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Just Talk - prioritising your mental health

by Kevin Hegarty, CIPR North West committee member
11 June 2024

The fact that nine in every 10 CIPR members have experienced poor mental health in the last 12 months should be one of those ‘stop you in your tracks and think’ moments.

Delve a little deeper into the CIPR and PRCA Mental Wellbeing Audit 2023/2024 – published last month – to find that 60 per cent had told someone at work about their struggles.

I applaud everyone who’s taken that step, but I also worry about the 30 per cent who haven’t (told anyone they work with). I just hope they have someone they can talk to at home, if it’s hard to talk to a work colleague – or even impossible to - if you are an independent practitioner.

I filmed a video earlier this year, for an employee roadshow. Two engineers chatting about their experience of dealing with a sudden loss (of a work colleague), and how the camaraderie and support of the team they work with provided essential help in the darkest of moments.

One of the engineers, Maurice, looked straight into the camera and said: “Just talk.”

It was a powerful moment. “There are times when you spend more time with your work colleagues than you do with your family,” Maurice reminded us. “Just talk,” he said again.

You may know that I opened up last year to having needed professional help with regard to my own mental health, twice in the last 10 years. I was very grateful to receive some lovely comments from friends and colleagues – but I hadn’t quite anticipated that it would lead to others opening up, sharing their own stories, or taking that step to ‘just talk’ and seek help.

What it made me realise is something that’s just been staring me in the face for a long time – that there are a lot of people in PR in a very similar boat. You are not alone. ‘Normalising’ the discussion, opening up, talking about it, and accepting that some days it’s okay not to be okay – it really does make a big difference, both for yourself and for others.

Please remember that your membership of CIPR gives you access to resources such as the Iprovision mental health hotline (free, 24/7, 365 days a year). The Health Assured team can help with mental health, as well as specialist financial and debt advice. You can find the numbers you need and more information on the CIPR website.


World Day for Cultural Diversity

by Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe, Head of Engagement, Cabinet Office, CIPR North West committee member and host of 'Meet the Mancunian' podcast
2 May 2024

21 May is the annual World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, organised by UNESCO. This day celebrates the richness of the world’s culture and the role of intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and sustainable development. UNESCO encourages the celebration of cultural diversity and protecting it in their own communities.

The UK is a multicultural society with many cultures that thrive in it. If you are communicating to a diverse culture, here are a few tips you may like to consider:

*   Be direct, use plain English and avoid idioms or metaphors which may not resonate.
*   Be clear and speak slowly, if it’s verbal communication (a speech, a video, a podcast, radio).
*   Publish transcripts if it’s video or audio.
*   Be aware and respectful of different cultures.
*   Do not single out a single community or favour one group over another.
*   Encourage localisation of your message to communities or locations, rather than a broad-brush national message.
*   Be careful about body language and non-verbal communication.
*   If it’s an interactive session, think about setting the agenda with sufficient time to test understanding. You may also like to share a pre-read so people have a chance to digest the material in advance. Follow up with a read-out or minutes.
*   Be careful about humour and ensure it is landing with the intended audience.
*   Sometimes you may inadvertently alienate an audience; again, testing is a good way to make sure your message is heard as you intended.
*   When in doubt, ask a friendly contact to review your message or piece of communications to get an alternative perspective.
*   If you have a campaign planned, do include a range of images and people.

We are all on a journey of making communications more inclusive. We would love to hear your thoughts and approaches and share them with other communicators.

Do share them with [email protected].


My chartership assessment day

by David Tarbuck, CIPR North West committee member
1 May 2024

It was an early start. 9am for some; 5am for me. With good fortune, on least on this day, at 4am my five-month-old baby woke up for a feed and I arose from semi-sleep to tend to him. Once his belly was full, I silently mouthed to him a sincere “thank you” as he journeyed back to slumberland. On important days I worry about automatically hitting the snooze button, but my son is more effective than any alarm clock. Good boy.

It was chartership assessment day. I tested the wi-fi at 4.45am local time, as in Buenos Aires it can be temperamental. It was just my luck that I signed up for an assessment day while overseas, but the timing felt right and I had the necessary period to prepare.

Back on UK time, by 9am we were being admitted to the Zoom call. I could see who else was on the assessment and we were joined by our team of assessors.

The plan was simple. It would begin with a person-by-person introduction and guidance on the role of the assessors. Once the niceties were done, a session on ethics would commence, then separate sessions on leadership and strategy.

We would be divided into small groups and joined by a different assessor for each session. The lead assessor would pop into each group from time to time to listen in. The fourth and final session would be a peer review of our individual two-year CPD plans, with no assessors present.

Let’s rewind two weeks, to when I had received from CIPR HQ a host of documents and links with which to prepare. Alongside the chartership handbook and other useful guides, there were three papers to read through and analyse. Five questions accompanied each paper.

It was made clear that when discussing the papers on assessment day, it was important to cover my own experience and bring specific examples to the table. This was easier said than done, I thought to myself, so I let ideas develop themselves in my head over the preceding weekend.

On the day, I was glad to have taken sufficient time beforehand to reflect on both the papers and my career. Even when I had no personal comparison, I could provide my thoughts on other cases and put them into the right context. I felt prepared.

I quickly discovered this was the main thing that concerns those who are being assessed – specifically the fear of being put in the spotlight and expected to talk about personal experience. I was lucky to have what I considered to be good examples, but not everyone has the same role or career history.

For example, another applicant in my group was well-prepared and confident enough to state, during one session, that there was no direct example they could give in their specific experience. Nevertheless, they had taken time to properly consider the issue and how it may or may not be relevant to them in the future. I found this to be impressive and it was no surprise when they received a positive result at the end of the day.

Each of the ethics, leadership and strategy sessions lasted one hour. Time went quickly and they could have overrun easily. My wi-fi was reliable throughout and my contributions crossed the Atlantic without the slightest hiccup.

Everyone was expected to contribute equally and the assessors facilitated this. The supplied questions were really prompts, as the direction of the discussions would often lead the assessors to pose different questions. In theory this sounds challenging, but once we comms people get talking we tend to become more relaxed and fluid.

I found the peer review of CPD plans to be very useful indeed. I was open about taking some of my colleagues’ excellent ideas and including them in my own plan. After all, why not learn from your peers?

At the end of assessment day, we were put back into the main group. After a few minutes I was added to a side room with the lead assessor, who informed me of my positive result and gave me specific feedback. A smile on my face, I posed for a group photo and then disconnected from my longest-ever Zoom meeting.

If you’ve been thinking about getting chartered then I really encourage you to go for it. You will need to be able to take a broader view of issues relating to ethics, leadership and strategy; and have a good understanding of the CIPR code of conduct. You don’t need to be a specific age or type of person; we are a diverse community and this showed on my assessment day. You don’t even need to be in the same country or time zone!

My main advice is to prepare properly and then try to relax and enjoy it. I found the experience fulfilling because of the opportunity to discuss important industry topics and personal experiences with my peers, within a specific framework.

As we were told at the end of assessment day, chartership should not be seen as the final destination but more a sign of your ongoing commitment to yourself and others. It is a badge of professionalism that your colleagues, clients and the public can understand and trust. Therefore, the more of us that become chartered, the better our industry will become.

Information on CIPR Chartership can be found here.


Tailoring communication to neurodiverse audiences

by Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe, Head of Engagement, Cabinet Office, CIPR North West committee member and host of 'Meet the Mancunian' podcast
10 April 2024

In April, the UN and other organisations observe Autism Awareness Day. The United Nations has observed the day as a means to affirm and promote the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for autistic people on an equal basis with others.

Did you know that over 20% of the UK population is neurodivergent?  This equates to 13 million people, including 700,000 people with autism spectrum condition and two million people with dyslexia.  Neurodivergence also includes attention hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, among others.  (Source) https://www.icaew.com/insights/viewpoints-on-the-news/2023/mar-2023/neurodiversity-the-power-of-thinking-differently

There are many different kinds of neuro diversity; here is a visual:



Please do consider how to make your communication more accessible and inclusive for neurodiverse audiences. This means you would cater well to more neuro typical audiences too.

Here are a few resources to get started:

GCS Accessible communication
CIPR Inclusive communications
HBR
How to support successful communication with people on the spectrum
Linked In
Web design

Do you have resources you would like to share with fellow communicators? We would love to hear from you!


The achievable 60 CPD points

by Zhen Yang, CIPR North West member
 7 March 2024

I'll be honest - I didn't think I could complete 60 CPD points within 12 months. As a CIPR member since 2021, the first two years seemed like an uphill battle. I'd make ambitious plans to gain 10 points per month, but life always got in the way. Between my demanding day job, caring for my toddler and general busyness, I felt defeated and ready to give up on my membership, wondering if I was gaining anything at all.

That's when a candid chat with my colleague, another CIPR member, opened my eyes. As I vented about time management struggles, she pointed out that 60 points seem daunting but is achievable through small steps. Utilising pockets of time during commutes, attending non-mandatory events, mentoring, reading articles, listening to podcasts or watching recorded CIPR workshops - all these micro-activities could accumulate points without overwhelming me.

It was a penny-drop moment. I'd been engaging in these professional development activities all along through work but never connected the dots to link them with CIPR's CPD requirements. From then on, I made a conscious effort to log my learning experiences. Reading industry articles recommended by CIPR during lunch breaks? 5 points. Listening to podcasts on my commute? Another 5. Regular mentoring sessions? That’s 5 more points! Even a communications workshop organised by another professional body counted towards my CPD. Slowly but surely, the points started to add up.

Reflecting on what I've achieved, I've discovered two important takeaways. First, if you're juggling work, life and feeling daunted by the 60-point target, don't be discouraged. Look at the CPD activities you're already doing and start logging them. Second, if you haven’t started any learning yet, it’s never too late to begin. To achieve 60 points, you only need to participate in 12 activities like reading an article or listening to a podcast, which are typically worth 5 points each. Once you have the right mindset, enjoy the learning process at your own pace.

Don't hesitate to reach out to fellow CIPR members or the staff if you need support. Sometimes, we get tunnel vision and need someone to widen our perspective. We're a community of communicators, here to support each other's growth. What once seemed impossible became achievable once I adjusted my mindset and made use of these spare moments. With the right approach, you can achieve your CPD goals too.


How organisations can best drive change this International Women's Day and beyond

by Alexia Jones, CIPR North West committee member
 7 March 2024

Gone are the days where posting about a female employee with a trending hashtag is enough to reflect an organisation’s commitment to equality, and rightly so.

There seems to be a level of disappointment surrounding this year’s #IWD2024 theme ‘Inspiring inclusion’, it being seen as too broad a message compared to the UN’s more refined ‘Invest in women – accelerate progress’.

With more nuanced understandings surrounding gender disparities, communications professionals need to equip brands to provide impactful insight surrounding these topics, which link back to their everyday actions.

PR therefore plays a critical role in harnessing the power of storytelling to convey important messages and sharing them clearly and transparently.

Like with any good campaign, outputs must be linked to a clear objective. A singular post with a generic message will not only get lost amongst the noise but will convey a weak commitment to the cause.

Similarly, only using awareness days and annual themes to promote social issues doesn’t show stakeholders you authentically care about them, but that you are more concerned with appearing to be doing good, drawing parallels with greenwashing.

Rather than a last-minute social media post, ensure you are feeding these messages out all year round to keep conversations going, creating a sustained effort which is linked to your wider goals.

Not only does it mean you are embedding equality into your overall key messages but, if you are creating this content all year around, it will also make it easier to amplify these stories on awareness days.

Therefore, set clear objectives to inform your strategy for IWD and beyond, which includes having a good understanding of who is represented in your organisation and how this reflects your approach to gender diversity.

For example, more than half (60%) of the UK public relations industry is made up of female professionals, but representation in director-level positions is significantly lower (46%). (PR Population Report, 2024)

It may seem like a positive message to say your business is at a 50/50 split, but the story changes if your female employees aren’t progressing to the same levels as their male counterparts.

This then extends to those who face multiple barriers in the workplace, such as racial discrimination and ablism. Are you only representing white able-bodied women in senior positions to showcase gender equality?

Instead, use IWD as an opportunity to tell your brand’s story from a range of perspectives, and promote the initiatives your company takes to actively combat barriers to fair opportunities, eg training, innovative policies and research to identify gaps.

As a starting point, be transparent about where you are currently at and how you aim to do better, using employee stories to reflect accurately your organisation’s culture and avoid tokenism.

Understand why you are choosing to speak out on IWD and whether this links back to an authentic commitment to making an impact.

Overall, it should be seen is a good opportunity to round up what you’ve been doing all year and potentially bring attention to important initiatives and resources available to promote equality.

Rather than staying silent, use it as a chance to mark your progress, empower those who are doing good and ultimately invest time to reflect on how your brand can best contribute to making a positive difference.


Happy International Women's Day - but is it?

by Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe, Head of Engagement, Cabinet Office, CIPR North West committee member and host of 'Meet the Mancunian' podcast
5 March 2024

Happy International Women’s Day to everyone. There are two themes for this year’s International Women’s Day.  United Nations Women has announced a theme of Invest in Women: accelerate progress #InvestInWomen.  This includes a focus on achieving gender equality by 2030 by ending poverty, implementing gender-responsive financing, shifting to a green economy and care society that amplifies women’s voices and supporting feminist change-makers.

There is a second theme of #InspireInclusion #IWD2024, which aims to help people understand and value women’s inclusion.  Here, again, the emphasis is on gender equality through inclusion.  This theme calls for action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes and create environments where all women are valued and respected.  Inspire Inclusion encourages everyone to recognise the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalised communities.

Both themes are about gender equality and whether you follow one theme or both, do consider what steps you may like to take to support thriving careers for the women you work with.  For example, the CIPR PR Population Report highlights that, while 60% of practitioners are women, only 46% of directors identify as female.

I include a few suggestions in this article to help support women and all underrepresented groups in the workplace.

Mentoring: mentors can be very helpful if you need a role model, career advice and a guide to help you navigate career decisions, promotions or settling into a new role. Could you help be a mentor for other professionals or could you help set up a mentoring scheme in your organisation? You could also join the CIPR member mentoring scheme.

Shadowing senior leaders: if you are a senior leader, can you and your leadership team offer a day or two of shadowing for colleagues in early or mid-career? This can be very powerful and is best accompanied by a pre and post debrief with the person shadowing you.

L&D: this could be an accelerated leadership course or other leadership or career-related learning and development opportunities that you nominate your team members for.

Stretch assignments: creating opportunities for the people you work with to stretch themselves. This could be temporary leave cover, a challenging assignment, a secondment.

Flexible working policies: women often carry the load for caring responsibilities for children and vulnerable or elderly relatives. This could cause them to drop out of the workforce or to hold back from applying for a promotion or a challenging role. Could your organisation offer flexible working policies to allow women to continue to hold thriving careers? Could the role be done part-time by two people job-sharing or working compressed hours around their caring responsibility? Be an advocate or an ally for women who may be struggling.

Inspiring confidence: a substantial amount of women experience lack of confidence and self-doubt, sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome. Be a sponsor for women, consider and tackle the root cause – underrepresentation, uncredited work efforts or microaggressions, for example. Recruit and reward fairly and inclusively, crack down on bullying, harassment and discrimination and create a supportive environment at work.

Close the gender pay gap: pay people fairly and inclusively and not because of their gender or demographic attributes. This is 21% in the communications industry and 18.4% in the UK workforce.

As I mentioned, these are just some ways you can create gender equality. I am sure you have other ways you support women and other underrepresented groups to thrive in the workplace. I look forward to hearing from you.


Demonstrating cross-cultural agility

by Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe, Head of Engagement, Cabinet Office, CIPR North West committee member and host of 'Meet the Mancunian' podcast
7 February 2024

Whether you work in a global company or a local firm, you are likely to be working with colleagues and partners from a variety of cultures and geographies in today’s inter-connected world. This could be intimidating if this is new to you but also very rewarding if you embrace it with the right spirit. Leaders who are culturally agile will successfully engage a diversity of perspectives and foster effective collaboration within their teams.

I have always enjoyed working with colleagues from other cultures. At eBay, we had global colleagues from over 39 countries. At the British Embassy at Riyadh, we had 31 nationalities working with us. Now in the UK, I enjoy learning from different perspectives at work, in my volunteering and my podcast guests.

Cross-cultural adaptability is a key skill for any global leader. Here are some tips on how to develop and demonstrate your cross-cultural agility.

Aim to have a multi-cultural attitude. Be accepting, do not try to stereotype people by nationality or region or any characteristic as people can vary widely. Accept them for their strengths and get to know them as people with their own heritage and background.

Be like a sponge, be open to diverse perspectives and try actively to seek them out. Be curious, ask thoughtful questions and actively listen to their responses.

Be respectful of the differences between you and colleagues from another culture. Try to learn about social taboos. Something simple and everyday for you could cause serious offence to others.

Seek out common interests that give you something to build rapport and a relationship around. We often have more things in common than divide us.

Be adaptable, flexible and resilient – think about the local circumstances rather than just blindly implementing a global or national playbook.

Listen deeply: communication style, collaborative approach, trust relationships are just some of the factors which are influenced by the national and corporate culture of the organisation. Observe, listen, engage and learn.

Read the room: learn to read the non-verbal signals and adapt your communication style to suit the listener.

Reflect and learn: take time out regularly to reflect on a recent cross-cultural experience and think about what insights you gathered, how you will adapt your leadership style and what new possibilities have emerged.

Step out of your comfort zone and get to know other cultures through travel, books, movies or, better still, talking to your colleagues and stakeholders. If you would like to read more about working across cultures, do check out Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, which examines key concepts like power distance, uncertainty avoidance, collectivism, long-term thinking and other important factors.


5 Ways to Embrace Lifelong Learning

by Natasha Calder
10 November 2023

Congratulations! You’re half-way there. Just by being a member of CIPR, you’re demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning and development.

This Lifelong Learning Week, CIPR North West committee is encouraging members to embrace this commitment and think about what they can do not only to boost CPD points but to benefit their practice.

Often, the busy nature of life and work can mean that protecting time to access various learning opportunities feels like a luxury. Luckily, as fellows, accredited and chartered practitioners and members of CIPR, we’re already aware of the importance of carving out this space but that doesn’t mean we don’t also fall victim to external pressures, leading to CPD being an afterthought.

In my view, the outward perception of ‘learning’ can contribute to this too. For me, the word connotates a classroom environment, starting a new qualification or accessing some kind of structured opportunity, meaning I need to take a day or more away from the office.

While all of these options are available – and valuable - there are many other ways we can learn that are just as beneficial.

1. Engage with your peers

Simply networking with and talking to other professionals in the field about various topics or challenges can throw up some really interesting approaches you may not have considered before. Even if they cover a different subject matter or their specialism doesn’t match yours, there’s real power in a hive-mind. Not only is it a forum where new creative ideas can be formed, but we all have different backgrounds and experiences that shape our biases and views on the world around us. It’s important to acknowledge that to avoid tunnel vision.

2. Use new perspectives in your day-to-day

CIPR’s 2024 President Elect, Advita Patel, once said to me: “You can’t do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.”

It’s all well and good having fruitful conversations, but what’s the point if you don’t actually use the advice or implement new thinking in your day-to-day?

Considering how these conversations can be used for change is important. Whether it leads you to being more mindful of representation in meetings, being a conscious ally for minoritised groups or simply using different delivery methods - implementing new perspectives day-to-day encourages us to challenge the norm and ask ‘why?’, which can sometimes lead to a more desired outcome.

3. Access resources

Learning can also be done on the move, in between meetings or over a morning coffee. Reading articles, blogs, interviews or listening to podcasts is a great way to instigate new thinking and help you start the day more vigilant and responsive to alternative ways of working.

The CIPR CPD platform has a host of short reads, webinars or audio recommendations that can rack up around 5 points per item. You don’t have to attend a workshop, seminar or online session to keep your accredited status. Being flexible and keeping the pressure off the resources you use could actually lead to you accessing more than you think. Light-touch learning in this way shouldn’t be a chore, so choose topics you’re interested in and see what kind of material is out there.

strong>4. Say yes!

There are so many opportunities in the workplace that can make us feel nervous but we’ll never grow if we stick to what we know. Skills will blunt over time and confidence will plateau, so harness the awkward and lean into the anxiousness of ‘will this go well?’

Say yes to that presentation, don’t put that niggling task off any longer and take the risk. What’s the worst that could happen?

5. Look inwardly

A lot of learning can come from inward reflection. Being self-aware and understanding what drives and motivates us, appreciating our weaknesses and recognising blind spots can make us better colleagues, managers and leaders.

Understanding the power of our own words and actions and the impact they can have on other people is imperative to forging supportive and responsive working environments where people feel valued and respected.

By reflecting on our own conduct and practice, we can make changes and identify gaps for improvement. This can sometimes be an uncomfortable exercise but with vulnerability comes personal growth. By leading by example, we can also create safe spaces for colleagues to accept mistakes and learn.

Click here for more information about the CIPR resources available.


International Men's Day

by CIPR NW committee members David Tarbuck, James Jordan and Kevin Hegarty
8 November 2023

Shout out to my sex!
by David Tarbuck, Group Marketing & Communications Director at Atlas

We all know that social media is a hard thing to like, even though it forms part of the job as communicators. Too often it descends into an ugly shouting match between equally divisive views, although in better times it is a space for encouragement. Social media shows us two sides of the same coin: that of human nature.

The dichotomy is often demonstrated on International Women’s Day, which falls in March. It is a great occasion for women and for those who value women to say so. Yet for a vocal minority it’s something else. While there’s many a social media post praising the day and celebrating women, it’s easy to find an exhausting reply along the lines of “What about the men?”

I say to such people: fear not! Pipe down! Hold your horses! For there is indeed an International Men’s Day and it is on 19th November.

I always enjoy comedian Richard Herring’s annual crusade against such “cheese-helmets” (his words), as he politely informs them, one by one, that men have their own day too. Tellingly, says Richard, “nobody tweets me back to say ‘Oh thanks for the information. I was wondering when it was’.”

November 19th is our day, fellas, so let’s do something good with it. I suggest we use this opportunity to talk about the things that directly concern us. Speaking up about male issues is not something that comes naturally, believe it or not. Men tend to internalise issues and feel uncomfortable in personal discussions. We use banter to cover up difficult subjects. We ignore our problems until they become serious.

Men should not be afraid to discuss personal matters or debate the wider challenges that face the male community. Princes William and Harry, among others, have done a lot to put male mental health in the spotlight. Recently, I was moved by the England footballer Dele Alli, who spoke about the childhood abuse he suffered and the horrific trauma he has lived with since then. He identified that men’s football is not an easy environment in which to ask for help, but once he did so he found many people wanting to support him.

I can tell you from a personal perspective that 20 years ago men didn’t really discuss mental health but now my male friends are much more open to having honest conversations, and I am too.

In our own profession there are countless male role models who demonstrate strong ethics, best practice, and innovative thinking. They are important because the demographics of the industry are changing. Once very male-centric, now around two-thirds of PR professionals are women, while men are further outweighed in terms of young talent coming into the industry. The last vestige of the old culture is best seen in the boardroom, where men are still heavily over-represented. I expect this to change as organisations take more than a piecemeal approach and more effectively represent their workforces and stakeholders.

But how do we encourage more men into our profession? First, we can address the wider societal issues that affect men today. We can provide platforms for men to talk about things in ways they want to and without fear of being criticised. Having role models such as Dele who do so publicly is important.

Second, being a man in PR does not have to be a lonely endeavour. The CIPR runs an excellent mentoring scheme, through which many male (and female) leaders provide guidance. It’s free!

You can also join a regional committee or attend sector group events, many of which are also free. If you live or work in the North West, why not try my own regional committee? We love welcoming new people. Contact me or our chair Sali if you’d like to know more.

Let's make PR the place for men to be
by James Jordan, Senior Consultant at WSP

On International Men’s Day we can champion PR as a career choice for all men who are interested in changing the world for the better through influential communications. We also celebrate the contribution made by male professionals across the world of PR.

It’s clear that all men can play a meaningful role and do more to tackle the biggest obstacles that our industry faces. Estimates show that almost 80% of PR company CEOs are male. Male leaders should continue to champion diversity of all kinds at all seniorities, as well as in the education space, to create a more equitable industry.

We must also make a conscious effort to change our company cultures for the better. The CIPR has previously reported that 9 in 10 PR workers struggled with their mental wellbeing over a 12-month period.

We must recognise the specific needs of the men included in these statistics. For example, the mental health charity Mind reminds us that men should continue to be a key audience for suicide prevention. We also know there's considerable room to improve work-life balance for male carers and parents.

Men have a real opportunity to be positive change-makers in our workplaces. Let's make sure PR is the 'place to be'!

How we can help men and treat men's issues
by Kevin Hegarty, Communications Business Partner at Cadent Gas

Cards on the table: I hadn’t paid a huge amount of attention to International Men’s Day – until this year.

Over the last 12 months, for the second time in my life, I’ve reached out for professional support with regard to my mental health. Never a particular easy thing to do for anybody and, for some reason, fewer men decide to do so than women. This is worrying on many levels, not least because a man dies every minute by suicide (globally). Three in every four suicides are men.

International Men’s Day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. One of its aims is to highlight positive role models and also to raise awareness of men’s well-being, with a big focus this year on male suicide.

As a PR professional, I know only too well the power of a personal story. Helping people to share their story is one of the biggest joys of the job. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of helping some inspiring men speak openly about dealing with their mental health challenges. Without any doubt, doing so helped me realise there’s nothing to be gained by keeping it bottled up. And it is okay to not be okay.

Last year’s CIPR ‘Mental Health in PR’ survey revealed 91% of our members have experienced poor mental health over the previous 12 months. Keeping this issue at the forefront of all our minds is just so important, both to help us all navigate our challenges and to support others to.

Here are a couple of very helpful links that might just help a man in your life:

1. Help with starting a conversation with a man in your life – this is a superb resource.
2. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men over 45. Early detection is key – there is lots of useful info here.
3. Testicular cancer is the #1 cancer in younger men. It is highly curable when caught early – this link explains more.

We’re keen to hear from you about your experiences and how we can represent our region more equitably - including (male and other) volunteers to join our committee as well as topics/issues you want to learn more about.

Please send in your ideas and suggestions by emailing us.


Looking after your wellbeing after taking long-term leave

by Natasha Calder
6 October 2023

The date has been mutually agreed and the countdown is officially on.

It’s time to buy new highlighters and pens like it’s the first day of school.

You’re rooting through the wardrobe trying to find forgotten ‘workwear’ and the reality of switching the nappy bag for a laptop case is beginning to sink in.


Conversation around employee wellbeing often refers to those in work and focuses on things like managing workload, stress and organisational change, but what about those who have been away from the day job for a while and are preparing for their return?

Though there are various reasons a person may take long-term leave, I’m exploring this through the lens of maternity leave and my own experience of returning to my post as a Communications Manager in local government after 10 months away with my daughter.

Let’s start from the beginning…
Heading back to work was literally the last thing on my mind when I switched on my out-of-office. It felt like a lifetime away when 10pm dinners, Napisan and eating chocolate to stay awake at 3am became my new reality.

In hindsight, it soon came around and after my daughter turned six months, I sort of felt like I was on a countdown.  All of a sudden, my squidgy, curled up newborn was getting closer to turning one.

There’s no right or wrong way to feel about returning to work.  Having a baby and the months that follow is an incredibly personal and individual experience.  You might be really excited about using a different part of your brain again or you might be dreading leaving the little one behind.

I was somewhere in between.  I absolutely loved maternity leave and I knew I’d miss it dramatically.  I’m not afraid to say that I wasn’t quite ready to give it up.

What I found…
When talking to people about going back to work, it seemed that there was often an expectation that I would feel apprehensive about being separated from my baby after being joined (literally) at the hip for so long.  But I wasn’t worried about leaving my daughter, I felt more emotional at the realisation that this special time was drawing to a close.

It felt like the end of an era, which was really quite surreal and unexpected. As well as feeling happy and privileged to have had that one-on-one time, there was also a sadness because I was really going to miss my new routine because I knew I was giving it up for good.

I wasn’t sure how I’d readjust heading back to my ‘old life’, especially when the team I once knew had changed and I’d be working across new programmes.  Reality was beginning to sink in.

What I did…
I took advantage of a few ‘keep in touch’ days so I didn’t feel totally overwhelmed and after having never been away from the workplace for more than a couple of weeks before, I had a whole new respect for my past self, even after just a few hours.

How did I manage to retain so much information?  How did I do this for five days a week?  With nine years working full time under my belt, it was only at that point that I’d realised how much I’d taken my skills for granted. I started to wonder how long it’d take before I was working to that calibre again.  Once I did return though, it really didn’t take long to get my feet back under the table. In fact, having different priorities at home and a new understanding of family life has in some ways made me a more compassionate manager and person-centred thinker.

It wasn’t all easy though.  Of course, you’re gone for so long that sometimes it’s easy to be forgotten!  There were a few times I wasn’t aware of a team change or an event because people had gotten used to me not being around.  That didn’t last long though and here I am, four months in, feeling like I’ve never been gone.

So, what next?
I guess there’s no real ‘takeaway’ from this blog, other than the reassurance that you’re not alone.  It can be easy to get tunnel vision and feel like nobody else will understand, so this is your reminder that a problem shared is a problem halved.  As much as a manager is there to look out for you and check in, they don’t read minds.  Be honest and open about your apprehensions and ask if there are employee assistance programmes or other provisions available to you if that’s what you need.

You’re more than capable of readjusting but you don’t necessarily have to go back to the working life you once knew.  If that’s what’s troubling you, then explore your options.  Full-time work doesn’t have to mean five days a week.  Can your employer be flexible with compressed hours or reducing them if that’s what you want?

Lastly, if there’s one thing I advocate, it’s carving out the time to do something just for YOU.

In my case, I don’t want my maternity leave to feel like a strange dream so I’m making a real effort to stay in touch with the friends I’ve made.  I also get so much value from talking about different stages and milestones with others going through the same as me, so I really don’t want to lose that community of support.

If you’ve been away from work for another reason, then think about what you do for enjoyment.  You’re more than a job title and doing something for yourself will give your mind and body the space it needs to reset and come back day after day, ready to take the bull by the horns.

Sending you all the best of luck!

Here are some words of wisdom from some of my fellow CIPR North West committee members who have experiences of being away from work for long periods of time:

Nicole Kenny said: "Having time away from work can impact you on many different levels, with many conflicting emotions and feelings.  Like Natasha, I’ve never taken much time away from work except the odd holiday, so when I went on maternity leave it was a huge shock to the system.  One minute my main focus was work and then one day I simply logged off and then I became a mum. For me and for many people who have been away from work, I think there can be a struggle with identity.  I placed a lot of my values and worth on my job, but then when you don’t work, who are you?

In addition, after ten years I was heading to a new job at a brand new company.  So I didn’t have the comfort of going back to what I knew, which added an extra layer of discomfort.  At the same time my mum retired early due to ill health. We used to spend my maternity leave walking around the park with the baby, talking about a sense of lost identity.  She was going through the same thing and had the same feelings.

Someone told me that you carry your worth and your values with you. It isn’t tied to the company you work for and you can bring it to every aspect of your life. This really resonated with me and I have shared this many times with friends who have gone on maternity leave after me.”

Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe said: "Relocation due to being a diplomatic spouse has led to many memorable cultural experiences but has been hard on my career.  The two years I spent in Saudi Arabia on a dependant visa taught me many life lessons in resilience.  I used my time well by studying for an MBA course, volunteering with the Women’s Skill Bureau and hosting a vegetarian foodie network while working at the British Embassy.  My advice for any others in a similar position is to find ways to contribute your skills and experience through volunteering for a charity, mentoring others and invest in your professional development."


Chartership - sounds scary, doesn't it?

by Sarah Burrows, PR Officer for the Lake District National Park Authority
6 July 2023

I looked at other professionals around my workplace – accountants, planners, project managers and other specialist professionals and respected them as they had the magical chartership stamp and that meant they were an expert, didn’t it?

After some time out concentrating on my children, I’d recently thrown myself into CPD (Continuing Professional Development) and had completed the ultra-challenging Socially Mobile course. This was a game changer and made me sit up, take stock of my experience and skills and revel in the fact that I had been completing the CPD learning cycle informally for almost 23 years.

I’ve always had imposter syndrome, but all my managers along the way have pushed me to complete management qualifications, both within the public sector and at post graduate university level. I’d bagged this all and was confident in my skills.

However, my most recent workplace pushed me to go that extra mile and get the Chartership qualification.

I grabbed the bull by the horns and threw myself into it and did prep for the test. I reverted to student mode and reflected in the theory and the detail of each example.

We were given case studies in advance and I memorised them inside and out with any stats, etc and had rehearsed my answers to the suggested questions. It felt like I was back cramming for a university exam and it totally brought me out of my comfort zone.

On the morning of the assessment, we met with our peers and everyone else seemed to be managers, or Head of Comms and I felt another lurch of nerves. Could I remember all the data, I’d just consumed?

However, I broke the ice by saying that I’m a bit terrified and was heartened that everyone else felt the same. This closed the gap as each of us was in the same boat and, no matter what stage of our careers, we were all committed to ensuring that Public Relations was seen as a critical profession.

I’m pleased to say that is 100 per cent what it’s about. It’s not about learning theory or parroting examples; it is about what you have experienced, how you have felt and how you have grown as a professional throughout the years. All you need to do is demonstrate it to the assessors.

It did throw me slightly on the day that I didn’t need all the information I’d memorised, but I just relaxed and spoke to the assessors like I would anyone and that was the right way to approach it.

The assessors were thorough but encouraging and made sure that all members of the group had a chance to speak. In our group there was a mixture of agency and public sector and we bounced off each other well.

The day was exhausting, challenging and gruelling at every stage and, when it was finished, I did genuinely feel like I’d been hit by a bus.

This assessment tests that you are an ethical, strategic leader in PR and it doesn’t take a certain level or number of years’ experience to prove this. It’s right that it pushed and prodded each participant, as why should it be easy to prove you are at the top of your game in the Public Relations profession?

I was delighted to pass, and my feedback was to be more concise, as I’m very good at getting too involved in situations. I recognise this in my day-to-day job and have taken this on board.

Lessons learned are: to believe in yourself and your experience, have confidence in your abilities and judgment and know that you are enough.

The benefits of being chartered? It really does give that stamp of authority to peers and has built up my professional confidence.

Dare I say it, I really enjoyed the challenge, loved meeting peers and have made lasting contacts and confidants that will see me in good stead throughout the rest of my career.

In the words of Nike – Just Do it!


Put your hand up!

by Sali Midjek-Conway
2 June 2023

One of the best pieces of advice I was given in the earlier parts of my career – and that I now give to others starting out – is to put your hand up for all kinds of projects and particularly those that intrigue/interest you – whether or not you think you can do it!

I have enjoyed working on a variety of projects over the years with amazing people I would not have met otherwise, let alone worked with, had I not put my hand up! This has enriched my work and career and enabled me to learn so much, whilst also having lots of fun!

I offer my time on two professional North West groups that mean a lot to me and one of them is CIPR North West, where I am working with a group of wonderful, friendly people who have become part of my professional family – very significant to me now as a recent solopreneur!

Volunteering in this way helps me to support the next generation of communicators on their career journey as well as connect with other professional marketers and communicators.

Not to sound too clichéd, but I do believe that getting involved in peer-group activities and pushing yourself out of your comfort zones can provide an enormous sense of wellbeing and, in turn, I find it also helps me to continue my own professional development to ensure I am always up to speed with ‘hot’ topics and performing at my best for my clients – a win-win!


Communicating mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

by Natalie Geraghty
18 May 2023

As a nation we’ve made significant progress towards talking more openly about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. But there is always more to be done.

Communications teams are important stakeholders in helping to normalise conversations around mental health, reduce stigma and help workplaces to be psychologically safe environments. If you’re a business communicator and wondering where to start, I’ve included a few tips below to get you going:

Be human
Emotional intelligence and normal, not formal language is the number one priority here. Nobody wants to be patronised, but then content that is too high-level won’t be engaged with. We know that the average reading age in the UK is nine years. If your content meets this readability stat, then it will be accessible to all your audiences.

If you can, get a leader to front your content or campaign. Employees really do prefer it when they can see the human side of those in higher positions.

Engage with your workforce
Before you go out with any communication, talk to your employees about the approach to take. You’ll gain good insight into how the workforce likes to be communicated with and what they like to see in business news. You’ll also be able to ask employees if they’re willing to share personal stories. This can bring any campaigns to life and be based on the true experiences of your own people.

If you have any mental health first aiders or inclusion/affinity groups, talk to them first. They might be able to help as extra communicators, pushing any content to hard to reach groups.

Have substance
Tokenism can be sniffed out a mile off. Mental health and wellbeing is a topic that resonates with us all and so it really should feature prominently in annual communications plans. However, to make an impact, I would always suggest researching the topic and trying to find some company data to inform any content or campaign.

For example, knowing how many sick days the workforce takes for mental health issues each year can be a good basis for understanding why such campaigns are needed. This can also be a campaign performance indicator.

If your company doesn’t have good data available on mental health and wellbeing, use your campaign to gather that information. But be clear to employees on what you want to know, why you want to know it and what the information will be used for. And make it fun and easy! Collect the information at a coffee morning event, or a send a text message to employees with a three short multiple-choice questions.

Useful resources:
Mind
CIPR Iprovision
Mental Health Foundation



The benefits of being a winner

by Rebecca Eatwell
Founder and Managing Director, Font Communications
17 May 2023

Winning the Small Consultancy of the Year at last year’s CIPR North West PRide Awards was a great achievement for us. Being recognised as the best in our region makes us super-proud every day.

First and foremost, the award is a huge pat on the back to the amazing Font team - we wouldn’t be where we are now without their hard work and commitment.

It’s also a nice reminder of what we’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short amount of time, going from just two clients when we started out in 2019, to over 30 clients today.

This wasn’t our first CIPR award. We won the Gold award for Community Relations in 2021 for our work helping Retirement Villages secure consent for a new retirement community in Chester. We also bagged a Silver Community Relations award in 2022 for Blackpool Central - a new £300m leisure destination by developers Nikal.

Of course, it’s amazing to be recognised by the industry for what we do, which has definitely opened doors for us when it comes to new business. When we’re speaking to potential new clients, having that independent stamp of approval speaks volumes.

Working in PR, we spend most of our time shouting about the achievements of our clients and it’s easy to forget to do our own promotion. But the CIPR awards shine a welcome spotlight on the tireless dedication, creativity and innovation taking place in the sector.

If you’re thinking about applying, I’d say go for it: the awards celebrate the best of our industry, from start-ups to established stalwarts. Good luck to everyone this year!


It's time to take PRide

by Hayley James, Chart. PR
9 May 2023

It's that time of year again. The CIPR PRide awards are open for entries.

Having judged these awards, and been judged myself, I wanted to share some tips and ideas because our region had far more to shout about than we realise. I also guarantee that you, your agency, and your team will as well.

Start at the start - yep, sounds obvious but if you know how and what you do is good then think ahead and approach projects and work like you’re entering it for an award. The method, structure and rigour you apply probably won’t be much different to normal, but you'll be ahead of yourself doing it this way. Look out for events, publications, projects and other opportunities that fit nicely into award categories (and of course there’s the team and agency categories for year round performance).

Position them as recognition opportunities – we don't all work in organisations that have staff awards or ways to recognise a job well done. External awards allow you to benchmark, plus give kudos to your team and colleagues as well as show your agency, client or employer that you are working to a high standard.

Research what ‘good’ looks like - by reviewing previous winning entries. Get on Google as there's a wealth of previous entries online, and if you’re a CIPR member then check the CPD library for guides and webinars on writing winning entries.

Get organised for next year now - form a working group in your team if you have one – look at what you could do; look at how you could fit your work into the judging criteria. It’s a team that wins an award.

Over-deliver on the data - measure measure measure. Make sure you set KPIs and exceed them. Make sure planning and delivery is outstanding. For PR awards, look at AMEC model for measurement (the judges will find it hard to mark you down) And as any PR worth their salt will know, never use AVEs.

Remember, it’s not an award entry, it’s an application - scrutinise what you write through the lens of what the judges’ question asks for. Be as objective as you can. Stakeholder feedback is great, but don’t use it as a vanity measure. Treat it like applying for a job - assume the judges know nothing about you, your client/organisation or the project. Avoid jargon and don't be modest (but don't embellish)

Resist the temptation to use dazzling style - your application does not need to look pretty – focus on saying something meaningful. These entries really are all about substance so spend your time creating the content not re-designing the entry form. You get no points for it.

Try to be a judge if you can – it makes a real difference. You will know what works – and importantly, what doesn’t. There are award ceremonies across our industry looking for new judges on panels and they’re a great way to meet other practitioners. And if you’re a CIPR member you can earn up to 10 points for taking part.

Keep to the word count – judges have to read LOADS – and waffle is a wasted opportunity. Tell your story and make it as concise as possible. Get a colleague or trusted person (PAs, partners or anyone with fresh eyes and no knowledge), to read over and over critique.

Don't be shy - many of us underestimate how good our work is. The judges aren't looking for big budgets or slick presentation. Your work matters and makes a difference so don't let your ego, or lack of, get in the way of that recognition for your business, team or client.

And practice makes perfect. The more you enter, the better you will get and I promise you will only learn and grow from the experience. Plus there's the added bonus of getting to attend this year's glitzy awards dinner in Manchester.

I wish you loads of success with your entry.

Enter now at: North West (cipr.co.uk)
Read more tips at: Top tips and advice (cipr.co.uk)

With thanks to fellow CIPR NW committee member Amanda Jackson for content collaboration.


How communications can help build sustainable organisations

by Hil Berg, Found. Chart. PR
Head of Strategy at M&C Saatchi LIFE
22 February 2023

I recently saw sustainability described as ‘the megatrend of our time.’

Its growing relevance to the PR industry led to CIPR North West’s recent webinar on how communications can help build sustainable organisations (click here to see the webinar).

I was privileged to join the discussion with Gudrun Cartwright, Climate Action Director at Business in the Community, and Mark Flannagan, Director of Marketing and Communications at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

We are living in extraordinary times. The climate crisis - a ‘Code Red for Humanity’, according to the United Nations - is already impacting the way we live. How we react and adapt to that stark warning over the next few years will decide the viability of our societies.

The threat to every organisation is enormous and success can only be achieved by working collaboratively – across nations, sectors and communities. If we are to survive and thrive, everyone – in government, business, public service or civic society - needs to integrate sustainability into their business strategies and operations. A fact that puts the spotlight firmly on communications.

Our discussion deliberately focused on sustainability, rather than the interchangeable term ESG. The latter (standing for Environmental, Social, and Governance) is essentially a risk management tool for responsible investing. By providing a framework of activity to mitigate corporate risk and help investors assess performance, it has successfully driven positive change in the way we do business and ESG reporting now attracts interest from much wider audiences.

Sustainability, meanwhile, hails from the UN’s approach to sustainable development – creating a common future that will “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It spans 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and provides a richer platform to develop strategies that build on an organisation’s operations, culture and position, both to futureproof it and to drive societal change that is not just incremental, but transformative.

We communications professionals have a unique set of skills that can engage colleagues, customers, suppliers, investors and diverse stakeholders to make such change happen.

Good practitioners are natural horizon scanners, understanding, pinpointing and mitigating risk to help build strategy, and to build in measurable, impactful objectives.

Ethical counsel and transparency are at the heart of sustainability strategy, with the need to hold an organisation accountable for high standards of integrity and compassion.

Meanwhile, new ways of working need to involve the whole organisation, based on a leadership vision that can win hearts and minds. Colleagues have an important role, not just in living an organisation’s values, but in contributing to strategy.

Our ability to convene is also a gift, bringing new opportunities to listen, gather insight and create innovative partnerships.

Truly sustainable organisations are also role models for their peers, meaning that our ability to inspire through storytelling is critical. Especially if we are to deliver a future that we can be proud to hand to future generations.


In charge of my own development

by Adeeba Hussain
10 February 2023

I feel unnerved: once again it’s February, the deadline for logging CPD (continuous professional development) is looming and my CIPR CPD is showing 0 points logged!

In honor of transparency, despite being a member of CIPR since 2007, I’ve only started logging my continuous professional development in the last few years (since I became an independent practitioner).

Every year I make a mental note to myself … I will log my CPD as I go along. What happens? Life gets in the way. Despite the fact that last year was extra special: I became a Chartered PR professional (to maintain my Chartership it has now become mandatory for me to undertake CPD and log it). You’d think it was more of a reason to record my achievement immediately. I did not.

My take on CPD, I think most communications and PR professionals will agree, is that it adds a great deal of value to our professionalism in the boardroom, with senior leaders and peers. Continuous development is the superpower to be the eyes and ears of our organisation and our clients. For me, it helps to know what is going on in the outside world and, most importantly, how this impacts my client and their employees.

I’m going to share via the power of three: the little changes I’ve made this year to hold myself accountable in regard to my 2023 CPD recording. It’s innate to my nature as a communications professional who specialises in the measurement and evaluation of employee experience.

Why CPD?
I’ve always been excellent at continuously improving my knowledge and understanding of what’s going on in the world of employee/internal communications. A diploma here, a certificate there.

Ever since I became an independent practitioner, I’m no longer reliant on my organisation for planning my CPD. It is solely my responsibility. This means I have to continue my professional development through books and articles, and participate in workshops to keep up with how trends, geopolitical landscape, UK politics and the economic environment impact the way I help organisations communicate with their internal audience - employees.

There is no shortage of free resources, webinars and workshop recordings on the CIPR website and various regional YouTube channels.

Record, how?
There might be only one advantage of the pandemic, which is our access to digital and virtual training. There is ample opportunity to take part in free online workshops and seminars.

The bonus is a ready-made record in the ether of our participation. Usually an email. I save and move it into my CPD folder.

New year, new behaviour - admin Friday
This is what works for me:

• Set a reminder for the last Friday of every month to log CPD and look out for what to take part in next
• Buddy up with an accountability partner who also needs a gentle nudge each month

Don't forget to log your CPD points - learning is power!


Iprovision - making a difference and extending its reach

by CIPR Iprovision
8 February 2023

For more than 50 years, Iprovision has been making a meaningful difference to the lives of CIPR members who have fallen on tough times.

There’s Frank, who needed a helping hand to buy a suit for interviews when he returned to work after a prolonged absence. And Liz, whose family circumstances meant she was in danger of not completing her CIPR studies; we stepped in to help fund the final qualification costs.

Colin, Abigail, Beatrice and Gillian were all impacted by cancer – from childhood leukaemia through to terminal diagnoses. We supported them and their families to create happier memories through challenging times.

And there’s Laura. We helped make her garden accessible after ill health meant she was using a wheelchair. Those aren’t the real names, but they are real people, and real examples of the support Iprovision has provided over the years.

There’s also the Iprovision mental health hotline, which gives CIPR members instant access to accredited counsellors, and we make referrals to professional debt advisory services to support CIPR members through the current cost of living challenges.

Now, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the CIPR, Iprovision is looking forward and creating the Iprovision 75 Fund.

The Iprovision 75 Fund will launch this Spring and will further extend the reach of our support. The fund will initially comprise £75,000 and will look to help lift people out of potential poverty by providing support for training, education and qualifications.

In particular, the Iprovision 75 Fund is aimed at supporting social mobility and diversity within the PR profession, targeting funds towards those from socially or financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

We’ll be releasing full eligibility criteria and the application processes over the coming months as part of this year’s "CIPR at 75" celebrations and in good time for the next wave of college applications.

We are looking to work with CIPR regional and sectoral groups, PR consultancies and in-house teams, universities, colleges and training providers to identify and support potential applicants looking to develop their career in public relations.

That means we’re looking for partners who would like to collaborate with us to ensure we reach the individuals and groups who will benefit most from our support. So, if you think you would like to help – drop an email to [email protected] and we will be in touch as our plans and processes take shape.

We believe Iprovision should be here to support all CIPR members, from those just starting out in their careers to those who’ve given their entire working life to PR.


2023 Welcome from the Chair

by Sali Midjek-Conway
6 January 2023

As we say goodbye to 2022 here at CIPR North West, we have also been saying goodbye to two of our longstanding committee members – namely our Chair Anthony Bullick, who has stepped down after four years in the role, and Bridget Batty, a hugely valued and active committee member of 12 years.

As we welcome the new year and following the AGM last month, I am delighted to have been accepted as Chair as we go forward into 2023.

I am keen to continue building on the excellence the committee has delivered for members in terms of topical webinars and events, including this year’s PRide Awards which we are delighted will be in person, so watch this space for more information soon!

CIPR North West is acutely aware of the amazingly strong resilience the sector has demonstrated over the last couple of years and we’re keen to ensure members continue to be supported as best as possible as we go forward into 2023. We are therefore in the process of organising another array of brilliant speakers, topical events and training for you to look forward to in the coming months.

Particularly topical is our carbon literacy training in May, designed to enable you to master the fundamentals of carbon reduction and the effect humanity has in creating climate change. Attendees will be awarded a uniquely-coded Carbon Literacy certificate at the end of the training – full details will be available soon.

In the meantime, don’t forget there are practical resources and financial assistance available as part of your membership – more information can be found on the CIPR website.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our events soon.

Best wishes,
Sali Midjek-Conway
CIPR North West Chair


My Memberversary

by Roz Hughes
17 August 2022

Rather unexpectedly, I received a card in the post the other day.  It was from the CIPR and congratulated me on being a member for 20 years.  It was a lovely touch.

It did get me thinking. 20 years is a long time.  Back in 2002, I was running the press office for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.  That still stands out as one of the most fun (and exhausting) jobs I have ever had.

My relationship with the CIPR goes back further than that.   I first joined as a student, when I studied International Public Relations at Watford College.   This postgrad course I did after university landed me my first job with a PR agency in London and I never looked back.

When working at Manchester Airport I started to get involved with the CIPR NW and was on the committee for several years, helping plan lots of events, including the PRide Awards.  This created strong friendships with other committee members, which last to this day.

These days I don’t get so involved.  But I have joined a few webinars, including a useful one on how to navigate IR35 as a freelance consultant and I got some free legal advice which came in very handy when I had an invoice problem with a client.  You never stop learning in our rapidly-changing media world, so downloading the free skills guides or listening to the podcasts is a handy way of keeping up to speed.

I like being part of this global community.  I’m proud to have the logo on my email signature as I believe it gives me a level of credibility with clients and the media, and it shows I’m committed to the highest standards of professional practice.

I believe passionately in the profession and feel it’s important to support the professional body.  So that’s why, whatever my circumstances, I always renew my membership each year. I’m proud to be part of our profession.

If you’re considering joining the CIPR or are already a member and would like to become a volunteer for the North West group, please contact [email protected] for more information.


New Year ... New CPD

by Sarah Calderbank
14 April 2022

Just like that, we’re in spring, which can mean only one thing. OK, two if you count Easter eggs. It’s the start of a new CPD year!

It’s the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve achieved in your PR career in the past 12 months and set your new CPD goals and ambitions. The level to which you invest in yourself will be different for every one of us. Whether you’re starting out in your career, or you’re a seasoned pro, the one thing that unites us is a desire to continue learning and growing.

However, if, like me, you gaze at that shiny new 0 point balance each year with every intention of completing it way before the deadline, but suddenly it’s February and you’re on a last-minute hunt for points, it could be time for a New Year’s resolution!

I love the rule of three to improve my focus. So here are a few ideas to get me well on the way to my 60 points.

1. Feed my bookworm

From blogs to books and web articles to podcasts, professional reading counts - just remember to log your points. When it comes to reading, I’m a bit of a grasshopper and have usually got a PR book, an audiobook and a fiction title on the go at once - oh, and a business book at the moment! I love seeking out recommendations through my networks on Twitter and LinkedIn, such as the #ICBookClub.

My New Year’s resolution is to log the CPD points as I go and not leave it to the end of the year.

2. Put pen to paper

Writing may be second nature to us as PR professionals, but how often do you stretch your creative skills and zoom in a different direction with your penmanship? Self-reflection or thought leadership are powerful ways to consolidate new skills - or why not try writing blogs, LinkedIn articles, intranet stories, letters, professional forum debates, entering awards, reviews of conferences, voluntary work or simply writing for pleasure – it can all count as development.

My New Year’s resolution is to increase the variety and frequency of my self-reflection.

3. Lean into learning

Working in an industry that is continually evolving, with techniques and platforms changing at a rapid pace, as PR practitioners, we should all be leaning into learning to keep our tools sharp. One way I do this is by seeking a range of perspectives and experiences – this is often a challenge, especially for those of us who have been toiling away in PR since pre-internet days. Diversity of views and thinking is vital to ensure we, as PR professionals, are representing the audiences we are communicating with.

My New Year’s resolution is to ‘reverse mentor’ - to listen and learn from younger and different voices to inform and improve my leadership and strategy skills.

So those are my top three resolutions for this new CPD year - what are yours? Remember to log and Happy New Year!


How to Handle ESG

by Anthony Bullick
27 January 2022

With a business’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities influencing consumers like never before, companies that communicate their efforts transparently will achieve success in the short and long term.

ESG, traditionally the focus of investors, is increasingly playing an important role in people’s decision-making linked to recruitment and sales, which fundamentally affects the sustainability of the business model.

Your stakeholders have expectations of you as a brand; failure to meet those can lead to reputational risk. Entrusting your PR team with the latest senior management thinking on ESG will prove crucial, with clear and strategic communication leading to more positive outcomes.

Firstly, be open with your PR department about your organisation’s ESG weaknesses and opportunities. It will allow them to update and tweak their comms strategy to ensure the best possible key messages are told.

Two-way communication, such as focus groups and surveys, will allow for honest conversations between you and your internal and external stakeholders to understand their viewpoints as well as build trust.

Educational messaging, particularly aimed at employees and subcontractors, will help drive awareness and knowledge of ESG and the steps they can take as individuals as well as part of their department to support the company with its goals.

Bringing staff on the journey and demonstrating you are listening to their concerns and thoughts will also develop them into brand advocates, which could be your biggest ally if they are needed. Your PR team will also map internal ESG threats against stakeholder concerns to spot issues at the earliest possible opportunity and put a plan in place to mitigate risk.

Take an integrated approach to telling your business’ story to reach as wide an audience as possible to raise awareness and enhance your reputation. Share relevant news with the media so that independent, trusted third-party outlets cover it as editorial to add credibility.

Utilise your own channels effectively, as potential job applicants and clients will likely complete desktop research ahead of engaging with you. Is your ESG information easy to find? Is it told in multiple formats such as copy, video, and visuals, to appeal to more people?

Throughout all communication, ensure all stories are factual and honest to avoid allegations of greenwashing, which brings further reputational risk.

When it comes to measurement and evaluation, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor reporting and metrics to your own organisation’s objectives with a detailed and comprehensive framework by reviewing and researching valuable and common KPIs.


Progress your career with mentoring

by Natasha Calder
20 January 2022

I was five years into my comms career before I heard the term 'mentoring'.

Before then I wasn't a member of CIPR and my professional network wasn't much larger than the people I sat with in the office every day and my friends who worked in similar roles.  Maybe that's because for the first five years of my career, every day was a learning experience and I was still finding my feet and figuring out what I wanted.

But in 2020 that all changed. I was starting to feel too comfortable and less challenged. I was ready to take the next step but I wasn't sure what step to take.

My former boss invited me along to a virtual 'Women In Communications' conference and the successful female speakers explored leadership whilst recounting honest experiences of imposter syndrome and I was HOOKED.

When looking over my notes, I noticed that mentoring was a strong theme across them all.  Almost right away I began looking for mentoring programmes in PR. Initially, I struggled because the few schemes I found were either expensive or had one or two openings per year with limited spots.

I started to think that mentoring was a rather inaccessible pipe dream. That was until I found CIPR Progress, of course.

A free feature for members, CIPR Progress allows you to search for a suitable mentor, based on what it is you want to focus on, ie career development, internal comms, leadership, etc.  After sending my application to my chosen mentor (Laura Sutherland Chart. PR, MCIPR, FCIPR), we had an introductory call and the last 12 months - as they say - became history.

What I really liked about mentoring was the open and honest space it provided. I was able to be really upfront about my ambitions and the barriers I was experiencing without the agenda of my organisation making an unknowing appearance.  Laura acted as a reassuring voice. She was removed from the situations I was discussing with her, meaning I got some really helpful and objective advice.

Mentoring isnt exclusive either.  It doesn't matter if you are at the top or the bottom of a structure chart - if someone has been there and done it before you, chances are you can benefit from what they have to contribute to the conversation.

I found CIPR Progress really person-centred.  You have the opportunity to set goals with your mentor's support that really focus on what you want - not what your job or day-to-day objectives expect.

As well as giving you the confidence to reach your ambitions, mentoring is a great way to widen your perspectives. Someone once told me that you can't do the same thing over and over and expect a different result, which is why widening our professional network and talking to practitioners with different experiences is so important.  If we surround ourselves with a diverse group of professionals, we can make informed decisions and can give representative advice to colleagues.

Line managers can be really great but you can't always choose them. You can, however, choose your mentor.

So, if you value your manager but would prefer to also get the perspective of someone you can relate to, mentoring is the way to go!  For example, you may want link up with someone who lives in a similar area as you, who has the same religious beliefs as you or has experienced similar struggles to you.

For me, I wanted to learn from a strong and successful woman as I felt that a woman would understand similar experiences.  In contrast, I chose a mentor who had owned a PR agency and a consultancy, rather than another civil servant like me. I did that deliberately in order to gauge a different perspective.

All in all, it was a great experience. Laura and I have a fantastic, long-lasting relationship and I'm so grateful for the support she's offered me.

I'm hopeful I'll be able to benefit from mentoring again in the future, whether that be through Progress or a more informal relationship with someone whose work I admire.

So, why don't you also take the plunge this National Mentoring Month?

If you want to talk about mentoring further, you can DM me or CIPR North West on Twitter.


Taking Away from 2021

by Hayley James
16 December 2021

I think it's fair to say that, for a lot of people, the idea of just taking 2021 away entirely would be quite nice. Like any year, for some of us it’s been brilliant: new jobs, new homes, weddings, babies, DIY completed because – well – that’s what everyone did this year, right? For a lot of us, though, 2021 was a cruel follow-up to 2020. Many of us were either working harder than ever or not at all, with restructures at work and clients changing plans. It impacted our mental health, our relationships and our way of life.

However, I believe every day is a school day and I’ve personally had a few lightening moments this year that have meant I come out of this year better than I went into it.

Measuring success matters: this year we’ve embedded a new impact reporting cycle into our activity at work. The reason was to reflect the sheer amount the team does. However, the impact has been greater pride, credibility, focus and authority. Nothing is ever perfect and it has been hard and a lot of work, but this has been a big step for a number of people in our team and, for that reason, I’m grateful that people have trusted the process and that it's paying off. Measurement isn’t just for your Board or your client, it's for your self-worth, value and pride.

Stupid questions don’t exist (sort of): this year, or rather at the end of 2020, I took a leap and put myself forward to join the CIPR Board. It was a nerve-wracking thing to do. Who did I think I was, trying to be a Board Director? Ironing board maybe, but our professional body? I put myself forward, got advice and, while it’s been tough in ways I didn’t expect, I’ve learned that even at that level a stupid question isn’t always that daft. It can often lead to a better discussion. So back yourself, as you don’t know what’s going on in other heads around a room (virtual or otherwise). I’m looking forward to 2022 and the new volunteers joining the group – and more questions.

Networks work: I’ve made more effort this year – not as much as I’d like, but definitely more – to get back in touch with people I’ve not spoken to for over a year or more. Using LinkedIn mostly but also other channels, I’ve reconnected with people and it’s been brilliant. I have learned from people and I hope they’ve gained something from me. I’ve taken advice and given it and, as someone who is naturally extrovert, it fed my soul a bit and helped my mental health, so a nice secondary result of doing something just because I felt it would be a loss for me not to.

A few of these things resulted in CPD points, so even better!

So 2021 has been rubbish for lots of reasons – I started the year feeling totally miserable that my holiday was cancelled due to another lockdown, I sat in the makeshift office I’d created for more hours than I ever imagined I would and mostly with the light on because of the reduced daylight, and I just hoped that this pandemic would do one. It did a bit, then it didn’t. It dominated the year, but it didn’t stop me getting something from the year. I volunteered for injections I’d usually run a mile from – including a flu vaccine for the first time – and I tried new things and learned.

I know everyone’s 2021 was different but I hope that, from this, you can look at the year that’s gone and find some positives in there, even if it was just redecorating the living room.


Lonely this Christmas? We've got your back!

by David Tarbuck
8 December 2021

Shout-out to all the lonely communicators out there; this one’s for you. I’ve been meaning to write about this theme for a while, and I was reminded to do so when I recently heard the festive tearjerker “Lonely This Christmas” by Mud. And I didn’t just hear it once, dear reader, but several times as I ventured from shop to shop in my local town centre. The message was received and this blog duly written.

Being a sole practitioner can be lonely. Whatever field you work in, if you don’t have team members then it can feel like you’re in an isolated position. So, here are five tips that come to mind to stop you feeling “cold, so cold” this Christmas or indeed at any time of the year! *Apologies for the soon-to-emerge earworm*

You don’t have to be alone
Even if you are doing a fantastic job, everyone needs peers to bounce off. If they aren’t available to you in your organisation or immediate circle, check out all the groups that exist within CIPR. There are various committees you can get involved with, or there are virtual social events that you can turn up to and have a chat. For example, the CIPR Midlands group organises a regular open mic event for peer support and discussion.

Build networks
Your peers are your best asset and you need them to get things done. Cultivating good relationships is certainly helpful when you need urgent help or simply if you’d like them to bump your request up their to-do list. In turn, they will know you’re on hand to help them when they need support.

Don’t turn down a freebie
Let’s face it, we’ve all been asked to do something we don’t know how to do. Indeed, you may often be asked to do anything and everything that is communication-related – but none of us knows it all. Thankfully, the CIPR, AMEC and other reputable organisations offer huge amounts of free information and helpful guides to members and followers. For example: you’re asked to design a complex campaign from scratch and haven’t got a clue where to start. No problem, check out the civil service’s comprehensive OASIS guide to campaign planning.

Show your worth
Seldom do we communicators brag about achievements, probably because either we know that they are often a product of others’ work, or we are just plain embarrassed to do so. And yet we do achieve some awesome outcomes and if we don’t shine a light on them once in a while, no-one else will. How, then, can we fully demonstrate the value we bring? If you don’t already do so, give your leadership or clients a summary of comms successes once in a while to keep them abreast of what’s been achieved and what you plan to focus on next. Keep in mind “return on investment” to demonstrate the value of your work.

Take care of yourself
Reserve time in your diary to focus on your own requirements. Too often we let emails and tasks build up because there’s no-one to delegate them to. If you put a regular block in your diary once a week, you will not only clear the build-up but also prepare yourself for the week ahead. Also consider scheduling monthly slots for personal development and upskilling. If you don’t have something in mind, why not instead use the time to attend a CIPR event and meet new peers? As a member of the CIPR NW committee, I for one will be happy to greet you.


Looking at our future – post COP26 – great answers for small businesses

by Jeni Beattie
2 December 2021

We heard essential advice and a good debate, thanks to CIPR North West’s latest webinar this week – we brought together a panel of experts in a discussion about the role of the communications function in the wake of COP26.

Apart from saving the planet, we heard how the transition to net zero can affect us professionally and personally. Our speakers talked about supporting their organisations and clients, how they communicate internally and externally, and how sustainable practices can be embedded into every organisation’s strategy.

The panel was chaired by CIPR North West Chair, Anthony Bullick, and our guest speakers were:

•   Dr Geoff Mackey, BASF Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director
•   Michael Bennett, MD of specialist sustainability PR consultancy Pelican Communications
•   Sarah Calderbank, Assistant Head of Communications at the Lake District National Park

The debate was so good that we ran out of time, so speaker Michael Bennett followed the event with this advice for small business owners on how they might reduce their carbon footprint:

“Ways of reducing carbon in a small business are not always obvious. But if you adopt the same approach as you would in your personal life, you can make a difference. Try considering any of the following:

•   Swapping energy supplier to a renewables-only company.
•   Incentivise staff to take public transport to work or walk if they close by.
•   Engage and educate your staff by considering carbon literacy training.
•   Get involved in initiatives to cut carbon or improve the environment. At Pelican we supported ‘City of Trees’ and had a team day where we went tree planting.
•   Install recycling bins at your office and make sure they get used; you sometimes have to take away waste bins next to desks to get people to start participating.
•   Use sustainable web hosting services: hosting services are the invisible fossil fuel consumers. Unless you host your site yourself, your website likely lives on a data server in a warehouse powered by fossil fuels.
•   Turn off lights, printers and computers at the end of the day. So many people just turn off the screen, rather than powering down.”


11 things that count for CIPR CPD points that you maybe didn’t realise

by CIPR North West Committee
14 October 2021

CPD is all about training courses isn’t it? Wrong. There are so many ways you can earn CPD points, helping you achieve and maintain your Accredited Practitioner status. Your North West committee has put together this handy little list to inspire and get you thinking.

1. Our CIPR North West Chair, Anthony Bullick, hosts a PR and marketing conference for charities this month, which will earn points towards his annual CPD.

2. CIPR North West committee member Natasha Calder writes her own blog and gains CPD points for doing so. She also attended a Women in Comms conference last year, organised by Dods Diversity and Inclusion (gaining 10 points).

3. Attending any of our North West events, training courses or networking events earns you 5 or 10 points, depending on what it is.

4. Are you a fan of podcasts? CIPR North West committee member Natasha Calder recommends making time to listen to Calm Edge Rebels superb series. Gaining some ace insight and gaining 5 CPD points too for each episode ;-)

5. Maybe reading’s more your thing? Find yourself a good book on leadership, ethics - anything related to the profession - and you’re able to claim CPD points. CIPR North West Budget Manager, Amanda Coleman, has a cracking new book out on crisis communications strategies. Just saying, and with Christmas not far off ...

6. Did you know that volunteering to help with the North West CIPR team (or one its sub-groups: Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside+) can earn you up to a third of your annual CPD 60 point target? Worth thinking about. We always want newbies.

7. Every year, local gas network Cadent arranges for its media team - including CIPR North West committee member Kevin Hegarty - to attend TV and radio interview skills refresher training. It’s in-house training, but counts as 10 CPD points. Does your company organise any training for you? Remember to log it as CPD too.

8. Any networking activity counts towards CPD; it doesn’t have to be a PR event. Bridget Batty, one of our CIPR North West committee members, is able to claim CPD points as organiser of the Professional Oldham quarterly business networking group.

9. How many of you offer to speak at universities, colleges or schools, or attend careers events to help share your experience of the world of work and PR in particular? If you do, don’t forget you can log that towards your 60-points for the year.

10. We know so many of our wonderful North West PR community act as mentors - CIPR North West Budget Manager, Amanda Coleman, is one of the mentors on CIPR’s Progress scheme (exclusive to members), while fellow committee member Kevin Hegarty has just started mentoring at University Academy 92. CPD points for both!

11. Attending the AGM of the CIPR North West committee on 11th November earns you 5 points, but then stay on for the special extra event we’ve organised straight after, about getting chartered, and you double your points. Surely you’re tempted now!


Tactics for Zoom Media Interviews

by Jeni Beattie
1 October 2021

The “Zoom” type Media interview is here to stay!

An ITV reporter has just told me that DTL (Down the Line) media interviews via a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Skype, or Teams is here to stay! Coronavirus changed the way news is reported and the way radio and TV interviews are conducted. But how does this affect spokespeople?

Even though you may be familiar with speaking at conferences on Zoom or Teams, an interview with a journalist is very different. These interviews are usually live and often there are less than 120 seconds to get your point across. Plenty of time to make that point, so prepare well.

The interviewee becomes their own camera, lighting and make-up crew! Any TV news interview is a formal occasion. You may be at home, but you still need to dress smartly and look professional. It sets the tone of the interview instantly.

Use your laptop or desktop PC, not your smartphone. This helps the broadcaster record you in landscape mode.

Invest in a decent external camera and microphone. It will improve the sound quality. Try and avoid headsets, they do not look good on TV. If you use ear buds which include a microphone, be careful: the sound is often not broadcast quality. Make sure you have a good-quality broadband connection and use a cable connection directly into your router.

If you do not have a stand, put your laptop on a stack of books. I use two or three box files, so that the camera is at eye level. Do not look down into the camera, it just gives the audience an unpleasant view of your nostrils and makes your face look fatter.

Sit far enough away so that your head, shoulders and chest are visible. This makes it easier for the broadcaster to frame you. Roughly, your body should fill two thirds of the screen.

Your background needs to be as neutral as you can make it. This makes the viewer concentrate on you and what you are saying - NOT the artwork on the wall, the books on your shelves or your ceramic collection! Make sure electronic devices are on silent and try to keep pets and family members from distracting you.

Next check how well-lit you are. The light source needs to fall on your face, so do not sit with a window behind you as viewers will only see you in silhouette. The best position is at the side of a window which floods you with natural light. If that is not possible, place a lamp at the side of your computer screen but avoid 'ring' lights as they reflect on spectacles (and sometimes on the iris of the eye, which can look quite strange!).

Always do a test interview with a colleague beforehand. Get the camera angle right, check your audio and your background. Just before it is time to start the interview, ask the technicians at the other end if your lighting and framing is good. It is your interview, and you have 10 seconds to make a first impression!

During the interview, keep looking at the camera, not the screen. This is your contact with the viewer. The journalist is just a conduit through which you reach the audience. Do not look down at notes – if an aide-memoire helps confidence, use post-it notes with key words next to the camera.

Always finish your answer before the journalist’s next question, even if you hear them speaking – there can be time delay issues.

At the end of the interview, resist any temptation to exhale noisily in relief or raise your eyes to the heavens! Keep looking at the camera and retain a pleasant demeanour until you are told “all clear.”


Repurpose video into other content as part of your integrated PR and marketing

by Anthony Bullick
15 September  2021

With an increasingly wide range of PR and marketing channels and routes to your stakeholders, finding the right way to focus your energy for maximum gain is ever-more vital.

However, with a little forethought and planning, it’s possible to take one core piece of content and repurpose it to reach more of your target audience elsewhere to reinforce your messaging.

This forms the cornerstone of integrated PR and communications: by telling one story across different mediums, you can get the biggest bang for your buck.

Start with video content, perhaps a case study with a client, expert commentary, or a how-to instructional.

Consider cutting out 20-second clips that can be used to enhance your social media beyond your usual post with a photograph. This will enhance the viewer’s experience and engage them with your brand for much longer that they perhaps normally would.

Transcribe the footage for a press release or blog to post fresh content on your website in a different format, as well as liaise with the media over its inclusion as editorial if its newsworthy.

Integrate the video into other marketing literature or company documents such as digital sales brochures or your annual report to add life and interactivity, which will capture the attention of the reader.

It could also be used to inspire content marketing such as infographics or an e-book to provide visual options for consuming the key messages.

Strip out the audio and launch a podcast; this medium is growing exponentially and can add a dynamic and intriguing element to your PR and marketing mix.

Host the video on YouTube, the second biggest search engine, and enhance your brand’s visibility on the platform by including well-optimised descriptions and titles.

Publish each format of the content on your website to assist with search engine optimisation (SEO) and increase your organisation’s presence in search results.

In addition, share each piece via email, such as an e-newsletter, to place it directly in your target audience’s inbox.

Include the video, podcast, blog and infographic in your social media content calendar to boost engagement on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Add them to your paid social media activity and run A/B testing to discover which style attracts the most results.

Finally, if you have worked or collaborated with a third party such as a client, ask them to share on their own channels as their network is likely to include potential customers for you.


Why HEARD MENTALITY is a campaign worth getting behind

by David Tarbuck
11 August  2021

Don’t worry, this blog is not about the dreaded “herd immunity”, a term which has become as political as it was anything medical. Rather, it is about good mental health. Phew! That’s because the CIPR and PRCA have joined forces to inspire comms and PR pros to have conversations with colleagues and support others to overcome poor mental health.

It’s all been tied in with World Listening Day, a day that ironically I’d never heard of before the CIPR-PRCA announcement. That day was actually back in mid-July, but the campaign is running until mid-September. Not to worry, we all know that as comms professionals we should be listening all of the time, not on just one day: it’s pretty much the first line of the job description!

So, what’s the campaign about? In short, CIPR and PRCA are determined to improve the mental wellbeing of people working in our industry. To do so, they are challenging pros to host mental health conversations in the week commencing 13th September. If you’re interested, the bodies are offering conversation starter packs, which you can sign up for on this page.

According to research conducted by CIPR and PRCA, 90% of PR professionals reported poor mental health in the last 12 months. This is a worrying statistic and I am concerned that our industry has, to repurpose a famous phrase, “a silent majority”. I wonder, how many people have you heard talking about their mental health challenges? I can count on one hand the people who have recently told me about their issues, and none of them were colleagues in the workplace. Just by law of averages, this suggests to me that some of my valued colleagues have been suffering with something, but preferred keeping it to themselves.

This is a difficult area to tackle because we should not pressurise people to discuss something that is personal. Being a bloke, I can tell you that this is not an area that is easy to talk about. I had a hard time during the initial stages of the pandemic, but it took me a while to open up to anyone about it. Once I did I felt better, though I wanted to do so in my own time when I was ready.

I think back to two men who have impressed me with their determination to get people to talk about mental health. Prince William has led a campaign to “break the stigma” of talking about mental health with others, using football as a vehicle to promote it. Meanwhile, Alastair Campbell has been extremely open about his ongoing challenges with depression.

Indeed, he spoke at the PRCA national conference and compared coping with his condition to a jam jar: when he is feeling well, the mental jam jar is full of family, good experiences and things that motivate him. On a bad day, the mental jam jar is more filled by negative aspects that accentuate his condition or make it unmanageable. This helps him to work out what he needs to focus on to feel better. Here is a three minute clip about Alastair’s jam jar.

From a personal perspective, I think that mental health is an area that is being increasingly discussed in the workplace but I wouldn’t say that it has become an open conversation yet. This is why the CIPR-PRCA campaign is very timely. We shouldn’t pressure people to talk about their experiences, but by normalising the whole area there is a good chance that anyone dealing with a problem will feel more confident to talk about it, if and when they want to do so. As Prince William says, this will help us to break the stigma.


Mentoring: why asking for support is a strength not a weakness

by Amanda Coleman (Chart.PR) FCIPR, FPRCA
19 July  2021

Working in PR and communication is a fabulous thing but can also be a very lonely place. You may be the only communication person in the organisation, or you may be wrestling with a difficult situation, all of which can feel very lonely. I know because I have been there. When I started in PR, I would never ask for help, fearing it was a sign of weakness.

Finding the right sort of support is not a weakness but a strength. It is why I strongly believe that we all need a mentor at points in our lives. Someone who will listen without judgement, will be there to provide help, and who is unconnected with our day-to-day work.

After years of benefiting from such support, I jumped at the chance of becoming a mentor, particularly as the pandemic has put a huge amount of pressure on all of us. It is part of the way I feel I can repay the support that I have received over the years.

So why would you need a mentor?

You may be looking at a change in your life and want to talk things through. You may be having some challenges at work and need to talk them through. You may just want to offload all the problems that are blocking you from what you want to achieve. You may be looking for how to take the next steps in your career. Really it doesn’t matter why, as mentoring is a way of helping whatever the issue is.

What I think matters most is that you find someone who works for you. I always have a preliminary chat with a prospective mentee to see if we feel we could work together. There is no issue with realising it isn’t going to be the best pairing and for the mentee to move on. Decide in the initial stages and find someone who will be a match.

The CIPR Progress mentoring scheme (free and exclusive to CIPR members) gives access to a full range of mentors with different backgrounds, experiences, and outlooks. There will definitely be someone who may be able to help you just when you need it the most.


Taking on the Challenge of Chartership

by Sarah Calderbank
5 July  2021

As someone who always looks for the positives, during the pandemic I embraced the chance to dive into more online events, learning resources and supercharge my CPD.

With a PR degree, 20 years’ industry experience and having spent the past year tackling some the most demanding communications challenges of my career, I decided now was the perfect time to take on the ultimate PR accreditation and #GetChartered.

Did you know the CIPR is the only PR organisation with a Royal Charter? It’s the highest level of assessment in our profession and is the mark of commitment to professional development and ethical standards.

So, it should be no surprise to hear that it’s not easy and not every PR practitioner will be ready. However, don’t let that put you off, I’d say it’s definitely something that every PR professional should strive towards.

Get ready!

You’ll be assessed against three key areas: ethics, strategy and leadership. No, not just how to write a press release or create a viral TikTok. You’re going to be demonstrating high-level strategy, critical thinking, ethical problem solving and a solid understanding of PR as a strategic management function.

Help is on hand though. There are lots of resources available on the CIPR website. I watched videos, read the blogs, carefully reviewed the Chartership Handbook and spoke to Chartered peers to get a flavour for what was involved.

I’d say it’s never too soon to start putting the building blocks in place towards Chartership. Seek out opportunities to gather as much relevant experience as you can. Volunteering, shadowing, mentoring and, of course, keeping up with your CPD, all provide great complementary opportunities beyond your current role.

I decided this was my time. I felt ready, match-fit and up for the challenge, so took a deep breath and pressed the big ‘book’ button towards Chartership.

Get set!

Onto the homework. I knew this stuff; I told myself over and over, but I wanted to make sure I had some great examples at my fingertips.

I ticked off the background competencies and worked on my CPD plan. I decided to set myself goals for the next two years that would continue to stretch me, with a decent level of variety to keep me motivated. I also blended on-the-job learning with formal training and learning from others.

Ahead of the big day I received the case studies that would form the basis of the assessment.

I structured my preparation around reading, reflecting, preparing examples and a few headline notes. As advised, I tried not to over-prepare. I reminded myself I had solid experience and skills and I was determined to enjoy and make the most of the experience, whatever the outcome.

Go!

As we were still in pandemic-mode, the assessment took place in the now-familiar land of Zoom.

My fellow practitioners and assessors were incredibly supportive and friendly, as you’d expect from the PR community!

My knowledge, judgement and skills were certainly put to the test with questions, questions and more questions. It was a challenging, thought-provoking, rigorous experience, but, as a critical thinker, a surprisingly enjoyable one.

The moment I was told I had passed and was now a Chartered PR Practitioner, is etched in my memory as a career highlight! I felt proud as punch. However, the celebration was bittersweet as not everyone passed their assessments that day - a reminder that learning and professional development is a journey.

Go Go!

It’s been a month since my assessment and I still feel proud, confident and empowered to take on my next challenge. If you are thinking of getting Chartered, my advice is ‘go for it!’. Get in touch if I can help. @SarahCalders


Looking for a little lockdown reading?

by Amanda Jackson
15 April  2021

Find out what some of the North West’s PR professionals have been reading over the past few months of lockdown.  At the March 2021 CIPR North West’s social event, we all shared our top recommendations for books and podcasts.  And what an eclectic list it turned out to be!  Here is a snapshot of the top 20 titles and podcasts:

Audio recommendations
 
The Battersea Poltergeist – BBC Sounds podcast https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xttx2/episodes/downloads
Csuite (marketing) podcast
That Peter Crouch Podcast
Late night with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover
BBC Sounds – Night Tracks
Rough Trade edit podcast
Morecambe Bay Podcast (interesting guests – from sea swimmers and bird watching to Morecambe and Wise and photography)
Talk Art podcast
2020 R4 Reith Lectures by Mark Carney – climate, covid and credit

Book recommendations
 
Where the crawdads sing – Delia Owens
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Lemm Sissy – My name is why
A cheesemongers history of the British Isles – Ned Palmer
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Akin by Emma Donoghue
The Man Coach by James Boardman
Alan Partridge from the Oasthouse
Dadventures – by Alex Gregory

And in it’s own specially important category…
 
MyPossible Self – a free mental health app from the NHS

What have you been reading/ listening to recently? What would you recommend?


Fukushima - my PR lessons learned

by Kevin Hegarty
11 March  2021

I'm reminded today that it's 10 years since Fukushima. I worked in comms at the UK nuclear safety regulator at the time. Here are a few PR reflections.
 
I supported the UK chief nuclear inspector and his team as they carried out a safety review of UK nuclear power plants, to see what lessons could and should be learned. It was an incredibly busy time, with lots of media interest.
 
There's an abundance of great advice on crisis communications out there and people who make a living out of advising on it. I won't claim to be the expert, but here's a couple of PR lessons I learned from my involvement in Fukushima:
 
Being clear on your messaging
 
The chief nuclear inspector was tasked by UK Government to deliver a report on the safety lessons learned. This was published with press release, big press conference, the works.
 
We'd worked on our messaging and thought we'd nailed it. But when put through practice and testing, we realised they needed refining.
 
That's where the expertise of a media trainer came in. I contributed a fair bit, but in reality mainly watched in admiration as a very experienced media trainer picked apart the 'official' wording of our messaging and made it far easier for the audience to understand. Simplifying the language and making it understandable to all, not just an informed few.
 
If ever there was a good reminder of the importance of having three clear key messages, this was it.
 
We went on to deliver a really informed, effective, packed-out press conference to the world's media.
 
Managing the team's workload, health and well-being
 
The natural instinct when a story like this breaks is to get involved.
 
I was on holiday on 11 March 2011. It was obvious this was a massive event - and I wanted to get involved. But the team had the right mindset.
 
This was clearly a long-haul project. We were a team - and a skilled team at that. It was all in hand. I needed to take my holiday, make sure I was recharged and ready to pick up from others when they in turn needed rest.
 
So, this lesson is really a reminder - if you're in for a long-running incident, make decisions early about team management.
 
Making sure people rest, making sure people are assigned to the business as usual. It's easy to let that slip if you don't make a conscious decision to consider it.
 
Expect the unexpected: some journalists do have an agenda
 
When you're in the heat of the moment and very focused about your specific story, don't forget that your event / story might just be a route in for a journalist to ask about something else.
 
You're putting your spokesperson up for interview - and while you can expect most of the questions to be about the subject at hand, don't expect to field just questions on that.
 
One national newspaper journalist in his one-to-one with the chief nuclear inspector didn't ask a single question about Fukushima - he was more interested in asking about the challenge the UK regulator was facing with many of its inspectors nearing retirement age.
 
There will always be the 'while I've got you on' question - so make sure you're ready for that.
 
Hope you find these reflections useful. Please do share your own advice and experiences.


9 Quick Tips for Running an Online Networking Event

by Amanda Jackson
9 March  2021

Since the start of the lockdown, all events have become online ones. Yet they continue to be as important as ever. They are where we meet, network, learn and explore new ideas.
The CIPR North West has continued to host training sessions – in particular, the Lancashire sub-group that I chair has staged almost a dozen on a range of topics from analytics to internal comms; from meeting the media to mental health. You can read about how we made it work here. We have had over 450 tickets booked for them, so purely from an engagement and continuous learning point of view, there has been a small Covid silver lining – we have been able to engage far more widely with our PR community.
But we realised there was still a gap. Training is absolutely necessary and hugely enjoyable, but where were the opportunities to just chat? So we decided to kick back and organise a social networking event. A way to get to know the new faces a bit better and refresh connections with other industry colleagues.

Here’s how we did it.

9 quick tips for successful online networking

1. Our webinars are team efforts so we distribute roles across the committee, with a different person handling:

Writing the event description
Putting the event listing together
Coordinating social media
A role in the webinar itself (which we’ll get to in a moment)

2. We make extensive use of WhatsApp as an organising committee, so communication doesn’t get lost in the email deluge. Over WhatsApp, we discuss the event running order, and assign ‘on the day’ tasks.

3. We have a tech check 10 minutes before attendees arrive to iron out any last minute glitches. At this check we also make sure there are at least two co-hosts assigned. This enables organisers to let any latecomers in from the waiting room (whilst someone else is talking), or mute delegates if necessary. It also is insurance against the whole event closing if the host’s system fails.

4. Whilst we’re all used to Zoom/ Teams/ Google Meetups etc, talking in a large group isn’t conducive to a relaxed, chatty environment, so once the format was explained, we quickly put people into breakout rooms. We had about five people per room, which seemed about right.

5. One person is in charge of opening/closing the breakout rooms. We opted to use the ‘automatic’ function, which randomly assigns five people to each breakout room. These rooms were closed at the end of each breakout and then ‘reopened’ again, which meant that the groups were randomly mixed.

6. In the hour session we had 3 x 15 minute breakout sessions, interspersed with feedback and setting the next conversation starter. These conversation seeds proved to be very popular, and they enabled everyone to contribute. Here are a list of ones you could try at your own event:

Over the past year, what has changed in your life … that you would like to keep?
What is your top productivity tip that keeps you on track?
What advice would you give your younger self, just starting a career in PR?
What are your book and podcast recommendations?
What is your biggest PR win/ success story?
How is your week going?
Share some example of great comms you’ve seen recently
What are you looking forward to, post lockdown?
How do you decide on training topics?
Highs, lows or funniest points in your career…
What would you say is the soundtrack to your life?

7. Timing is crucial with online events, so using the ‘broadcast to all rooms’ function on Zoom, we reiterated the topic to be discussed; and then gave a five-minute warning of the time left in each session. We had really positive feedback on this feature.

8. In order to keep the event engaging, we had different committee members introducing each new topic and asking for a quick review from a few of the groups on what they talked about. It works a bit like a layer cake:

Speaker 1: scene setting, the plan and the first topic
Breakout room 1
Speaker 2: asking for feedback from breakout topic 1; then setting groups off again with second topic
Breakout room 2
Speaker 3: asking for feedback from breakout topic 2; then setting groups off again with third topic
Breakout room 3
Speaker 4: asking for feedback from breakout topic 3. Then trailing forthcoming events
Speaker 1 again: wrapping up the event and close.

9. We always ask for feedback and use Google forms to collect and collate the data. A link to this is put in the chat, so people can fill it in during the event. Whilst online socials aren’t a patch on seeing people in real life, it was definitely a success and something we’ll be doing again.



#ChooseToChallenge yourself this International Women’s Day

by Natasha Calder
5 March  2021

For ambitious people working in mid-level positions, the daily grind can sometimes feel like navigating through a limbo period.
 
We feel comfortable in our jobs because we're good at what we do and we have a comprehensive knowledge of our organisation but among that, we're often trying to strike a healthy balance between displaying leadership, decision making and working as part of a team.
 
That's why in the week that acknowledges International Women's Day 2021, I #ChooseToChallenge feeling comfortable.
 
For some, misunderstanding a thirst for knowledge for unhappiness in your current job can be an easy mistake to make, so I challenge you to think about your goals and to set a realistic road map of how to get there.
 
One of your goals might be to take on more responsibility but if a promotion opportunity isn't available to you right now, or if you enjoy your job and have a great team behind you, it might be time to cast the net wider than the day job.
 
Seeking out new opportunities doesn't always mean finding a new employer or making a career change; it could be connecting with new people online, joining a committee or learning a new skill that will open up new challenges for you in the work place.
 
That's exactly what I did. The PR world is much bigger than the teams we work in, the clients we represent and the companies we direct. There is a huge PR community out there with a wealth of knowledge, perspectives and ideas to share.
 
By meeting new people and having conversations with other PR pros outside of our working life, we can discover our passions and feel more inspired every day.
 
And what's more? It's something you can do yourself at your own pace, which makes it so much more personal to your own professional development and the feeling of achievement is arguably much greater.
 
It's also worth remembering that being a leader isn't always something you need to aspire to.
 
Challenge your traditional perspectives and think about how you display leadership already.
 
Do you support colleagues?
Do you manage projects or clients?
Do you advise effectively and strategically?
Do you have influence with senior management?
Do you ask questions to understand the reasoning behind a piece of work or a decision?
 
Answering yes to one or more of these questions could be the reassurance or boost you need to feel inspired again.
 
Responsibility and leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. Ultimately, it's about working collectively and supporting others to reach a common end goal.
 
At the beginning of this post, I suggested that mid-level PR pros are trying to strike a healthy balance between displaying leadership, decision making and working as part of a team. But the important thing to remember here is that these three qualities often work hand in hand.
 
So this year, what will you #ChooseToChallenge?
 
Start the conversation over at @CIPRNORTHWEST.


CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN: HOW MY BIGGEST LEARNING COST IN 2020 WAS TIME

by Hayley James
28 February  2021

I’m still feeling a little bit smug at the moment, following the realisation that this year I’ve completed twelve consecutive years of CIPR CPD.  Get me!  One thing I’m still struck by is the perception that learning how to be good at PR is expensive.  The more I’ve looked into this and found different ways to develop my knowledge and expertise, the more I’ve realised that this isn’t the case at all.  The trick is to find value in what you do.
 
Learning can be expensive; qualifications are rightly costly as they involve teaching, assessment and the expertise of others.  These have their place and several years ago I completed a post graduate diploma in PR studying around work.  However, qualifications are not the only way to learn if you don’t have the budget or the time right now.
 
The activities I’ve undertaken these last twelve months and, more importantly, have banked as CPD include volunteering, judging awards, presenting at conferences, attending webinars and virtual discussions on a variety of subjects, plus some in-house learning from work on areas including Information Governance, virtual sessions on managing priorities and team away days.  I also ran a session in work on comms skills for managers; that’s five CPD points plus I’m building an army of advocates.
 
One major change I’ve personally noticed during the pandemic is the volume of online resources that now exist for learning that previously would have been inaccessible, due to distance or closed groups.  Reading white papers, reports and research undertaken by the PR industry also count as CPD, as well as helping give you data to back up your ideas and approach when needed.
 
I’ve also taken advantage of some of the brilliant resources on the CIPR CPD site, such as the pre-recorded webinars and podcasts.  There are plenty more in the offing and I’d like to plug the brilliant new member's careers portal that has got a wealth of information and guidance on there, regardless of where you are in your career.  This is a fantastic tool for anyone.
 
In the past I’ve claimed points for reading books, listening to other podcasts (and there are now more PR and business-related ones than ever), speaking to students, doing free modules on platforms such as Coursera, and loads of others.
 
I’ve learned the hard way that my memory is more porous than it’s ever been, so I’m committing this year to upload CPD as I go.  It saves the panic I’ve had these last few years at the start of February when I’ve got to track back the activities I’ve undertaken.
 
Learning takes many forms and there is more free learning out there than ever.  Your time is valuable and spending it on your personal development is always a good investment.

Outwrite MD starts third year as Chair of CIPR North West

18 December  2020

The North West regional chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)  is to focus on continuing to deliver value for members as the industry looks to bounce back for 2021.  
Anthony Bullick, who is managing director of North Wales-based Outwrite PR, leads the CIPR North West’s team of volunteers to support the PR community with events, training and professional development.
 
With much of 2020 taken up with responding to the impact of Covid-19, Anthony plans to use the final year of his three-year term ensuring the body is in good shape for the future.
 
He said: “When I was appointed for my second year, I don’t think any of us expected 2020 to turn out like this. Just eight weeks in, everything went out the window.
 
“But the industry has responded magnificently; we’ve switched training days and face-to-face seminars to webinars, made the best use of social media to share learning tools, and made great strides in improving the diversity of the CIPR North West committee.”
 
Anthony, a chartered PR practitioner, continued: “We have an incredibly strong, talented and diverse range of committee members and the PR community in the North West is in good hands, thanks to those around me.
 
“The North West is home to perhaps the best PR community in the UK. Whether we’re talking about talent, skills, creativity, a desire to learn and develop, resilience, being a support network, or any other factor.
 
“But whatever 2021 looks like, we will continue to focus on adding value to our North West members and supporting them in any way we can.”
 
The CIPR enables members to expand their knowledge through courses and training, whilst offering business support and networking opportunities.
 
A member of the CIPR North West committee for seven years, Anthony has previously helped the group run events as well as coordinate its social media channels.
 
He also regularly gives talks to promote the PR industry, having presented to students at the University of Chester, Bangor University and Manchester Metropolitan University.
 
For more information about Outwrite visit www.outwrite.co.uk