Update Wed 11 December – tonight’s Get PRofessional guest lecture cancelled due to illness

Update Wed 11 December – We’re so sorry to announce that tonight’s planned Get PRofessional guest lecture is CANCELLED as speaker Nyree Hughes is unwell.

Better news is that we hope to announce a rescheduled date shortly as part of a full programme of guest lectures for Term 2 2013 14.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you Nyree, and wish you a swift recovery


Launch of Get PRofessional Guest Lecture series 2014 on Wed 22 January – B2B PR with Fritzi Wemheuer of Judge & Howard

It’s ‘New Year, New Start’ for MMU PR’s Get PRofessional Guest Lecture series as it relaunches with a series of six lectures for 2014.

First topic this year is an insight into the specialism of B2B PR on Wednesday 22 January 2014. Introducing PR students to the field is Fritzi Wemheuer, Senior Consultant at Judge & Howard.

She’ll be telling them about the joys, the challenges and what it takes to succeed, covering some ‘stories from the coalface’ as well as giving insider information on the specific skills which are needed for a career in B2B PR.

Fritzi is a German national who joined Judge & Howard, the UK’s Outstanding Small Consultancy in 2012. Previously she was at global creative agency Gyro, where she worked on a wide range of national and international accounts across PR, strategy and digital content.

Before moving to the UK to pursue a career in communications, and following the completion of her Master’s degree, she worked in engineering and technology research and as a technical writer and translator. She is also a member of the CIPR North-West Group Committee.

The talk is at 5.30 p.m. in Lecture Theatre G34, MMU Business School, and is open to all current PR students and staff at MMU Business School.> Other upcoming dates and speakers in the series are:

Wed 5 February 2014 Nyree Hughes – PR and Social Media Manager, Access Advertising

Wed 26 February 2014 Erin Portsmouth, Head of Communications and Engagement, NHS South Chorley and South Ribble CGC/NHS Greater Preston CGC

Wed 12 March 2014 Paul Hadfield, Havas PR

Wed 26 March 2014 Jo Leah, Managing Director, Weber Shandwick

Wed 2 April 2014 Professional skills workshop 1: PR job search masterclass

PR industry awards – what are they for?

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be presenting one of the prizes at the CIPR PRide North-West awards dinner at Old Trafford.

It was a fantastic evening celebrating the best of current PR practice in the area, and it was especially good to see two of our MMUBS MScPR alumni up on the stage as part of award-winning PR teams: Anna Varley Jones, Account Manager at Weber Shandwick, and Paul Hadfield, Senior Account Manager at Havas PR, whose agencies were respectively Gold and Silver winners for Outstanding Agency of the Year.

Our long-term supporter Brian Beech of Havas PR was also honoured as Outstanding PR Professional, and it was good to meet so many of our former students in the audience as well!

The determined and dignified long-term campaigning of Margaret Aspinall, chair of Hillsborough Families for Justice, was recognised with the Communicator of the Year award; a lot of money was raised for Mind – all round an enjoyable, professional and worthy event. What’s not to like, you might have thought?

Well, just this. I can’t be the only PR person who has heard industry awards regarded with a certain amount of cynicism. “Just a lot of back-slapping, isn’t it? It’s just about PR industry luvvies and rainmakers giving awards to their mates to keep the wheels turning.” And it’s not just from hard-bitten journalists that I’ve heard these views: sometimes it’s been from non-PR Chief Execs who should know better.

So what ARE industry awards worth? The answer is that they’re as good as the judges, the judging criteria and the governance of the process. In the case of the CIPR PRide awards, it’s about clear criteria which are firmly linked to the professional body’s drive to improve professional standards. And the national CIPR, who administer the scheme, make sure not just that the judging is impartial, but that it is seen to be impartial, by randomising the judging process. PR professionals in the North West area who put up their hands to join the judging panel find themselves allocated entries from a different, geographically distant area of the UK to judge. The awards have to be judged on careful debate about the merits of the campaigns alone – it’s the only information the judges have available.

Yes, awards schemes can become little more than an industry junket and a bit of self-congratulation – but used wisely and well, they have a genuine role to play in improving professional standards for PR teams and driving CPD for individual practitioners. An educational role, in other words.

So yes, I enjoy a bit of of glitz and glamour as much as the next person – but that’s the real reason I value my experience as a PR awards judge, and why I’ll be putting my hand up again for the job next time around.

First “Get PRofessional” guest lecture – Wed 13 November 2013

MMUPR’s new series of Get PRofessional guest lectures starts this week on Wednesday 13th November 2013 at 5.30 p.m. in Lecture Theatre G35 with a double bill from two of our MSc International Public Relations graduates who are now working at the Citypress PR agency in Manchester- Suzanne Armfield, Senior Account Executive, and Joanne Tarkowksi, Account Executive:

Lecture 1: PR student to PR professional: how to get a start in PR
Lecture 2: Meet Citypress – how it works and what we do

These guest lectures are open to students on PR courses or studying PR as an option or research topic, or simply interested in PR, at ALL levels – undergraduate and postgraduate, and to PR staff.

Each week will feature a guest speaker sharing their experience of a career in PR and giving tips on getting started, or giving an insight into how PR works in practice to supplement students’ theoretical knowledge.

We are planning to have an opportunity after each lecture for networking with the speakers, PR staff and PR students. Diary dates for the rest of Term 1:

Wed 27 November 2013 5.30 – 7.00 p.m. G34 Speaker to be confirmed

Wed 11 December 2013 5.30 – 7.00 p.m. G34 Nyree Hughes – PR and Social Media Manager, Access Advertising – Working in a multi-service agency: the role of a PR and Digital Media specialist

The two final sessions will be PR skills workshops offering a masterclass in PR practice skills and in job search and application and interview skills to prepare students for looking for that first break into the PR profession.

“Is there a different model of leadership for women?”

It was great to see more than 50 local PR practitioners at the CIPR NW (Lancashire) Leadership Masterclass at the University of Central Lancashire Preston campus last Wednesday (18 September 2013).

As PR in the UK is a profession populated largely by women but led by men, the topic for my session for the evening was “It’s different for girls” – is there a distinct leadership model for women?” It’s a complex topic and could just about be covered in a short session, so I promised to give longer answers to one or two of the excellent questions via a blog post.

Here are the ones specifically to do with transformational leadership, which the research I summarised suggest is the model of leadership women in particular prefer to use:

Q: As the sole PR practitioner, I’m the only female senior manager in my organisation. I don’t think my way of leading is recognised or fits in. What can I do about it?

My brief advice in the talk about this was:

At interview or performance reviews, ask directly about the organisation’s preferred leadership style.

In more detail: few organisations make this explicit, and they should. At the very least, you will know the yardstick you are being asked to measure up to; and if it’s not a yardstick that fits, you can take the opportunity to explain YOUR definition of leadership, showing your different (and possibly superior!) level of knowledge and understanding.

Talk YOUR reality into being, in their language

In more detail: When there are concepts and ideas which are real and important to us but have no physical reality, our words and behaviour are the only tools we have for making them real to other people too. So if your leadership is invisible because your organisation doesn’t “see” emotional intelligence, you will have to make it visible by the way you talk about it. You need to be able to talk about how people are and how you manage this as a leader as firmly and as factually as you do about the strategic plan or the end of month balance sheet. As you persist in this, it will become real for them too, and your people skills will become an appreciated leadership asset rather than somewhere at the periphery of your organisation’s vision.

Finally, as James Grunig has pointed out in his PR ‘Excellence’ studies, the window of opportunity sometimes comes in a time of crisis. This may be when a ‘command and control’-led organisation finds that it needs not only PR counsel, but a model of leadership which has the humanity to feel and respond to the distress of employees who may be handling shock and trauma. In my own experience, if you can show this type of leadership in your organisation’s hour of greatest need, doing the right thing simply because it IS the right thing can lead to winning the credibility you have been seeking – both as a PR professional and as a leader who harnesses her (or his!) emotional intelligence in the role.

A strategic mind, a principled soul and a kind heart. That’s transformational leadership in a nutshell, however many theories underpin the idea. It’s not rocket science!

Surely it’s not too much for us to ask of our leaders – or of ourselves.

Leadership Masterclass – CIPR NW Wed 18 September 2013

Leadership in PR is a topic well worth further investigation, so it was great to see more than 50 local PR practitioners at the CIPR NW (Lancashire) Leadership Masterclass at the University of Central Lancashire Preston campus last Wednesday (18 September 2013).

Keynote speaker Professor Anne Gregory of Leeds Metropolitan University gave a guided preview of her new book on Strategic Public Relations Leadership. As well as exploring leadership roles in a PR setting, she flagged up the need for a clear focus on what PR actually does to support an organisation’s strategy.

Best of all, it was great to hear one of the UK’s key PR thought-leaders highlighting one of my own long-term convictions – that a real PR strategist is to fix the reality of the organisation and then communicate the better truth, not to create images or manipulate perceptions. It’s a lesson which still needs to be heard more clearly out there.

As PR in the UK is a profession populated largely by women but led by men, the topic for my own session for the evening was “It’s different for girls” – is there a distinct leadership model for women?” It’s a complex topic and could just about be covered in a short session, so I promised to give longer answers to one or two of the excellent questions via a blog post. Here’s the first one:

Q: Is there a model of leadership which you think works particularly well for PR practitioners?

A: I really wanted to include this one in my talk but had to cut it for time reasons. Here it is:

Kouzes and Pozner’s (1987; 1995) Five Leadership Practices Model , whose key target audience is really CEOs –

1. Model the way (walk the talk; show some small wins to inspire confidence)
2. Inspire a shared vision (including powerful, provocative language)
3. Challenge the process (be an agent for change – questioning, challenging, seeding new ideas)
4. Enable others to act (includes sharing information, being clear about your ethics and values, not being afraid to show vulnerability, investing in their CPD)
5. Encourage the heart (celebrate success – something we all need to do more of)

PLUS from Hefetz & Laurie (1997):

6. Protecting voices of leadership from below – giving a voice and a channel to counter-cultures and dissident views in the organisation.

Both these models chime well with PR, because much of leadership is what good PR practitioners do from day to day anyway. The leadership challenge for PR is to take this up to the next level of formulating rather than communicating strategy.

One of the many heartening things about last Wednesday was seeing so many PR professionals who are clearly up for that challenge. I hope we might get to help some of you get there with our new practitioner-level online Masters in PR here at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School!