Talking Point

CIPR President’s Reception Speech

IMG_2007 Yesterday was an exceptional day.  I chaired my first Chartered Institute of Public Relations Council and Board meetings, hosted a President’s reception at the Institute of Directors, awarded the first two, of ten, Honorary Fellowships to mark the tenth anniversary of the Institute becoming a Chartered body, to Professor Anne Gregory and Stephen Waddington and hosted a dinner afterwards with representatives from other Institutes and organisations who will help the CIPR further develop.

Here is my speech from last night.  Thank you to everyone who came and everyone who has been generous in their praise for the event.  There’s much to do.

Good evening and welcome to the President’s reception.

Thank you Anne for presenting me with this amazing medal, it is my privilege and honour to wear it for this year.  To wear such a prominent sign of trust and public trust at that, is most befitting for a president of our institute.

This year, I am leading a membership body and in turn hoping to influence business to understand the four foundations of professional standards in public relations:

  • Accountability to a Code of Conduct,
  • Skilled or qualified to carry out their role,
  • Engaged in continuing professional development, and
  • Validation of these points in a way the public can access and understand.

I believe these four foundations form the basis of who is and is not a public relations professional.

These themes will work alongside my mission for the year:

  • To make membership more meaningful to clients and employers
  • For the CIPR to stand up for a profession confident in its high standards and able to demonstrate its value
  • For the Code of Conduct and our CPD system to be positioned as assets that build trust in our practice
  • To reach audiences beyond the industry.

It means we have a busy, exciting and challenging year ahead.

I want 2015 to be remembered as the year we helped UK plc and beyond, distinguish between the informal approach to being “professional” – that is to say – someone who does a jolly good job all the time and  someone who is accountable in a meaningful way with an understanding of their ethical responsibilities.

Businesses, organisations, charities, councils, journalists, the public – my mother – everyone needs to be able to tell the difference.

To paraphrase one of my board colleagues no one in this room this evening would entrust their accounts to someone who is jolly nice and owns a calculator, but I suspect many of you have entrusted your reputation, your public relations, to a lovely chap, a charming woman, who owns a PC and is rather good with words.

This has to stop.

Today, the CIPR board discussed and agreed our plan for the future:

  • to encourage – and in some cases demand – more member engagement with CPD
  • promote greater uptake of skills training and qualifications
  • and to be clear on what is ‘Meaningful validation’ – making the case for Chartered Practitioners – as a benefit to the public and a practical role for the professional.

We will raise our profile and nail our colours clearly and proudly to the mast of professionalism.  That is my passion and I am proud to be president of this institute.

This year is, of course, election year.  I think this is as close as I might get to being an MP, so I am delighted that this evening we are publishing our manifesto.  There are copies for all of you, but let me highlight three key points:

  • We believe in a professional future for lobbying – we are asking the next Government to actively support the development of a highly skilled, qualified and ethically competent group of lobbyists that serves the needs of a modern complex democracy.
  • We are asking the next Government for a Royal Commission on Data Protection to urgently address the rapid changes in the market for data
  • And we are seeking the next Government to assist in the creation of a new corporate culture in the UK based on wider value creation and with a firm understanding of the importance of relationships and reputation in business decision making.

This speech would be incomplete without three more things.

Firstly, more than a decade ago, whilst I was working for the BBC I undertook an anonymous survey of my department to understand any discrepancies in salaries.  It showed a substantial difference between the two most senior members.  Same job.  Same experience.  Different gender.  This year the CIPR has been working hard on supporting women and seeking to redress the gender pay gap within Public Relations.  It is still there.  In fact the State of the Profession research will be published later this month and there is more to do.  Our work is being led by my board colleague, Sarah Hall, no finer person is there to attack this topic.  We will not rest until there is greater equality.  It is after all, the law.

Secondly, thank you.  Some of you in this room supported my presidential campaign, with your nominations, your encouragement and your support.  Some bought me drinks.  Some bought me books.  And one person put the idea in my head Stephen Waddington it’s all your fault.  As the immediate past president, Wadds’ shoes are big ones to fill, but mine are better.  So I am confident in the task ahead.

Thank you to my board colleagues, we have a 50/50 gender split, more members from outside London and today’s meeting was strong, decisive and extremely encouraging

Thirdly.  This year marks ten years of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.  And we will be giving ten honorary fellowships this year.  The first two are being awarded this evening.  It is my enormous pleasure to take forward the wish of the CIPR’s national council and award these two honorary fellowships this evening, to Professor Anne Gregory and Stephen Waddington.

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