Chairman’s Report – CIPR Corporate and Financial Group AGM 2014

10 June 2014


Chairman’s Report 2013/14

After a term of two years as Chairman of the CIPR Corporate and Financial Group, I will be standing down from this role at the Group’s June AGM; I intend to continue serving on the Committee as Deputy Chairman. In this context, I thought I would reflect not just on the past 12 months of the Group’s activities in this report, but also across the past two years in some areas.

The CIPR Corporate and Financial Group has seen a steady increase in membership over 2013/14, and now has over 650 members (652), up about 10% from 2012. This reflects the continuing relevance of the Group’s programme of events for financial PR practitioners, the introduction of new events to broaden our appeal, and a growing appetite for quality CPD opportunities in line with the CIPR’s strategic focus on increasing and improving professionalism in PR.

The backbone of our programme remains the monthly speaker lunches, and we are fortunate to have an enthusiastic team of ladies on our Committee – Katie Hunt, Kay Larsen and Helen Tarbet – who work hard to secure senior journalists across the media spectrum to share their insights on their own titles, the media landscape more generally and economic trends as they see them. Highlights from the past 12 months have included talks by Martin Waller, Tempus Editor of The Times; David Hellier,Deputy Editor of City AM; Alex Brummer, City Editor at the Daily Mail; and Oliver Ralph, Deputy Editor of Lex at the FT. Going forward, I believe the lunchtime speaker programme will continue to be the bedrock of the Group’s programme and our foremost event format.

The annual Summer Party in June and the Annual Dinner in November remain flagship occasions for the Group. In November 2013 we were delighted to welcome Margaret Hodge MBE MP and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee as our afterdinner speaker for the Annual Dinner. She offered an entertaining and characteristically sharp view of life inside the political tent, and was also extremely generous with her time in the question and answer session that followed. She was a delightful guest of honour for the dinner.

Our provision of occasional visits to newsrooms and other sites of interest has continued during the past year, in particular with visits to the BBC at New Broadcasting House in December 2013, and to Sky News in February 2014. Usually combining extensive tours of the sites with access to senior editors or reporters,these visits are always memorable. I’m pleased to report that through the efforts of our Committee member in this area, Louise Phillips, both the BBC and Sky have committed to run these particular visits for us on a regular basis. We are also arranging a similar visit to BBC Media City in Manchester for CIPR Corporate and Financial Group and North-West Group members this summer.

I mentioned at the start of this report that we have worked to broaden our events programme and other services for members. This has included the introduction of an annual evening panel debate on a key topic for the sector, and a social media breakfast, also run as a panel event on a particular theme. In September 2013 the social media event on “Is social media an appropriate tool for corporate communications?” was popular, and resoundingly concluded that the answer was yes. Plans are already well underway for this year’s social media event, on “Social Media and the C-suite”. In April 2014 our attention moved much more specifically to the rapid rise of peer-to-peer and other alternative forms of lending, and the impact they are having on conventional financial services and its communications. A highly knowledgeable panel educated the evening debate audience on the range of different alternative funding models, and the speed with which they are becoming mainstream.

Two years ago when I took up this role I indicated that I was keen to see the Group develop a stronger online and social media presence, to reflect the day-to-day experience our members are seeing in their own work and lives. We have made good progress in this area, thanks to the work of Committee member Richard Edwards. We now have a clearer and more active strategy on social media,especially Twitter and LinkedIn, and work is ongoing to upgrade our website this year which will be another step forward in our evolution. We currently have just short of1,000 members of our LinkedIn group and slightly shy of 700 followers to@CIPR_CFG on Twitter. We would, of course, be delighted to see these numbers grow.

The CIPR Corporate and Financial Group’s programme and work is driven by what members tell us they are interested in and would like. Our Membership Secretary Charlotte Sansom and Deputy Chairman Caroline Cecil have worked tirelessly and often behind the scenes to see this is done effectively. In the autumn of 2013 we conducted an online survey of the Group’s membership – the first for some years –and this has provided useful input to how we are developing our programme,especially in the areas of online communications and opportunities for members outside London. These two points are connected, of course, as if we can move tomore online content it is available to all irrespective of geography. And we have alsoembraced the call to extend our events outside the M25, with the planned visit to the BBC in Manchester and work with a number of regional Groups to take our Tomorrow’s Talent format around the country. This month, the CIPR Corporate and Financial Group will also be visiting the CIPR Channel Islands Group to talk about our work and the themes we have seen in recent lunchtime speaker meetings.

During my two-year term I have often commented on the importance and commitment of our amazing Committee, who collectively have made my job as Chairman a lot easier than you would think it should be. In the past 12 months, we have sadly said goodbye to Rupert Pittman and Joanne Shears from the Committee,who for work and, in Jo’s case, reasons of emigration stood down from theCommittee. I would like to thank them both for their important contribution to the Group. We have welcomed Helen Tarbet to the Committee working on the lunches programme, and we hope to confirm Matthew Jervois as our new Treasurer later in our AGM. We have also formally enlisted the help of Lucia Graves as an Associate tothe Committee working with Richard Edwards on our social media programme.

This leads me to the other thanks that I would like to record. Firstly to our sponsorswho support us in many ways, especially Precise for their valuable support of our flagship events, AXA for providing a venue for the monthly lunches, and other occasional venue providers including Olswang for the summer party and Instinctif forthe spring panel debate meeting.

I hope by now my fellow Committee members know how genuine my appreciation of their hard work is, but as ever I record it here. I am enormously grateful to each and every one of you for your support in so many different ways. Of course, I particularly highlight Deputy Chairman, Caroline Cecil and Group Treasurer, Simon Thompson here. Your combination of wise counsel, constructive criticism and unstinting support throughout my Chairmanship has been invaluable.

My final thanks is reserved, on my behalf and that of all the Committee and the Group’s members, to our indefatigable Administrator, Sue Owen, who keeps everything on track and acts as the perfect ‘front line’ for our members. Her knowledge of and loyalty to the Group is unsurpassed – thank you, Sue.

It only remains for me to say that serving as Chairman of the Group has been an unqualified pleasure and privilege. I am very grateful to those who gave me the opportunity and for the range of experiences it has offered me, and I thank theGroup’s members and Committee for making it a worthwhile and very enjoyable twoyears. Thank you.

Annette Spencer

Chairman – CIPR Corporate and Financial Group


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