An international conversation with CIPR candidates
Result announced: The UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has announced the results of its 2014 President election – with Stephen Waddington the successful candidate [polling 68% of votes; turnout 8.8% of membership].
PR Conversations offers congratulations to Stephen and Commisserations to Jon, the two candidates.
During the election campaign, we invited them to participate in a PR Conversations post, and asked our public relations colleague and good friend, Dan Tisch, chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, for some questions with an international dimension—before subjecting the election duo to one supplementary question and then a few quick-fire responses to an abridged version of our PRoust Questionnaire.
Let’s begin with Dan’s questions and the candidates’ responses:
Dan Tisch (DT): CIPR membership is a passport to participation in a global professional community. Under your presidency, how would you enhance the international outlook of CIPR, and what do you think are the keys for CIPR to enhance the value of global connections for its members?
Stephen Waddition (SW): International members are the route ensuring that the CIPR is relevant on the worldwide stage. The CIPR has an opportunity to take its core products, namely training and qualifications to a wider international audience.
The CIPR’s opportunity lies in developing relationships with other public relations organisations such as Global Alliance, IABC and ICCO. As president I’d be keen to act as an ambassador for the CIPR and members whenever I had the opportunity.
This is my day job at Ketchum travelling and advising clients through Europe as well as those assisted globally by the agency from North America, Asia and Latin America.
Jon White (JW): CIPR’s critics have suggested that the Institute has become inward-looking and self-serving. In the first item in my campaign statement, echoing CIPR members’ views, I said that I want to see CIPR reassert its leadership, nationally and internationally. Headquartered in London, which is a global centre of practice, the Institute has much to offer the international community of practice, and much to learn from other professional associations. Despite an active international interest group, the Institute–for reasons having to do with its recent history–is not particularly internationalist in outlook at the moment.
I am internationalist in outlook and experience and will be pushing the Institute to make a greater contribution to international professional development. Keys to this are the Institute recognising its international role and having something to offer in playing this role.
DT: In what areas would you most like to see CIPR collaborate with professional associations and institutes around the world?
JW: Practice development, through contribution to the development of standards in public relations education and training, and through closer attention to the national and international benefits to be realised from public relations practice (in terms of conflict resolution, social and economic development (some of this has been started already through work on the Stockholm Accords and Melbourne Mandate, but much more needs to be done to translate these initiatives into practical results).
SW: I firmly believe that we have a moment in time. The profession is either on the threshold of becoming incredibly valuable as a management discipline or it faces irrelevance. It really is that stark. We need to listen and learn from others organisations around the world and then apply what we learn as a global community to ensure that it’s the former rather than the latter.
The CIPR and UK public relations industry leads the profession in many areas but we have much to learn from other regions and industries that are more agile and focused on innovation.
DT: If you could ask one research question to PR professionals and/or academics all over the world, what would you ask them, and why?
SW: How do we ensure that the profession asserts its value as a management discipline and what are you personally doing about it? It has been one of the key themes of the election for CIPR president.
JW: I would like to see a research study carried out to summarise the ideas, theories and models that inform modern public relations practice. This would be done through a content analysis of practitioners’ statements on practice, and would be carried out as a start towards showing how the practice can be enriched by an infusion of ideas, theories and findings from the social sciences, business and management studies.
I suggest this study because of a summary contained in an entry on public relations in the International Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences in 1968, written by Robert Carlson. He said then that the practice drew on a paucity of theories and concepts. This, in my view,remains true today and needs to be investigated and addressed. A good current example is of AMEC’s attempt to develop valid metrics for the measurement of public relations practice, where the metrics draw on a model of the communications process developed in the 1940s which no longer has the explanatory power that it had when it was first devised.
DT: The next World PR Forum will take place in Madrid in September 2014, and it’s expected to attract professionals from 30 countries. At this early stage, what do you believe CIPR can or should contribute to that event?
JW: Much will depend on the theme decided upon, but I would expect CIPR–in its own right and as a significant member of the Global Alliance–to be involved in discussions around possible themes and to support these with ideas and suggestions regarding speakers.
SW: The CIPR is already contributing to the community through the work of the Global Alliance by tackling the issue of the relevance of the profession to the standard for international reporting. The Consultation Draft of the International Reporting Framework is an important piece of work as it promises to provide public relations practitioners with a narrative and vocabulary to engage with management in the area of benchmarking and evaluation. This is our natural ground but we risk it being taken from under us by faster moving disciplines.
Anne Gregory, CIPR past-president, and member of the CIPR Council, is chair-elect of the Global Alliance. We have the opportunity to contribute directly to the World PR Forum by listening and learning from discussions, and in areas where the CIPR leads practice such as diversity, social media, public affairs and internal communication.
Our supplementary question was:
PRC: If introducing new initiatives, how would you ensure that as many qualified CIPR members as possible would receive an invitation and/or opportunity to play a role?
SW: It’s been suggested numerous times during this election that public relations organisations have a challenging time engaging with members. That hasn’t been my experience at all. Members and non-members have been keen to discuss issues facing the professional directly and via a variety of media. Technology has makes it easy for our members all over the world to engage directly.
As CIPR president I would continue this dialogue engaging with members in any way that they choose and by examining how we can innovate with technology.
JW: If elected president, new initiatives will be developed out of discussions with members, where my ideas, as president, will be tested against their contribution to discussions. I plan to use face-to-face meetings by preference supplementing these with other forms of communication, choosing these as they are appropriate and useful.
Finally, we put Stephen and Jon under the spotlight to answer some of the questions from our PRoust Questionnaire. As ever, we asked for their spontaneous thoughts….
What is your most striking characteristic as a PR practitioner?
JW: Thoughtful analysis.
SW: I’m a doer. Sleeves rolled up, I lead from the front on client assignments and through blogging, writing and speaking.
What is your principal fault as a PR practitioner?
SW: Not switching off from media. We have a rule at home that my BlackBerry and iPad are put away whenever the family is together. My daughters are as fixated with the media as I am, but my wife and son both insist on a no-device policy when we’re together. Fair enough.
Who would you describe as a PR hero or villain?
JW: Alastair Campbell (both hero and villain).
SW: James Grunig is a hero for his relentless energy in engaging with the public relations community on his Excellence Theory over the last 30 years. Whatever your view of the Excellence Model and Four Model of Public Relations, he practices his own theory of public relations excellence.
Has a novel, film, play or other work of fiction ever influenced you as a PR practitioner?
SW: There are so many. The Wire [American television show 2002-08] is a brilliant portrayal of the pressures facing traditional media and the challenges that professional communicators face in dealing with the media.
The Constant Gardener (2005) tells the story of a public relations battle between activists, business, government and drug companies in Kenya. It’s a gripping story with wonderful cinematography. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are also the lead characters. I’m not sure you could ask for much more.
JW: I am constantly influenced by novels, films, works of fiction and plays. Shakespeare saved my life.
Who is your favourite writer?
JW: George Orwell
SW: Ernest Hemmingway for fiction; he’s simply a beautiful writer and was a great traveller–we could all learn from him about media misinformation. Steve Biddulph for non-fiction; every parent and child should read his books about communication between the generations. My copies of Raising Boys and recently published Raising Girls are both well-thumbed.
What skills and abilities do you think tomorrow’s PR leaders need?
SW: Open communication, decisive action and personal presence. Change is the only constant for our profession but the demands on leadership remain a constant.
JW: Humility, breadth of vision, pragmatism and ability to get things done
How would you describe the current state of public relations?
JW: On the brink of opportunity or irrelevance.
SW: The public relations industry lacks confidence. We debate our purpose while other disciplines such advertising, digital and management consultancy are asserting their value. Thanks to media fragmentation we increasingly have the media and the means to help organisations engage in a two-way relationship with their audiences. The profession will either become incredibly valuable as a management discipline in the next decade or irrelevant.
What is your PR motto?
SW: Let’s get on with it. We haven’t got much time.
JW: From W H Auden: “We must love one another or die.”