A large group of CIPR Volunteers at the 2022 Volunteer Conference celebrating with their hands in the air

A one team approach to delivering impact for the PR industry through Purpose, Pillars, People and Process

Written by CIPR President, Rachel Roberts

The CIPR hosted its inaugural Volunteer Conference in Leeds last week – the first of its kind, staged in the post pandemic era, we were very much testing the waters to find out if there was appetite and bandwidth from volunteers to meet in person.

The conclusion was the power of getting people in room felt like a gamechanger for CIPR and our very valued volunteer community. Take a sneak peek at #CIPRVolunteerConf on social media and it’s brilliant to see how much those who were able to attend got out of the event.

I’m sorry for those volunteers who couldn’t join us due to work commitments or travel limitations, and may feel like you have missed out. We’re evaluating feedback to determine how we build on what we’ve started through this event and we’d welcome all views. In the meantime, I hope the summary below gives a good overview of what we covered, but please do ask fellow volunteers from your own group and network to share their own experience too.

The focus of the Volunteer Conference agenda included CIPR Strategy, Values, D&I, Chartership and plans for 2023 and the CIPR’s 75th anniversary year, coupled with some practical training sessions to develop podcasting, committee management, social media community management and NED skills.

The Conference also featured a Volunteer Awards evening, with recognition for 30 volunteers nominated by groups across the CIPR network. These were:

Noel Armstrong, James Sharpe, Naomi Smith, Rebecca Williams, Amy Moore, Kat Raven, Maya Anaokar, Janine Hogan, Rachel Royall, Jo Twiselton, Mike Browne, Clare Slipper, Avril Lee, Surinder Sian, Gemma Pettman, Holly Wilkins, Katherine Stedman, Chaya Mistry, Kelly O’Hanlon, Marsha van Moorsel, Shaun Bell, Ruth Jackson, Samantha Seewoosurrun, Dan Holden, Jeni Beattie, Rachael Clamp, Bron Eames, Paul Wilkinson, Anthony Bullick, Amanda Jackson, Eva Maclaine, Katie Marlow and John Wilkinson

I’m sure we only scratched the surface to recognise the huge number of people who give their time to bang the CIPR drum, so I’m only sorry if we missed lots of other Volunteers who deserved a shout out.

In summing up and closing the Conference on Friday I reflected on four common themes that surfaced through Conference discussion:

  • Purpose: It’s about working as One Team, whether you’re a CIPR team member or volunteer working within our diverse 23 different geographical and sector Groups. We all get involved with CIPR for different reasons, but we need to ensure that we work together to deliver one voice when we represent CIPR.
  • Pillars: Our Five Year Strategy – summarised in this video – has been in place since 2020. It provides the strategic framework from which all CIPR activities, whether volunteer or internally resource led, flows from. There’s still an opportunity to strengthen awareness of the strategy amongst volunteers which will help give that clarity of what’s in scope and focus group activities.
  • People: A plan is only good as the people who deliver it and building that One Team approach where volunteers and the CIPR team work together to deliver our shared purpose is huge. Ensuring the CIPR is representative of the community we serve is critical, so the D&I panel discussion acted as an important reminder that there’s lots more work to do in this area.

I have experienced that our historical behaviours within CIPR, particularly to do with taking on greater volunteering responsibilities such as President, Board, Council and Chairs, work against our manifesto to broaden D&I . I’m keen to break this cycle so volunteers aren’t put off stepping forward and whilst as a representative body we must have process, its important CIPR members feel its what you know, not who you know that creates those opportunities. With this in mind, at the Conference I called on all CIPR members to consider how they vocalise support for others who stand for elected roles. I’m quite certain CIPR members are smart enough to form their own judgements, so I would hope that skills and suitability become the main focus of eligibility and not the connections that champion people from the sidelines.

  • Process: The final focus teased out in the Conference was that of process, how Volunteers have the freedom to work within a framework, together with the need to make sure the activities that we champion work together and are part of the Workplan. It means we can unleash the power of the CIPR network and make best impact for the time we give. When we go rogue and don’t follow the process, or aren’t aware of resource that’s already in place it just makes it harder for everyone as activities and communications messaging can bump alongside each other.

So we covered a lot of ground, but this is the start of a continuing conversation to support and empower our volunteer community and I look forward to seeing how we build and deploy some of the great ideas that flowed out of the Conference.

This brilliant event was only possible thanks to the bravery of the CIPR team to make this happen. In our post covid climate it’s still hard to be confident that people will feel comfortable attending in-person events, but thanks to the valuable agenda content its clear that Volunteers felt it was a good use of time.

Thank you to all speakers that were part of the agenda line up – Alastair McCapra, Jenni Field, Asif Choudry, Prof Anne Gregory, Cornelius Alexander, Sarah Brown-Fraser, Rebecca Zeitlin, Jackie Le Ferve, Katie Marlow, Anthony Bullick, Debbie West, Fiona Hathorn, Sarah Williams, Jo March, Sara Thornhurst, Steve Shepperson-Smith, Ben Verinder and Dan Holden.

And we concluded the Conference with a reflective moment of celebration – whilst there’s bags of opportunity to strengthen CIPR, its important to reflect the brilliant impact together as one #TeamCIPR we’re making. Many many thanks to all those that volunteer and support the work of our volunteers to showcase the PR profession and the contribution the industry makes to serving clients and society with creative, technically expert and ethical public relations practice.

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