Stephen Waddington: It’s time for PRs to be taken seriously
Stephen Waddington is the digital and social media director for Ketchum’s European operations. He is also the president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the professional body for the UK public relations industry, and a chartered PR practitioner.
Stephen’s experience and understanding of the PR industry is echoed in his blog, Two-Way Street, and in the books he has co-authored including #BrandVandals and Brand Anarchy.
In the first of an exclusive two-part interview with Cision, Stephen reveals some of the big changes ahead for the CIPR and explains how a Chartered status holds the key to a PR’s place in the boardroom.
How do you divide your time between the CIPR and Ketchum roles?
Managing my time requires discipline and the support of fantastic teams at both the CIPR and Ketchum. My role at Ketchum involves travel between home in Northumberland, our European offices and our headquarters in New York. I’m set up to work wherever I am.
The challenges that the CIPR faces are the challenges facing the PR industry. They are the same issues around media fragmentation and two-way dialogue that our clients at Ketchum are dealing with day-in day-out.
Is there a major overhaul on the cards for CIPR for 2014?
It is critical that the CIPR is relevant to members and the broader profession. That starts with the value proposition focused on professionalism. We are shifting the organisation to become a network that is more member-led and a truly social organisation. The CIPR is a UK-wide organisation and it needs to represent the interests of members beyond London. We need to invest in the network, not the central organisation. There’s a lot to do but we’ve made a good start.
Tell us about your blog Two-Way Street
I started this blog 18 months ago when I was on gardening leave prior to joining Ketchum. Before that I’d always blogged for an organisation. The changing speed of communication is something anyone in PR can relate to. It’s the opportunities and challenges that come with it that I wanted to address through my blog.
Over the course of last year, I’ve used the position of CIPR President to build my network and in doing so, brought in new readers. I blog to learn and build a professional network. The combination of a blog and Twitter is powerful in engaging with a market and building a personal reputation. It’s thanks to blogging that Steve Earl and I landed a deal with Bloomsbury for Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals. Numbers wise December was slow, but in January I notched up more than 5,000 uniques.
What do people look for in a blog on PR?
The funny thing about a PR blog though is that no matter what you write, and how contentious the issues you address may be, the most popular content is always the ones on the basics of communications theory. On Two-Way Street, the most popular content to date has been a piece based on a 1980s comms theory. There are a lot of students that are either writing a paper or looking for a job, as well as PRs that are in the early stage of their careers, who read PR blogs for tips and advice.
Do you feel a Chartered status is important for PR practitioners?
As PR professionals, we demand we’re taken seriously and want a place in the boardroom table. But if you look at the other members of the boardroom who we aspire to sit next to, you will find that they all have professional qualifications backed up by a Chartered status. In PR we have all the pieces of the jigsaw but are reluctant to adopt the rigour of a profession.
As President of CIPR, I‘ll spend the next 12 months working with the CEO and Council to review governance and to make sure the right processes are in place. My main focus is professionalism – I believe we need to adopt a professional stand to be taken seriously. That’s the thing about PR, there is no barrier to entry, but it is hard for the profession to earn a place in the boardroom.
In part two of the interview that will be published tomorrow, Stephen lists the hottest trends in the PR industry and shares some fun and interesting facts about himself. Stay tuned!
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