AGM: Views and Qs

December 9 2020

After sharing updates on what we, as a group, have achieved in the last year (more on that here) we welcomed our guest speaker to the AGM ‘stage’.

Mandy Pearse’s long and esteemed PR career has seen her work in the public, private and third sectors. A Fellow of the CIPR and a Chartered PR practitioner, she is also an MCIM and Chartered Marketer. Another title she will shortly add to that list is President of the CIPR.

Currently President-Elect, Mandy is meeting with as many of the sectoral and geographic groups as she can before her year in office, explaining: “I truly believe we are at our brightest and best when we pull together for our members, our profession and our industry.”
Mandy spoke to us about the unique and testing challenges the COVID19 pandemic has created for communicators across all sectors. She described how some members have “been flat out communicating messaging to public audiences and managing demand whereas others have helped guide their business through rapid change”.

Others have worked with and on behalf of the most disadvantaged people in society, or in industries that have essentially been on hold for much of 2020. Mandy also highlighted how many of our independent practitioners have been hit hard, with many receiving little if any support from the government.

The CIPR hasn’t had an easy year either. The organisation was the subject of some media speculation when information about its finances were leaked, staff were furloughed, with some being made redundant, and the decision was taken to become an entirely remote organisation.

Despite this, the organisation achieved a huge amount including launching a new Employability Hub, publishing its Race in PR report, creating a series of webinars focussing on communicating through a crisis, and supporting members’ mental health via the Mental Health Hotline (with iProvision).  

Given the highs and lows of 2020, we asked Mandy how she felt about the year ahead and what she hoped to achieve during her Presidency.

“I’m always looking to see the positives, Mandy said. “And if there is one in COVID19 it is that we have truly shown the value that we provide both tactically and as a strategic management discipline.”

“The future may hold greater uncertainty than we thought and relying on past experience will not be enough. Membership and CPD are important. We need to deliver great value for our members and be leaders in delivering virtual events and training.”

Mandy recognised the commitment and passion of the CIPR’s volunteers in delivering events. Groups quickly moved their events online and organised webinars and panel discussions which aimed to meet the changing needs of members during the year.

She said: “Given uncertainty in 2021 over face-to-face events, inter-group planning and collaborations will be really important in delivering an exciting menu of learning and networking opportunities.

She added: “We will also be looking closely at how we support and engage with our volunteers.”

Mandy was candid about the need for stability and steadying the ship as we (hopefully) emerge from these turbulent times. Alongside campaigning work with key partners Mandy wants to ensure members feel they are part of a supportive network that provides a range of learning, development and networking opportunities that enable them to continue adding value to and shaping the organisations they work for.

Audience questions

After setting out her aims for her Presidency, Mandy Pearse joined our Chair, Holly Wilkins to take questions from our audience. Here’s a summary of the topics covered

1. Given the COVOD impact on charity incomes, how can the group and CIPR make the case to employers and funders that investing in professional PR (in house or contractors)  is essential to the mission of third sector bodies?

Holly said it was becoming increasingly important to give members the tools to show the value of the investment in PR and showcase our impact via case studies. Mandy said it was crucial to engage with influential sector leaders via their groups and bodies. This could take the form of delivering reputation management and PR webinars to leadership organisations, thereby showing what we deliver and what we can do for those organisations.

2. How do we encourage more volunteers at the start of their careers to ensure we have experience diversity on committees?

Our Treasurer, Claire Melia, spoke about the Career Starter mentoring scheme recently launched by the CIPR. This is something that people like Claire have been working on for some time, having recognised the landscape is very different for graduates. The scheme, which is free, offers mentorship by a Chartered Practitioner over a three month period. People will be matched based on what both the mentor and mentee are looking for. For people further along in their careers, Progress offers mentoring by Fellows.

3. There has been a huge increase in online church activity and church comms has become an emerging profession. How can CIPR and the NFP group support those of us who work in church comms and promote it as a profession?

Holly said she would take this as a direct action and the Not-for-Profit group would seek to address this as part of this forthcoming employability series.

4. Is there an update on CIPR and PRCA partnerships? PRCA has the PR apprenticeship which seems to bring in new talent.

Mandy explained that where both organisations have a shared area of industry interest and/or it is in their members’ interest to, CIPR and PRCA do and will continue to collaborate. One example is the Government Communications Service Covid Advisory panel and recent joint research. At other times it is more appropriate for one or the other organisation to take the lead. The PR apprenticeship scheme is a good example of this.  CIPR’s members tended to have taken on apprentices via in-house organisations and local colleges provided the training support. For PRCA members who tend to be agencies there was demand for the PRCA to provide the training support so they have developed a PR apprenticeship. So both are bringing in new talent but in different ways.

5. Has the committee considered the use of a digital platform (Guild, Slack etc) to facilitate networking and peer support within the nor for profit group?

Vice-Chair Gemma Pettman told the meeting she had joined the Greater London Group’s Guild group to find out more about it. The question is what value it can add. The group’s Twitter is running well thanks to the commitment of a rota of volunteers and a new LinkedIn page has recently been launched. One benefit of expanding the committee is that we can look at more ways of adding value and Guild could potentially fill the networking gap that results from events moving online.