Chairman’s Report – CIPR Corporate and Financial Group AGM 2013

25 June 2013

Chairman’s Report – CIPR Corporate and Financial Group AGM 2013

The CIPR Corporate and Financial Group has enjoyed a busy and productive 12 months in the 2012/13 year.

Membership of the Group remains healthy and has continued to grow, reflecting the relevance of the Group’s events and activities for CIPR members working across the corporate and financial PR spectrum. We are very aware that for many members this Group is their primary point of interaction with their professional body, and our high retention as well as recruitment rates shows how highly this membership is valued.

As usual, our monthly lunchtime meeting programme has been the bedrock of the Group’s activities, enabling access to senior editors, journalists and PR practitioners, as well as networking with peers, all in a modest lunch hour. In the autumn Shona Prendergast handed the baton for managing this programme to Katie Hunt, and with the help of Kay Larsen this team have been responsible for maintaining and building on an impressive speaker list.

Highlights have included Anthony Hilton from the Evening Standard and the Independent, bringing a perspective on the financial crisis based on 45 years writing about the business world, and contemplating how journalists continue to think and reflect on news in the midst of the current pressure of immediacy; Jackie Brock-Doyle, Director of Communications & Public Affairs for LOCOG on the unique challenges of managing the media for the London 2012 Olympics; Lucas van Praag, previously Global Head of Corporate Communications at Goldman Sachs, with some very personal recollections and reflections on the financial crisis, and an interesting and logical theory on why bigger bonuses would be good for the overall tax-take; Linda Grant, MD of Metro, offered a business person’s perspective on modern media, from how to make the ‘free’ media model work to the power of mobile and tablet apps; and Simon Watkins from the Financial Mail on Sunday brought a chilling assessment that the business and financial sector may never cease to be front of mind for public opinion now, so we all need to learn how to listen and respond positively to what the public thinks.

The other two regular events in our annual calendar are the summer party and the annual dinner. Last year’s dinner, with Nick Hewer from The Apprentice and Countdown as guest speaker, proved very entertaining and gave an unusual insight into the breadth of roles for which a career in PR can prepare you. As usual, it was a popular evening with good turnout, especially from senior members of the industry.

We have also continued our tradition of occasional visits to places and newsrooms of interest, including Sky News last autumn and Dow Jones this spring. Thanks to the efforts of Anne Gilding, Kate Dobbin and now Louise Phillips these visits remain a regular part of the Group’s programme.

The reputational challenges of working in the financial sector remain very significant. We were delighted to host an inaugural debate on these questions in January this year, chaired by our Advisory Board member Simon Lewis, to discuss whether the UK economy has the financial services sector it deserves. The debate result was finely balanced, and coloured by initial reaction to the news that day regarding the proposed Conservative referendum on UK membership of the EU after the next election.

I was personally keen that the Corporate and Financial Group should become more involved with the increasing importance of social media channels and their consequences for corporate and financial PR. Last September we held the Group’s first Social Media Event – a breakfast time panel debate on whether social media is an appropriate tool for corporate communications. This was a lively debate both in the room and on Twitter both during and after the event. We are planning to make this an annual part of our calendar, and our next Social Media Event will be held in September.

We have also welcomed Richard Edwards to the Committee with a remit to develop the Group’s online and social media presence. I hope some of you will have seen our progress in recent weeks on LinkedIn, Google Circles and Twitter. One of the many advantages of this work is how it enables us to communicate with and hear from our members on an ongoing basis. Our LinkedIn group, for example, now has over 800 members.

Hearing from our members so we can develop the Group in the way they want is a priority for us, and Charlotte Sansom and Caroline Cecil continue to work on many ways to encourage new members and engage with longstanding ones. This month we have been running a short online survey to capture members’ views – there is still time to participate in this research until the end of June .

The committee applies energy, dedication and a wealth of ideas to ensure the Group develops and thrives. They are all volunteers, many with extremely demanding day jobs, and I remain humbled by their collective commitment to give back to their profession in this way.  In some areas, we are also assisted by “committee associates” who help us to deliver many projects, and who in turnfind the experience and addition to their CVs can be useful. We welcome volunteers for these roles.

It should be clear from my comments above that I owe a great debt to all our Committee members. I have greatly valued all their support, hard work and good humour this year; I would in particular like to thank our Deputy Chairman, Caroline Cecil, and our Treasurer, Simon Thompson. Their patience, wise counsel and willingness to deputise for me on occasions has made my first 12 months as Chairman run more smoothly than I deserved!

Of course, our greatest thanks is reserved as always for the Group’s administrator, Sue Owen. Often she is the only one of us known to all our members, as their primary point of contact, and none of the many activities in this report would ever get off the ground without her.

As we look ahead to our autumn 2013 programme and our plans for the Group in 2014, it is heartening to reflect on the continuing relevance of the CIPR Corporate and Financial Group and the great support it receives from its members, sponsors and senior industry figures. We look forward eagerly to the next 12 months.

Annette Spencer, 25 June 2013

 

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