The Northern Conference of the CIPR

6 October 2009 By Northern Lights

The Northern Conference of the CIPR image

Just got back from the northern conference of the CIPR – our industry’s professional body – held at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

It was a great day and well done to my colleague, Carol Arthur, who chaired this year’s conference.

Keynote speakers included Alastair Campbell, Heather McGregor, ceo of Taylor Bennett and an FT columnist and John Neilson, director of group media relations at BAe Systems.

Each speaker happened to talk on the importance of honesty and authenticity in communications.

Alistair Campbell believes Gordon Brown could still win the next election because of the authenticity of his policies.  OK, he would say that, but it sounded convincing at the time.

Clearly BAe is in the limelight at the moment and it was interesting to hear how John Neilson’s team have addressed media relations through this period.  And honesty and transparency has been key.

I did not know that they had appointed Lord Woolf to carry out an independent review of the whole group.  He produced a list of recommendations which are being implemented to ensure the business is squeaky clean as they go forward.  Lord Woolf is known for his fierce independence and no-one will see this as a whitewash.

This won’t be a cheap option – it took a year with a team working full time.  However, this is almost certainly a cheaper option rather than leaving customers in doubt about what kind of business they are dealing with.

Renault might do well to consider something similar.

There were a number of excellent workshops on social media, Twitter – and I delivered one on developing long term relationships with clients. and working at board level.

One of the questions I was asked was how you refresh the PR for a client if you’ve worked with them for a number of years.  If you always focus your activities on key business goals then that in itself should refresh your activities every year.

And John Neilson, who joined this workshop, picked up on my point about how PR experts need to challenge the brief they are given.  Whether you are an external agency or an in-house manager or director, you have to recognise you are the experts.  John said that this is a weakness of many consultancies – they aren’t happy to challenge the client at senior levels.

I’ve come back refreshed myself and lots of ideas on social media which will be helpful for our clients – many thanks to the Yorkshire team who organised this conference.

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