Rachel Roberts, CEO at spottydog communications, started her tenure as CIPR President at the turn of the year. Rachel joined the Institute in 2008 and served as Chair and Vice Chair of the CIPR Midlands Group from 2016-2019, and became a Chartered PR in 2016. She has served on the CIPR Board since January 2020. We caught up with Rachel to discuss her plans for the year.
1: What can members expect from the CIPR this year? Which key themes will be in spotlight?
I’m very focused on empowering the CIPR as an organisation and our members to get involved in new opportunities and in turn achieve greater impact and recognition for the role of PR. In particular, I’m keen to broaden inclusion, encourage new voices to participate and ensure we are representative of the diverse communities which we serve.
For members, it’s critical to maximise awareness of the vast number of learning and development opportunities that come with membership, but members are often unaware of. All members will be able to benefit from new free training sessions, the Employability Hub, together with the Influence Blog and Engage Podcasts, which means it’s possible to achieve their annual CPD goals as part of their core membership.
We will harness new ways to communicate, adding to the existing website, email and social media updates through the launch of the CIPR Connect App and four Town Hall events. I’m excited that the Town Hall events will provide a platform for members to have a voice and get involved in CIPR in a new way, plus they will feature a topical guest speaker to also provide a further CPD opportunity.
I’m also very focused on also taking the CIPR out of the bubble of our historic engaged community. We’d love to welcome more members to join us and increase engagement and commit to professional and ethical standards of practice so we can increase recognition for the distinction of chartered PR practice and the value of our industry to wider society.
2: You have worked in a variety of PR roles, how does your experience shape your professional PR capability?
I’m fortunate that I have worked within all PR settings – as in independent, inhouse and within consultancy in London and Birmingham. I’ve worked for corporate plcs, for a charity, for government departments and for consumer brands so I can draw on a broad range of experience to provide strategic PR counsel.
Since founding spottydog communications, I’ve added to my professional capability with ten years of experience running my own business, experiencing fast growth and business maturity. In addition to my communications skills, as a solo business owner I need to consider and understand the financial, HR, legal and operational dynamics, in addition to providing client consultancy. The CEO perspective, taking the helicopter view, weighing up options, making tough choices and always considering long term sustainability rather than achieving short-term goals, now hugely influences the communications counsel I provide.
I fundamentally believe whatever decisions are made in the boardroom, they are only enabled through effective communications. Communications is the bridge to enable organisations to move from A to B, so I’m keen to understand how we can better articulate the value and impact of PR & Communications to get greater buy-in from the C-Suite.
3: What’s the biggest challenge facing our industry?
Whilst technology and the evolving digital landscape will inevitably offer further challenge which we must continue to embrace, I believe PR practitioners have always been good at tapping into new opportunities and evolving their skill set.
For me the biggest challenge which will impact our profession is the changing place of work. We’re an industry of people, not machines, so the impact of covid, the changing workplace and people’s expectations of work cannot be reversed. In an industry which is heavily biased towards learning on the job and skewed towards a younger workforce we need to protect our industry IP – the skills which are learnt and passed to the next generation of talent.
4: What’s the one thing you hope to have achieved by the end of your 2022 presidency?
I hope that I can use my time as President to empower CIPR members to get involved, make the most of their membership and demonstrate the distinction of those committed to professional Chartered PR practice, to attract more members into CIPR. If we can increase the proliferation of Members, Accredited and Chartered Practitioners then we should find that it becomes an opt out rather than opt in choice as the market and employers expect practitioners to hold this.
I hope to bang the drum so organisations looking to invest in PR advice understand that CIPR Chartered Practitioners are a safer bet as they are engaged in continuous professional development which is crucial within our fast moving media landscape, together with being committed to ethical practice so organisations can trust the counsel given.
Finally, I very much hope that 2022 will see the return of more in person events, including our postponed Volunteer Conference. As a member I know how much I have got from meeting peers and making connections at face-to-face events and I fundamentally believe a strength of the public relations industry is our ability to build real human relationships, so it’s an important dynamic of our professional capability.
Anything achieved during 2022 will be as a result of a team effort, so I welcome CIPR members, volunteers and new members to join me to make this year the year to get involved, invest in yourself and reap the rewards of recognition and reputation for leading in public relations.