Emma Leech, Director of Marketing and Advancement for Loughborough University, kicked off her tenure as CIPR President this month. Emma joined the Institute back in 1996, became one of the first Accredited Practitioners in 2005, and a Fellow in 2009. She’s a Founding Chartered Practitioner and credits the CIPR for shaping her skills, but what does she have in store as CIPR President? We caught up with her to discuss her plans for the year.
1: What can members expect from the CIPR this year? Which key themes will be in spotlight?
CIPR members can expect to be centre-stage this year. My focus is on growing membership and increasing engagement by supporting skills, talent and career development at all levels. I want the Institute to become more responsive, sustainable and member focused in everything we do.
Sarah Hall, our 2018 President, did a great job in promoting PR as a strategic management function firmly and I hope to build on that incredibly valuable work as we look to improve the profile and perceptions of our industry. Working with business and industry is crucial to our success.
I know how much our members contribute to their organisations, including their impact on the bottom line. It’s important that organisations understand PR’s worth and it’s essential that our members’ skills are valued. Critically, skills don’t stand still any more and as expert practitioners, we can’t either.
2: Your job title at Loughborough is Director Marketing and Advancement. Do you see yourself as a marketer or a PR professional? Does the distinction matter?
I’m both – with the qualifications to go with that! It’s an interesting questions though as I started life in a PR agency start-up and over thirty years’ on, I still think that strategic and creative communication is the bedrock of any good campaign. Semantics and definitions aside, it’s incredibly clear from the State of the Profession survey that disciplines are converging and that they will continue to do so. Where does PR stop and SEO take over? Who “owns” social? What’s the impact of AI likely to be? As a profession, we need to be agile and creative, and stop worrying about distinctions and barriers. Let’s harness that energy into proactively upskilling and being passionate, authentic and transparent about our contribution.
3: What’s the biggest challenge facing our industry?
The sheer pace and scale of change. Technological advances, the impact of AI, the fake news agenda – change is the key and our response to that in terms of skills, profile and our trusted expertise in an uncertain world is critical. We can’t be spectators – we have to be in the game heart and soul, working with organisations to get the results they need ethically and authentically.
4: What’s the one thing you hope to have achieved by the end of your 2019 presidency?
I’d like us to have a new found energy and confidence in our profession, to have built on Sarah’s important work to raise our profile with business and for members to feel supported at all stages of their career. That’s three. I’m an optimist.