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by Sarah Pinch

Sarah blogs about topics relevant to leadership, public relations and communications. If you'd like to write a guest blog, please get in touch.

CIPR Election, when the PR becomes the story: #VotePete

15th October 2020 < Back
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In 2014 I was elected, unopposed to be President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for 2015, I had for years chaired the regional South West committee, and it was in Bristol that I first met Peter.

I had come from London, back home to the South West, to Bristol. I had come from the private sector to my first public sector role, as Director of Communications for the SW’s largest NHS acute hospital trust.  It was a culture shock. Peter soon joined Bristol City Council as their Communications Director and I came to value his support and advice.  We have remained friends over the last decade, or more.

I am supporting him to be elected President for 2022; he has experience of complex multi-stakeholder organisations, he’s worked all over the UK, he’s a committed volunteer to the institute and he has demonstrated his vision for our future.  I like his vision and I believe it is the right one for the future of the institute, I hope you do too and if you are a member you will #VotePete.

Let’s hear from Pete, directly: “I’m currently standing for President of my professional body, the CIPR.  Reflecting on it, running for election is a funny business for a PR person.

On the one hand, it is just another campaign, like all those you handle at work.

You have a clear objective, you seek to understand and segment your audience, you refine your messages, select your channels, sort out your evaluation, build your delivery team, review as you go and make whatever tweaks are necessary – and then you review and learn lessons at the end.

But on the other hand, its big difference is that you are the product yourself!

Obviously we’re all used to asking people for their help, as well as identifying a persuasive call-to-action – but it really is different when you’re asking people to campaign for you, to endorse you, to nominate you or to vote for you.

Suddenly you’re not just the behind the scenes agent of change on behalf of a client, a product, a service, or in my case (being a public sector specialist) a public policy objective, like recycling more or riding a bike. 

Suddenly, you’re not the one behind the camera, coaching your spokesperson, but you’re in front of the lens.

The good news is, that the generosity shown by friends will fill you with joy.

You’ll find mates who have been through it before, and will help guide you around the pitfalls – friends like Sarah Pinch of course, a former CIPR President herself.

You’ll find yourself on the receiving end of some frank advice, all offered with love – where the challenge is to take the criticism in the constructive spirit intended.

Much more though, you’ll find people overwhelming you with offers of practical support, pledges of their votes, and just the kind of virtual shoulder rub for support that you need when you are living alone in lockdown and wondering how things are going.

I had thought the hay fever season was over for the year, but I kept getting something in my eye when I watched the dozens of video endorsements made by friends accumulated over the years from all round the UK.

Of course my PR mates hated being in front of the camera themselves, but dozens still did so, and such is my love for them right back.

Because this is a virtual election of course, and it is 2020, so video is quite the thing, optimised for social media.  I’ve learned a lot about editing, subtitling and AI sentiment analysis during this campaign.  It’s seen a few firsts for me too – recording my first ever stop motion video, commissioned my first ever campaign jingle and created my first ever audiogram.  (I had to look it up – it’s that nice squiggly line effect to go with a voiceover.)

Every day is a school day!

Our members have come up with some great ideas during the campaign too – it has been a collaborative, listening and creative process for me.

It’s been an energetic campaign, and a very respectful one, and I’ve really grown to like and respect my opponent, who I’ve never actually met.  If Rachel wins, she’ll be a great President and I will support her.

I just offer a very different vision for the future, and some very solid campaign plans to actually deliver the radical change I think our Institute needs – to build on all that is right with it by addressing the parts that need a wholly fresh, positive strategic direction.

I think I’ve exhausted my 650 words without bothering to campaign.  So, I’ll just trust anyone who’s got this far, and who hasn’t yet voted to find out more about my bold and positive ambitions for our Institute by having a look at my blog at www.peterholt99.wordpress.com or giving me a shout on Twitter if you’d like a chat @peterholt99.

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