Teela Clayton volunteered with the CIPR Yorkshire and Lincolnshire committee last year, after initially joining the CIPR on a student membership. Here she shares some of the committee’s experiences. 

In February 2020, I attended my first CIPR event (and one of the last irl events) in the form of a pub quiz. My team had been sponsored by the kindly Richard Bailey, one of our lecturers at Leeds Beckett University, and a stalwart in the PR world, and the idea was to give us postgrads a formative experience of networking. We didn’t win the quiz (I blame obscure Yorkshire facts that even me mum wouldn’t know) but I did meet Internal Comms guru Josephine Graham and InFusion MD and Chartered PR Sara Hawthorn who totally sold the dream of volunteering to me. Over a year later and both my knowledge and networks have expanded, all thanks to the CIPR Yorkshire and Lincolnshire committee.  

I’m not the only member who has benefitted from the network. Dave Glanville, Digital Engagement Lead at Covea and our CIPR Y&L Chair says: “[It’s the] best way to meet some of the brilliant and committed PR and comms professionals in the region / country.  

“The best thing about volunteering [is] learning from other people and hearing their stories -- hearing about people's lives away from the social media sheen and being able to be part of a bigger community.” 

Rebecca Jackson, Account Director at Definition and Lucie Rohani, a senior PR professional, agree. Rebecca says one of the best things about volunteering is: “obviously getting to know our fab committee members who I am always learning from and can provide advice and ideas when needed. Volunteers are essential for the running of so many organisations and groups and to know you’re spending time with people who have given up their free time to help others is always pretty awe-inspiring. 

“I’ve been very lucky to work for an agency that places an emphasis on supporting and nurturing the PR community and especially offering opportunities to those who may not have had a traditional PR background before joining the industry, but I want this to be widespread across the industry. Being involved in the CIPR Committee allows me to learn about what other agencies are doing, share best practice and ultimately help build a more diverse, inclusive PR community for the region in the future.” 

Lucie adds: “It's rare that you get the opportunity to collaborate outside of your team or client base. They're a great bunch of very talented people!” 

When we gather for our monthly meetings over the ubiquitous Teams (is that a collective sigh I hear?!) it seems bizarre that I have yet to meet some of the committee in the flesh. How else has Covid-19 impacted the volunteer experience? What have been the challenges? Dave says: “Time! And level of connectivity. We are more connected to people than ever before but it feels like we have less quality time to spend with those who are meaningful to us.  

“The asynchronicity and instantaneousness of dialogue across channels can be challenging to manage and keep up with. Keeping people included in conversations is tough.” 

Rebecca says: “I love working with people and being part of a team, whatever role I’m doing, so whilst it’s been great to take advantage of some of the virtual meeting options and make things much more accessible for those who can’t do face-to-face, I’ve really missed the buzz and collaboration of being in a room with people. I’ve found some of the CIPR resources incredibly valuable this year whilst managing a remote team and in developing wellbeing programmes within the agency, so it’s really shown the benefits being a CIPR member brings.” 

As people in the industry start to embrace a hybrid way of working, how will volunteering shift? Lucie says: “Like everyone, we've had to adjust to working remotely and rethink how we provide value for our members. We've been lucky to have had the support of a number of fantastic people in the industry to help us to deliver virtual panels sessions over the past year. We're hoping we can continue these alongside face to face events as the world starts to reopen.” 

The pandemic has sharpened how vital the CIPR's volunteer network is. It's been a way to stay connected, to check in, to help each other navigate through the many challenges which the last year has brought us.  

The Yorkshire and Lincolnshire committee has such a brilliant breadth of experience and skill which has resulted in the delivery of a great series of events to help agencies and practitioners in the region develop their professional skills.