CIPR President: The inside story

What does the next President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) think about internal communication (IC)? Do they propose to be our ‘voice’ and what role do they think IC pros play?

There are currently two hats in the ring for the upcoming election for President-Elect 2013; Stephen Waddington, European digital and social media director at Ketchum and Dr Jon White, International consultant in management and organisation development.

I’ve taken editorial liberty with my opening sentence because as nominations close on 15 April, we may yet see someone else step forward. But for now, Stephen and Jon are the only people in the running.

There will be two CIPR elections for President-Elect in 2013. The first one will take place from 7-21 May and is the fresh election requested by the CIPR Council in November 2012, following questions about the validity of the result of the ballot held that year. This will return a President-Elect for 2013, who will take office as President from 1 January 2014. Only CIPR members can vote and the new President will be announced on 24 May.

The second election will be the annual CIPR election for President-Elect 2014, Treasurer and for up to seven elected seats on the CIPR Council. This ballot will take place in the autumn. Both elections will be run in line with the election rules as voted on by CIPR Council in January 2013.

Disclosure: I am one of the 10 CIPR members who has publicly nominated Stephen for candidacy, so you can correctly assume where my vote is going.

I know from feedback that lots of my blog readers are members, and if you are, I encourage you to use your vote for the person you feel best represents your views. Every single vote counts.

On behalf of CIPR members working or interested in IC, I wanted to discover what we can expect should Jon or Stephen be voted in and what their stance is when it comes to internal communication.

So I approached them both with the same questions in order for you to be able to make up your own mind and for us to have the opportunity to specifically discuss their views on internal communication. I’m delighted that they’ve taken the time to share their thoughts with the IC community via my blog and thank them for participating.

If you have questions for either candidate, you’re welcome to ask via the comments option below or you can find them on Twitter @wadds and @DrJonWhite.

1.You have 10 pledges as part of the CIPR Presidential process. What are they?

Stephen WaddingtonStephen: Our industry faces two critical challenges: getting to grips with media fragmentation, and shifting from a craft to a profession. I’ve developed ten action-led words and pledges as the heart of my campaign to tackle these two issues head-on.

The CIPR is addressing the first issue of media fragmentation via the Social Media Panel, training, and initiatives such as Share This, and we’re making good progress on professionalism with the new membership structure and by putting qualifications and training at the core of the CIPR’s proposition.

I can show a direct and on-going correlation between my skills and my income throughout my career. There is no clearer value in education and training. That’s a story that needs to be told.

I’ll continue to drive the social agenda within the CIPR, but we need to go much further. I’d like to see a roadmap to make Continuing Professional Development (CPD) mandatory, but first we’ve a job to do to demonstrate its value to employers.

Jon: Not so much pledges as commitments to act on and push on the recommendations coming out of the PR2020 report completed for the CIPR’s Research and Development Unit in the second half of 2011. The recommendations are:

  1. Jon WhiteThat the CIPR do more to lead the profession. This is a great opportunity for the CIPR, nationally and internationally. Nationally, its members expect it to do this. Internationally, CIPR can play a greater part in discussions and decisions made on practice development, at present being initiated by others, such as the Public Relations Society of America, the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management or the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)
  2. To put greater emphasis on taking public relations education and training to higher levels
  3. To provide better resources to assist practitioners in leading practice development by example. This will be done by providing support for professional development, by making the path to professional development clearer, and by demonstrating the value of reaching the highest levels of professional development
  4. To demonstrate clear thinking and guidance on measurement and evaluation of public relations
  5. That codes of conduct should be reviewed and strengthened
  6. That the Institute should lead and develop practitioner knowledge of digital communication
  7. That definitions of public relations should be reviewed, so that it is possible to talk clearly about the practice and the benefits that it should be expected to deliver
  8. That the Institute and practice need to develop a culture in which change is embraced, youth and experience reconciled
  9. To extend research and development work
  10. To continue to address questions of diversity in the practice

As I say in the statement in support of my candidacy, we have already made excellent progress in some of these areas, and we need to build on this. I am committed to continuity where good work has already been done, but I’ll be looking to an ambitious Institute leading a confident practice.

We are in danger of selling ourselves short if we focus too much on the tools of the practice, and too little on the purpose of public relations practice, which is to achieve results in relationships which are supportive of social, political, economic, organisation and individual development (not unrealistic – think of public relations contribution to government attempts to bring about welfare reform, the coming Scottish referendum on independence, HS2, News International’s attempts to repair reputation or an entrepreneur trying to win support for a start-up).

2. What role do you see IC pros playing in CIPR?

Stephen: Internal communications, like other specialists within the CIPR, must promote their own specialism and expertise within the CIPR, and the broader public relations industry. Social media provides an incredible opportunity for internal communicators to assert their knowledge. All public relations programmes should start with internal audiences.

Our opportunity as an industry is to look beyond the confines of our traditional areas of professional practice and position ourselves as the advisors to organisations as social technologies are embedded in different departments. The knowledge and skills of internal communicators is a very natural fit and it’s where we need to focus our energy as an organisation.

We need to be brave and confident as a profession.

Jon: Internal communications is an important specialisation within public relations.  It’s vital that it and other specialist areas be properly represented by groups that can speak on behalf of their interests within and outside the Institute. I see IC pros needing to do this more within the Institute. Their voice at the moment may be fairly muted.

In the whole of the PR2020 report, in discussions with members around the country, internal communications was mentioned only once.  There may be a certain dilution of effort here, where IC practitioners are also represented by the Institute of Internal Communication, and I would see it as a requirement that CIPR establish better collaboration with IoIC (as it needs to with other organisations such as the Chartered Institutes of Management, Personnel and Development and Marketing, as well as the PRCA).

3. At the recent CIPR Inside Annual General Meeting, the committee talked about the fact there isn’t a ‘voice’ for the internal communication community. Do you propose to be that?

Stephen: No, but I can help. CIPR Inside needs to promote its own experts. There are numerous members of the community that are building a profile through blogging and speaking. I sought out some of these individuals to contribute to Share This and Share This Too books. That’s an excellent starting point.

As President I would help promote these voices by ensuring that they are represented on Council – the CIPR’s governing body – and externally via social and traditional media. I comment and write regularly in the industry trade media. My job will not be done until I have usurped Max Clifford as the mouthpiece for the public relations industry.

Jon: Yes, with the help of others.  Not a glib response: I’ve been convinced of the significance of internal communication throughout my career.  I contributed to the first Gower Handbook on Internal Communication, writing a chapter on IC’s role in competitiveness and innovation. I’ve taught the subject on MBA and other masters’ programmes, and currently consult on, and provide training in internal communications with the European Commission.

Several years ago, I led a research team to complete an internal communication audit for the Department of Work and Pensions, and in 2011 co-organised an on internal communication.

4. If you were elected, what could IC pros expect from you?

Stephen: The levels of transparency demanded of organisations in the 21st century, coupled with the combination of social and traditional media means that our professional skills have never been in such demand. We have an incredible opportunity but – and I make no apologies for repeating myself – we need to be brave and confident.

I’ll bring leadership, continuity and energy to the CIPR, ensuring that it represents both its members and the broader public relations and communication industry.

You can expect me to promote the expertise of CIPR members in leadership areas such as internal communication whenever I have the opportunity, regionally, nationally or internationally.

Jon: I mentioned better collaboration with bodies such as the IoIC, sharing overlapping interests with the Institute.  There will also need to be a review within the Institute of the extent to which interest groups are able to make their voices heard, and the extent to which the special interest areas are properly represented by the Institute.

Recent years may have given the impression that Institute is mainly concerned with social media and their impact on practice.  I am not for a moment disputing their importance, but as I said earlier, the practice has broader concerns than how we make use of the tools within our reach – we need, as members who contributed to the PR2020 study said, to be able to speak more clearly about public relations, as a practice, and the benefits it can deliver.

5. How important is internal communication?

Stephen: The line between internal and external communications has been blurring over the past decade as a result of the fragmentation of media and the rise of social media. In Brand Anarchy I argued that it doesn’t exist anymore and that internal audiences are the most powerful voice of advocacy on behalf of any organisation in protecting and promoting reputation.

It would be wonderful if CIPR Inside as an expert group were able to investigate ways that the CIPR could improve member engagement. We need to move the organisation along the journey to becoming truly social. I’m a keen blogger and have proposed a monthly Twitter chat as my start point as President.

We are after all in the business of public relations.

Jon: Important and essential – it is the stuff of life for an organisation.  As a psychologist, I learned early on that groups come into being through communication and that more formal groups – organisations – survive and thrive partly through their approaches to internal communication.

In terms of our practice, public relations, when we consider important relationships the relationship that an organisation has with its own members has to be one of the first to be considered.

This is not just my view but is one amply illustrated by the recent experience of British Airways and its parent company, or by research such as the recently completed IBM 2012 CEO study. In this study, Leading through Connections, CEOs restated what we know already – that the people who make up their organisations are a primary source of sustained economic value, to be communicated with and developed accordingly.

Any additional questions?

Thank you again to Jon and Stephen for sharing their thoughts. What do you think of their answers? What do you agree/disagree with?

If you have questions for either candidate, you’re welcome to ask via the comments option below or you can find them on Twitter @wadds and @DrJonWhite.

Final thoughts

It’s been a week since I launched my refreshed website and I’d like to thank readers for comments, emails and tweets wishing me well with my new career choice. I’m thrilled that you like the new look blog and I welcome feedback to help me constantly improve it.

As a sneaky peek on my blog, you can expect to see a book review by Leoni Atkins, guest article by Padraic Knox and I’ve written an article on using social media for leadership communication for my monthly column on Neal Schaffer’s blog.

Thank you for stopping by, Rachel.


  1. Read your post on the train this morning. Looking forward to seeing some direct debates in the near future and if anyone else will enter the leadership race.

    My main focus is on CIPR approved courses. I’ve heard Jon’s view on this but what is Stephen’s?

    I’m all for training in the profession but having already spent £20,000 on a University course, I’m not best pleased at the thought of writing more essays for mandatory CIPR tuition.

  2. Thank you for the write-up Rachel, and thanks for commenting Michael.

    The CIPR is a commercial organisation, and the bottom line is that professional qualifications cost money to administer, teach and examine.

    However, I’d encourage anyone to start with Continuing Professional Development (CPD, which is free), and access qualifications as and when they are able to afford them. Often employers are typically willing to share the cost.

    Throughout my career I can show a direct collaboration between my qualification, skills and ability to generate an income.

    There are plenty of no-cost or low-cost training options that are accessible via the CIPR. For example, CPD is accessible from the CIPR website and has links to skills guides, webinars and more.

    I hope that answers your question, thank you for seeking my view.


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