What made you decide to run for the CIPR presidency?
I’ve volunteered with the CIPR for 18 years in a range of guises, from regional chair through to board and council member.
While I’ve always been an avid supporter, I have had frustrations with the organisation at times. I stood for president because I want to reassert the CIPR’s value within the public relations community and align its purpose and offer accordingly.
How have you found your first few days in the role?
I had some anxiety before taking up the role but actually the first few days have emboldened me. Publishing the organisation’s 2018 plan in a bid to be completely transparent made me feel vulnerable. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
What makes it so strong is that it’s a plan by the members for the members and this creates an opportunity to react to feedback in an agile way.
What are the key challenges facing the PR industry in 2018?
Where to start? We have some big challenges, but these are equally big opportunities. Take Brexit – it’s hard to predict what will happen next, but PR professionals are best placed to help their employers and clients navigate change.
Artificial Intelligence is a major threat and we’re already starting to feel the impact of machines in at least three areas: content production; content distribution and publication; and workflow. We’re creating a panel at the CIPR to look at this in depth to help members get to grips with what this means for daily practice.
Finally, an ongoing challenge is other service lines eating our lunch. I believe we can establish ourselves as the dominant discipline if we treat public relations as a strategic management function.
One of your key objectives is promoting PR as a strategic management function. What benefits will that bring to the industry?
This is my biggest goal for 2018 and builds on the work of the #FuturePRoof community that I founded two years ago.
There are two parts to this. Firstly, if we treat public relations as a strategic management function it changes how we approach our continuing professional development, because it requires a focus on strategic, ethical and leadership capabilities. The CIPR Charter status requires exactly this skill set. So, the aim is to get to a point where this badge of professional excellence and integrity is the norm.
Secondly, if we want to speak the language of the C-suite and advise at board level, we need to have the appropriate competencies to do this and prove that we practice the highest standards. That’s why the above is so important. It’s a way of demonstrating our worth, reinforcing our value and demonstrating our role in achieving organisational success.
In this way, we’ll create more opportunities and command bigger budgets, as well as perhaps one day lead the whole marketing and communications function.
You’re also looking to improve diversity both at the CIPR and across the industry as a whole. How do you plan on doing that?
We already work with the Taylor Bennett Foundation and we intend to build on this throughout 2018, also working with the PRCA.
Within the CIPR, I’m already ringing the changes. For the first time we have two BAME practitioners on board, including a younger practitioner at the start of her career. Traditionally we’ve only elected or co-opted experienced professionals but it’s clear we need to be open to the views of younger generations too.
Social mobility is a big challenge for the industry. Public relations is becoming a closed shop for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and this is an issue I’m very passionate about. If I hadn’t received a council grant, I wouldn’t have gone to university or be doing the job I am today.
As such, we’ll be announcing a partnership with a charity called Career Ready that will hopefully help combat this problem.
Finally, if you could pick one thing to achieve by the end of your tenure, what would it be?
If by the end of my tenure the business community and employers have a better understanding of what public relations is, as well as the value it can bring, I’ll be happy.
- You can follow Sarah Hall on Twitter @Hallmeister