Halfway through his 2016 presidential term at the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations), Rob Brown talks about the professional body, its ongoing work, and reflects on the issues and opportunities currently affecting the wider PR industry.
How are you finding your time as CIPR president?
It’s an honour and a challenge. I’ve spent a lot of time working with the staff on a range of projects and issues; the new magazine Influence, membership benefits and growth, financial performance and promotion of the new route to Chartered Practitioner status.
Most of the work is behind the scenes and I was told by several senior members at the recent Excellence awards that I need to be more ‘high profile’. Perhaps this will help!
What are the big issues currently affecting the PR industry?
Like every communications-related field we are in a state of flux. That’s both really exciting and a little daunting. The growth in visual communications is critically important. We need to be able to advise and support in the complex field of video. We’ll see a step change there in the next few years.
What can PRs do to help their clients navigate this, potentially turbulent, time?
Public Relations practitioners should do what they have always done, and that’s to give strategic counsel as well as providing tactical communications support. That starts with a deep understanding of both the communications landscape and the sectors in which they are working.
What advice would you give to PR team leaders? How do you create a top-performing team?
Always surround yourself with the best available people. Increasingly you also need a mix of skills. Media expertise is just as important as ever but now we need to grasp data and analytics and a richer mix of communications skills.
As a whole, what do you perceive to be the industry’s weak points?
It is still undervalued. David Cameron is a PR person. Gordon Brown is married to a very successful PR practitioner and yet the importance of PR isn’t properly understood at the highest level in many businesses and organisations. Many of the predicaments that we face nationally and globally are due to a failure of communications. If the practice was well regarded we might all be in a better place.
If you weren’t working in PR, what would you be doing?
Lots of things interest me. Being a film maker or a graphic designer would be rewarding. I’m interested in politics and I seriously considered that as a student. I’ve written a book, so if I had time I’d write more. To be honest, I am pretty happy working in PR.
- Rob Brown is managing partner at Rule 5, and president of the CIPR