not the screen. This is your contact with the viewer. The journalist is just a conduit through which you reach the audience. Do not look down at notes – if an aide-memoire helps confidence, use post-it notes with key words next to the camera.

Always finish your answer before the journalist’s next question, even if you hear them speaking – there can be time delay issues.

At the end of the interview, resist any temptation to exhale noisily in relief or raise your eyes to the heavens! Keep looking at the camera and retain a pleasant demeanour until you are told “all clear.”

Repurpose video into other content as part of your integrated PR and marketing

by Anthony Bullick
15 September  2021

With an increasingly wide range of PR and marketing channels and routes to your stakeholders, finding the right way to focus your energy for maximum gain is ever-more vital.

However, with a little forethought and planning, it’s possible to take one core piece of content and repurpose it to reach more of your target audience elsewhere to reinforce your messaging.

This forms the cornerstone of integrated PR and communications: by telling one story across different mediums, you can get the biggest bang for your buck.

Start with video content, perhaps a case study with a client, expert commentary, or a how-to instructional.

Consider cutting out 20-second clips that can be used to enhance your social media beyond your usual post with a photograph. This will enhance the viewer’s experience and engage them with your brand for much longer that they perhaps normally would.

Transcribe the footage for a press release or blog to post fresh content on your website in a different format, as well as liaise with the media over its inclusion as editorial if its newsworthy.

Integrate the video into other marketing literature or company documents such as digital sales brochures or your annual report to add life and interactivity, which will capture the attention of the reader.

It could also be used to inspire content marketing such as infographics or an e-book to provide visual options for consuming the key messages.

Strip out the audio and launch a podcast; this medium is growing exponentially and can add a dynamic and intriguing element to your PR and marketing mix.

Host the video on YouTube, the second biggest search engine, and enhance your brand’s visibility on the platform by including well-optimised descriptions and titles.

Publish each format of the content on your website to assist with search engine optimisation (SEO) and increase your organisation’s presence in search results.

In addition, share each piece via email, such as an e-newsletter, to place it directly in your target audience’s inbox.

Include the video, podcast, blog and infographic in your social media content calendar to boost engagement on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Add them to your paid social media activity and run A/B testing to discover which style attracts the most results.

Finally, if you have worked or collaborated with a third party such as a client, ask them to share on their own channels as their network is likely to include potential customers for you.

Why HEARD MENTALITY is a campaign worth getting behind

by David Tarbuck
11 August  2021

Don’t worry, this blog is not about the dreaded “herd immunity”, a term which has become as political as it was anything medical. Rather, it is about good mental health. Phew! That’s because the CIPR and PRCA have joined forces to inspire comms and PR pros to have conversations with colleagues and support others to overcome poor mental health.

It’s all been tied in with World Listening Day, a day that ironically I’d never heard of before the CIPR-PRCA announcement. That day was actually back in mid-July, but the campaign is running until mid-September. Not to worry, we all know that as comms professionals we should be listening all of the time, not on just one day: it’s pretty much the first line of the job description!

So, what’s the campaign about? In short, CIPR and PRCA are determined to improve the mental wellbeing of people working in our industry. To do so, they are challenging pros to host mental health conversations in the week commencing 13th September. If you’re interested, the bodies are offering conversation starter packs, which you can sign up for on this page.

According to research conducted by CIPR and PRCA, 90% of PR professionals reported poor mental health in the last 12 months. This is a worrying statistic and I am concerned that our industry has, to repurpose a famous phrase, “a silent majority”. I wonder, how many people have you heard talking about their mental health challenges? I can count on one hand the people who have recently told me about their issues, and none of them were colleagues in the workplace. Just by law of averages, this suggests to me that some of my valued colleagues have been suffering with something, but preferred keeping it to themselves.

This is a difficult area to tackle because we should not pressurise people to discuss something that is personal. Being a bloke, I can tell you that this is not an area that is easy to talk about. I had a hard time during the initial stages of the pandemic, but it took me a while to open up to anyone about it. Once I did I felt better, though I wanted to do so in my own time when I was ready.

I think back to two men who have impressed me with their determination to get people to talk about mental health. Prince William has led a campaign to “break the stigma” of talking about mental health with others, using football as a vehicle to promote it. Meanwhile, Alastair Campbell has been extremely open about his ongoing challenges with depression.

Indeed, he spoke at the PRCA national conference and compared coping with his condition to a jam jar: when he is feeling well, the mental jam jar is full of family, good experiences and things that motivate him. On a bad day, the mental jam jar is more filled by negative aspects that accentuate his condition or make it unmanageable. This helps him to work out what he needs to focus on to feel better. Here is a three minute clip about Alastair’s jam jar.

From a personal perspective, I think that mental health is an area that is being increasingly discussed in the workplace but I wouldn’t say that it has become an open conversation yet. This is why the CIPR-PRCA campaign is very timely. We shouldn’t pressure people to talk about their experiences, but by normalising the whole area there is a good chance that anyone dealing with a problem will feel more confident to talk about it, if and when they want to do so. As Prince William says, this will help us to break the stigma.

Mentoring: why asking for support is a strength not a weakness

by Amanda Coleman (Chart.PR) FCIPR, FPRCA
19 July  2021

Working in PR and communication is a fabulous thing but can also be a very lonely place. You may be the only communication person in the organisation, or you may be wrestling with a difficult situation, all of which can feel very lonely. I know because I have been there. When I started in PR, I would never ask for help, fearing it was a sign of weakness.

Finding the right sort of support is not a weakness but a strength. It is why I strongly believe that we all need a mentor at points in our lives. Someone who will listen without judgement, will be there to provide help, and who is unconnected with our day-to-day work.

After years of benefiting from such support, I jumped at the chance of becoming a mentor, particularly as the pandemic has put a huge amount of pressure on all of us. It is part of the way I feel I can repay the support that I have received over the years.

So why would you need a mentor?

You may be looking at a change in your life and want to talk things through. You may be having some challenges at work and need to talk them through. You may just want to offload all the problems that are blocking you from what you want to achieve. You may be looking for how to take the next steps in your career. Really it doesn’t matter why, as mentoring is a way of helping whatever the issue is.

What I think matters most is that you find someone who works for you. I always have a preliminary chat with a prospective mentee to see if we feel we could work together. There is no issue with realising it isn’t going to be the best pairing and for the mentee to move on. Decide in the initial stages and find someone who will be a match.

The CIPR Progress mentoring scheme (free and exclusive to CIPR members) gives access to a full range of mentors with different backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks. There will definitely be someone who may be able to help you just when you need it the most.

Taking on the Challenge of Chartership

by Sarah Calderbank
5 July  2021

As someone who always looks for the positives, during the pandemic I embraced the chance to dive into more online events, learning resources and supercharge my CPD.

With a PR degree, 20 years’ industry experience and having spent the past year tackling some the most demanding communications challenges of my career, I decided now was the perfect time to take on the ultimate PR accreditation and #GetChartered.

Did you know the CIPR is the only PR organisation with a Royal Charter? It’s the highest level of assessment in our profession and is the mark of commitment to professional development and ethical standards.

So, it should be no surprise to hear that it’s not easy and not every PR practitioner will be ready. However, don’t let that put you off, I’d say it’s definitely something that every PR professional should strive towards.

Get ready!

You’ll be assessed against three key areas: ethics, strategy and leadership. No, not just how to write a press release or create a viral TikTok. You’re going to be demonstrating high-level strategy, critical thinking, ethical problem solving and a solid understanding of PR as a strategic management function.

Help is on hand though. There are lots of resources available on the CIPR website. I watched videos, read the blogs, carefully reviewed the Chartership Handbook and spoke to Chartered peers to get a flavour for what was involved.

I’d say it’s never too soon to start putting the building blocks in place towards Chartership. Seek out opportunities to gather as much relevant experience as you can. Volunteering, shadowing, mentoring and, of course, keeping up with your CPD, all provide great complementary opportunities beyond your current role.

I decided this was my time. I felt ready, match-fit and up for the challenge, so took a deep breath and pressed the big ‘book’ button towards Chartership.

Get set!

Onto the homework. I knew this stuff; I told myself over and over, but I wanted to make sure I had some great examples at my fingertips.

I ticked off the background competencies and worked on my CPD plan. I decided to set myself goals for the next two years that would continue to stretch me, with a decent level of variety to keep me motivated. I also blended on-the-job learning with formal training and learning from others.

Ahead of the big day I received the case studies that would form the basis of the assessment.

I structured my preparation around reading, reflecting, preparing examples and a few headline notes. As advised, I tried not to over-prepare. I reminded myself I had solid experience and skills and I was determined to enjoy and make the most of the experience, whatever the outcome.


As we were still in pandemic-mode, the assessment took place in the now-familiar land of Zoom.

My fellow practitioners and assessors were incredibly supportive and friendly, as you’d expect from the PR community!

My knowledge, judgement and skills were certainly put to the test with questions, questions and more questions. It was a challenging, thought-provoking, rigorous experience, but, as a critical thinker, a surprisingly enjoyable one.

The moment I was told I had passed and was now a Chartered PR Practitioner, is etched in my memory as a career highlight! I felt proud as punch. However, the celebration was bittersweet as not everyone passed their assessments that day - a reminder that learning and professional development is a journey.

Go Go!

It’s been a month since my assessment and I still feel proud, confident and empowered to take on my next challenge. If you are thinking of getting Chartered, my advice is ‘go for it!’. Get in touch if I can help. @SarahCalders

Looking for a little lockdown reading?

by Amanda Jackson
15 April  2021

Find out what some of the North West’s PR professionals have been reading over the past few months of lockdown.  At the March 2021 CIPR North West’s social event, we all shared our top recommendations for books and podcasts.  And what an eclectic list it turned out to be!  Here is a snapshot of the top 20 titles and podcasts:

Audio recommendations
The Battersea Poltergeist – BBC Sounds podcast
Csuite (marketing) podcast
That Peter Crouch Podcast
Late night with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover
BBC Sounds – Night Tracks
Rough Trade edit podcast
Morecambe Bay Podcast (interesting guests – from sea swimmers and bird watching to Morecambe and Wise and photography)
Talk Art podcast
2020 R4 Reith Lectures by Mark Carney – climate, covid and credit

Book recommendations
Where the crawdads sing – Delia Owens
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Lemm Sissy – My name is why
A cheesemongers history of the British Isles – Ned Palmer
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Akin by Emma Donoghue
The Man Coach by James Boardman
Alan Partridge from the Oasthouse
Dadventures – by Alex Gregory

And in it’s own specially important category…
MyPossible Self – a free mental health app from the NHS

What have you been reading/ listening to recently? What would you recommend?

Fukushima - my PR lessons learned

by Kevin Hegarty
11 March  2021

I'm reminded today that it's 10 years since Fukushima. I worked in comms at the UK nuclear safety regulator at the time. Here are a few PR reflections.
I supported the UK chief nuclear inspector and his team as they carried out a safety review of UK nuclear power plants, to see what lessons could and should be learned. It was an incredibly busy time, with lots of media interest.
There's an abundance of great advice on crisis communications out there and people who make a living out of advising on it. I won't claim to be the expert, but here's a couple of PR lessons I learned from my involvement in Fukushima:
Being clear on your messaging
The chief nuclear inspector was tasked by UK Government to deliver a report on the safety lessons learned. This was published with press release, big press conference, the works.
We'd worked on our messaging and thought we'd nailed it. But when put through practice and testing, we realised they needed refining.
That's where the expertise of a media trainer came in. I contributed a fair bit, but in reality mainly watched in admiration as a very experienced media trainer picked apart the 'official' wording of our messaging and made it far easier for the audience to understand. Simplifying the language and making it understandable to all, not just an informed few.
If ever there was a good reminder of the importance of having three clear key messages, this was it.
We went on to deliver a really informed, effective, packed-out press conference to the world's media.
Managing the team's workload, health and well-being
The natural instinct when a story like this breaks is to get involved.
I was on holiday on 11 March 2011. It was obvious this was a massive event - and I wanted to get involved. But the team had the right mindset.
This was clearly a long-haul project. We were a team - and a skilled team at that. It was all in hand. I needed to take my holiday, make sure I was recharged and ready to pick up from others when they in turn needed rest.
So, this lesson is really a reminder - if you're in for a long-running incident, make decisions early about team management.
Making sure people rest, making sure people are assigned to the business as usual. It's easy to let that slip if you don't make a conscious decision to consider it.
Expect the unexpected: some journalists do have an agenda
When you're in the heat of the moment and very focused about your specific story, don't forget that your event / story might just be a route in for a journalist to ask about something else.
You're putting your spokesperson up for interview - and while you can expect most of the questions to be about the subject at hand, don't expect to field just questions on that.
One national newspaper journalist in his one-to-one with the chief nuclear inspector didn't ask a single question about Fukushima - he was more interested in asking about the challenge the UK regulator was facing with many of its inspectors nearing retirement age.
There will always be the 'while I've got you on' question - so make sure you're ready for that.
Hope you find these reflections useful. Please do share your own advice and experiences.

9 Quick Tips for Running an Online Networking Event

by Amanda Jackson
9 March  2021

Since the start of the lockdown, all events have become online ones. Yet they continue to be as important as ever. They are where we meet, network, learn and explore new ideas.
The CIPR North West has continued to host training sessions – in particular, the Lancashire sub-group that I chair has staged almost a dozen on a range of topics from analytics to internal comms; from meeting the media to mental health. You can read about how we made it work here. We have had over 450 tickets booked for them, so purely from an engagement and continuous learning point of view, there has been a small Covid silver lining – we have been able to engage far more widely with our PR community.
But we realised there was still a gap. Training is absolutely necessary and hugely enjoyable, but where were the opportunities to just chat? So we decided to kick back and organise a social networking event. A way to get to know the new faces a bit better and refresh connections with other industry colleagues.

Here’s how we did it.

9 quick tips for successful online networking

1. Our webinars are team efforts so we distribute roles across the committee, with a different person handling:

Writing the event description
Putting the event listing together
Coordinating social media
A role in the webinar itself (which we’ll get to in a moment)

2. We make extensive use of WhatsApp as an organising committee, so communication doesn’t get lost in the email deluge. Over WhatsApp, we discuss the event running order, and assign ‘on the day’ tasks.

3. We have a tech check 10 minutes before attendees arrive to iron out any last minute glitches. At this check we also make sure there are at least two co-hosts assigned. This enables organisers to let any latecomers in from the waiting room (whilst someone else is talking), or mute delegates if necessary. It also is insurance against the whole event closing if the host’s system fails.

4. Whilst we’re all used to Zoom/ Teams/ Google Meetups etc, talking in a large group isn’t conducive to a relaxed, chatty environment, so once the format was explained, we quickly put people into breakout rooms. We had about five people per room, which seemed about right.

5. One person is in charge of opening/closing the breakout rooms. We opted to use the ‘automatic’ function, which randomly assigns five people to each breakout room. These rooms were closed at the end of each breakout and then ‘reopened’ again, which meant that the groups were randomly mixed.

6. In the hour session we had 3 x 15 minute breakout sessions, interspersed with feedback and setting the next conversation starter. These conversation seeds proved to be very popular, and they enabled everyone to contribute. Here are a list of ones you could try at your own event:

Over the past year, what has changed in your life … that you would like to keep?
What is your top productivity tip that keeps you on track?
What advice would you give your younger self, just starting a career in PR?
What are your book and podcast recommendations?
What is your biggest PR win/ success story?
How is your week going?
Share some example of great comms you’ve seen recently
What are you looking forward to, post lockdown?
How do you decide on training topics?
Highs, lows or funniest points in your career…
What would you say is the soundtrack to your life?

7. Timing is crucial with online events, so using the ‘broadcast to all rooms’ function on Zoom, we reiterated the topic to be discussed; and then gave a five-minute warning of the time left in each session. We had really positive feedback on this feature.

8. In order to keep the event engaging, we had different committee members introducing each new topic and asking for a quick review from a few of the groups on what they talked about. It works a bit like a layer cake:

Speaker 1: scene setting, the plan and the first topic
Breakout room 1
Speaker 2: asking for feedback from breakout topic 1; then setting groups off again with second topic
Breakout room 2
Speaker 3: asking for feedback from breakout topic 2; then setting groups off again with third topic
Breakout room 3
Speaker 4: asking for feedback from breakout topic 3. Then trailing forthcoming events
Speaker 1 again: wrapping up the event and close.

9. We always ask for feedback and use Google forms to collect and collate the data. A link to this is put in the chat, so people can fill it in during the event. Whilst online socials aren’t a patch on seeing people in real life, it was definitely a success and something we’ll be doing again.

#ChooseToChallenge yourself this International Women’s Day

by Natasha Calder
5 March  2021

For ambitious people working in mid-level positions, the daily grind can sometimes feel like navigating through a limbo period.
We feel comfortable in our jobs because we're good at what we do and we have a comprehensive knowledge of our organisation but among that, we're often trying to strike a healthy balance between displaying leadership, decision making and working as part of a team.
That's why in the week that acknowledges International Women's Day 2021, I #ChooseToChallenge feeling comfortable.
For some, misunderstanding a thirst for knowledge for unhappiness in your current job can be an easy mistake to make, so I challenge you to think about your goals and to set a realistic road map of how to get there.
One of your goals might be to take on more responsibility but if a promotion opportunity isn't available to you right now, or if you enjoy your job and have a great team behind you, it might be time to cast the net wider than the day job.
Seeking out new opportunities doesn't always mean finding a new employer or making a career change; it could be connecting with new people online, joining a committee or learning a new skill that will open up new challenges for you in the work place.
That's exactly what I did. The PR world is much bigger than the teams we work in, the clients we represent and the companies we direct. There is a huge PR community out there with a wealth of knowledge, perspectives and ideas to share.
By meeting new people and having conversations with other PR pros outside of our working life, we can discover our passions and feel more inspired every day.
And what's more? It's something you can do yourself at your own pace, which makes it so much more personal to your own professional development and the feeling of achievement is arguably much greater.
It's also worth remembering that being a leader isn't always something you need to aspire to.
Challenge your traditional perspectives and think about how you display leadership already.
Do you support colleagues?
Do you manage projects or clients?
Do you advise effectively and strategically?
Do you have influence with senior management?
Do you ask questions to understand the reasoning behind a piece of work or a decision?
Answering yes to one or more of these questions could be the reassurance or boost you need to feel inspired again.
Responsibility and leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. Ultimately, it's about working collectively and supporting others to reach a common end goal.
At the beginning of this post, I suggested that mid-level PR pros are trying to strike a healthy balance between displaying leadership, decision making and working as part of a team. But the important thing to remember here is that these three qualities often work hand in hand.
So this year, what will you #ChooseToChallenge?
Start the conversation over at @CIPRNORTHWEST.


by Hayley James
28 February  2021

I’m still feeling a little bit smug at the moment, following the realisation that this year I’ve completed twelve consecutive years of CIPR CPD.  Get me!  One thing I’m still struck by is the perception that learning how to be good at PR is expensive.  The more I’ve looked into this and found different ways to develop my knowledge and expertise, the more I’ve realised that this isn’t the case at all.  The trick is to find value in what you do.
Learning can be expensive; qualifications are rightly costly as they involve teaching, assessment and the expertise of others.  These have their place and several years ago I completed a post graduate diploma in PR studying around work.  However, qualifications are not the only way to learn if you don’t have the budget or the time right now.
The activities I’ve undertaken these last twelve months and, more importantly, have banked as CPD include volunteering, judging awards, presenting at conferences, attending webinars and virtual discussions on a variety of subjects, plus some in-house learning from work on areas including Information Governance, virtual sessions on managing priorities and team away days.  I also ran a session in work on comms skills for managers; that’s five CPD points plus I’m building an army of advocates.
One major change I’ve personally noticed during the pandemic is the volume of online resources that now exist for learning that previously would have been inaccessible, due to distance or closed groups.  Reading white papers, reports and research undertaken by the PR industry also count as CPD, as well as helping give you data to back up your ideas and approach when needed.
I’ve also taken advantage of some of the brilliant resources on the CIPR CPD site, such as the pre-recorded webinars and podcasts.  There are plenty more in the offing and I’d like to plug the brilliant new member's careers portal that has got a wealth of information and guidance on there, regardless of where you are in your career.  This is a fantastic tool for anyone.
In the past I’ve claimed points for reading books, listening to other podcasts (and there are now more PR and business-related ones than ever), speaking to students, doing free modules on platforms such as Coursera, and loads of others.
I’ve learned the hard way that my memory is more porous than it’s ever been, so I’m committing this year to upload CPD as I go.  It saves the panic I’ve had these last few years at the start of February when I’ve got to track back the activities I’ve undertaken.
Learning takes many forms and there is more free learning out there than ever.  Your time is valuable and spending it on your personal development is always a good investment.

Outwrite MD starts third year as Chair of CIPR North West

18 December  2020

The North West regional chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)  is to focus on continuing to deliver value for members as the industry looks to bounce back for 2021.
Anthony Bullick, who is managing director of North Wales-based Outwrite PR, leads the CIPR North West’s team of volunteers to support the PR community with events, training and professional development.
With much of 2020 taken up with responding to the impact of Covid-19, Anthony plans to use the final year of his three-year term ensuring the body is in good shape for the future.
He said: “When I was appointed for my second year, I don’t think any of us expected 2020 to turn out like this. Just eight weeks in, everything went out the window.
“But the industry has responded magnificently; we’ve switched training days and face-to-face seminars to webinars, made the best use of social media to share learning tools, and made great strides in improving the diversity of the CIPR North West committee.”
Anthony, a chartered PR practitioner, continued: “We have an incredibly strong, talented and diverse range of committee members and the PR community in the North West is in good hands, thanks to those around me.
“The North West is home to perhaps the best PR community in the UK. Whether we’re talking about talent, skills, creativity, a desire to learn and develop, resilience, being a support network, or any other factor.
“But whatever 2021 looks like, we will continue to focus on adding value to our North West members and supporting them in any way we can.”
The CIPR enables members to expand their knowledge through courses and training, whilst offering business support and networking opportunities.
A member of the CIPR North West committee for seven years, Anthony has previously helped the group run events as well as coordinate its social media channels.
He also regularly gives talks to promote the PR industry, having presented to students at the University of Chester, Bangor University and Manchester Metropolitan University.
For more information about Outwrite visit