Gorkana caught up with Jason MacKenzie, the president of the CIPR, to find out about his goals for the association, his career highlight to date and the advice he’d give to PR professionals starting out.
What are the CIPR’s primary goals for this year, and how do you plan to meet them?
We’re on a mission to professionalise public relations. Our Royal Charter mandates us to promote professional standards for the benefit of the industry and the general public – that’s our passion and our motivation.
We’re committed to increasing the number of people investing in Continuing Professional Development (CPD), along with the number of Chartered PR Practitioners (Chart.PR). The skilled practitioner of today will become the dinosaur of tomorrow if he or she doesn’t commit to ongoing learning and development.
Too often, public relations is undervalued or misrepresented. We’re building a community of ethically competent, strategic professionals, with the judgement to positively influence organisations at the highest level. It’s our aim to become a predominantly chartered profession within 10 years.
I also plan to grow the Institute and to engage meaningfully with our members across the UK and internationally.
What are the PR industry’s biggest challenges at present?
According to the CIPR’s annual State of the Profession survey, our biggest challenge is under-representation at board level. Damage to a company’s reputation can have a tangible impact on share price, sales and the ability to recruit the best staff. Boards increasingly recognise the importance of reputation, but not enough reputation experts have a permanent seat at the table to steer companies away from trouble.
To achieve that we must improve the reputation of our own industry. That’s one reason that the CIPR is working to professionalise PR and is speaking out against unqualified people taking senior roles.
We operate in a changing industry where our members know they need new skills, particularly in the areas of digital and social media. This area of practice continues to develop and change rapidly and underlines the need for practitioners to continually learn, adapt and innovate.
In addition, our industry – like most others – is struggling to become fully diverse and fair. We will continue to campaign to close the gender pay gap and to encourage employers to recruit and reward team members based solely on merit.
What do you like best about the industry?
The enthusiasm and dedication of the professionals I meet. Since becoming president of the CIPR, I’ve developed a greater appreciation of our huge community of volunteers across the UK. Their commitment to driving public relations forward is inspiring.
What advice would you give to young PRs starting out?
Invest in yourself by committing to life-long learning. Focus on continually developing and honing the skills you need to get to the next stage of your career.
Networking is also hugely important – attend events held by the CIPR, a community of more than 10,000 practitioners. This will expand your knowledge and your personal confidence, as well as your contact list.
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Being elected president of the Institute. Leading the chartered professional body for public relations in the UK and the largest membership organisation for PR professionals in Europe is both a responsibility and a privilege.
Are there any upcoming events in the CIPR calendar that you think our readers should know about?
The CIPR has 23 national, regional and sectoral groups, hosting hundreds of events every year. Here are three that I’m particularly excited about.
CIPR International hosts its prestigious Maggie Nally Lecture in Parliament on 4 May. This year’s speaker is Robyn de Villiers, CEO and chairman of Burson-Marsteller, Africa. The next day’s CIPR International Global PRactice Conference also looks great. Lastly, we’ll stage our second national conference in October, which promises to be truly excellent. I’d love to see you there.
- Jason MacKenzie is an executive board director and council member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and serves as chairman of its Professional Practices Committee. Jason is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the CIPR and the British-American Project. He is a Chartered Public Relations Practitioner and a Chartered Marketer.