A look back – in numbers

Becky Hall – Chair of CIPR EA

As autumn sets in I thought it was a good time to take a look back at everything we’ve been up to in the last six months.

The CIPR East Anglia committee members have been busy bees since the AGM in March, and I’m very proud of everything that has been achieved so far. Here’s the last half-year in numbers…

1For the first time, we collaborated with the CIPR’s Inside and Marcomms sector groups to deliver this year’s breakout sessions at our annual conference. Feedback has been that the speakers were ace and we were chuffed to see #BestPractice18 trending on Twitter


14We like chit chat, and have run 14 networking events since March (mainly in pubs!).

These included our first in Newmarket, Peterborough and Norwich – after local members got in touch with us – as well as our successful events in Chelmsford, Ipswich, Cambridge, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds.


There has been a +27% rise in entries for the PRide awards from teams in East Anglia and the Thames and Chiltern region. The standard gets better each year, which means the judges have their work cut out for them!

Don’t forget to get your Awards night tickets.



Five CIPR EA members have given pro bono PR support to our 2018 GiveBack partner, Our Own Place, including a Saturday workshop and follow-up comms work to help the charity.


In additon, four learning events, where members could collect those all-important CPD points, were:

Is there an event you’d like to see in the region? Or want to join the committee? Get in touch here!


All of the above has happened because of the commitment and drive of the volunteers on the CIPR East Anglia committee and other CIPR members, who share their time, connections, organisational skills and ideas to promote professionalism in PR and comms and give members true value for their membership.

A huge thank you from me – I can’t wait to see what we achieve in the next six months!

Keep an eye out on Eventbrite, or check our Facebook, LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter to see what’s coming up for comms people in East Anglia.

10 things I learnt at my first CIPR East Anglia conference


Last week I attended the Best Practice Conference delivered by CIPR East Anglia. It was the first conference I’d gone to since becoming a CIPR member, so I was very intrigued to see what was in store.

The impressive programme didn’t disappoint. I emerged from the day feeling incredibly motivated and fortunate to be part of such a fascinating and relevant line of work. With so many ideas and memorable pointers buzzing around my head, I have compiled my major learning points here to refer back to.

  1. We have a lot in common

The conference was an eclectic mix of content creators and strategy makers from all over the comms spectrum. I met freelancers, consultants, and agency workers – as well as fellow communicators from the public sector. Within that was a real variety of perspectives and experiences to share.

And yet, despite this, we all had so much in common. Shared passions, priorities, and – as demonstrated by ‘comms face palm bingo’ – shared frustrations! There is something so reassuring about hearing your peers’ facing similar challenges and asking questions that were on the tip of your tongue too.

  1. Promoting the strategic value of PR – it’s our job!

Why belong to a body like CIPR, commit to continued personal development and seek professional qualifications? Because we know important great communication is to a business and don’t want it to be in the wrong hands, explained Emma Leech – CIPR President-Elect. What better way to demonstrate the value of our discipline than by formalising it with some sort of accreditation.  The conference was sponsored by Cambridge Marketing College, and it was really beneficial to talk to people in the know about the range of flexible options available. I even got to meet the chap who tutors for long distance learning – so watch this space!

  1. The importance of being agile

Most of us have heard of ‘agile working’. To be honest, I thought it was a bit of gimmick designed to glamorise IT teams! I was delighted to be educated on how wrong I was. Rachel Picken illustrated how agile principles can be applied to our roles in PR – as well as in our daily lives. I particularly liked the sound of:

  • daily stand up meetings instead of monthly meetings that can go on for hours
  • the use of kanban boards to visually and efficiently manage our bulging to-do lists
  • working closely with the client at each stage throughout a project, rather than at the start and end.
  1. Brand building is a fine art

Most of us aren’t blessed with the marketing budget associated with a global mobile phone company, so it was quite a treat to have an insight into the possibilities you can explore. It’s not just about money though, Fiona Hughes’s overview of H+K’sjourney from brief to campaign demonstrated the importance of originality, attention to detail and collaboration required to make a success of such an ambitious mission. Linking a tech company with cultural brands such as Vogue and Saatchi got me thinking about the ways I can generate some less obvious collaborations in my own work.

  1. Networking doesn’t have to be awkward

I like chatting. I like meeting new people. I like refreshments. But combine the three and call it ‘networking’ and my natural instinct is to run a mile. Something about networking at this conference felt natural and easy. Maybe it was the format – the beauty of a half-day conference means time is the off the essence. There were no long, awkward gaps between the interactive sessions. Perhaps it was the quality of speakers – each sparking ideas and conversation points. Possibly it was because comms people tend to be lovely – and we love to talk! And, as always, the conversations continue on social media and buzz generated on the day resonates still.

This positive experience has definitely given me more confidence to attend the next CIPR East Anglia Connect event in my area.

  1. Giving back is an opportunity for us all

It was great to hear from Rebecca White of Your Own Place, this year’s charity chosen by GiveBack to receive PR support on a pro-bono basis. Your Own Place is a unique local charity, supporting young homeless people to obtain tenancies and live independently. The support they provide is real and long term but their resources are tight. I’m looking forward to meeting with them and other CIPR EA members to help them explore more ways to get their message out there.

  1. It’s social media, not corporate media

It’s can be easy to tie yourself up in knots when crafting a response to a negative social media post, and equally tricky to pitch your tone even when sharing positive news. Hel Reynolds’s liberating advice is to be bold and brave, and to free ourselves from those corporate chains. She also reminded us of the importance of earning trust with your social media content, a consideration I intend to build into my next campaign or response.

  1. Rules of engagement in the age of the influencer

The enigma of influencers…. I’ve had limited professional dealings with social media’s pet marketing tool, despite my hometown producing the likes of Tanya Burr, Pixie Woo and Carly Rowena in recent years. Scott Guthrie generated a fascinating discussion about the merits of commissioning influencers with different levels of influence. Micro-bloggers tend to have a more loyal following than the big hitters, so are likely to have a greater impact on their audience. They’re probably less expensive too! Scott was also keen to advocate investing in long term relationships with influencers and seek genuine buy-in from them – authenticity is priceless!

  1. Don’t forget to innovate

Technology, changes to the media landscape and the power of social media; all part of the fast paced landscape we work in. PR people should be at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship, according to PR powerhouse Ronke Lawal. Ronke pointed to recent examples of entrepreneurial communication by the likes of Starbucks and Wetherspoons and looking at ways we can learn from their high profile moments.  To sum up; let’s not rest on our laurels and make sure we’re taking notes from the constant supply of case studies around us.

  1. Spoilt for choice – the FOMO is real

I was pleasantly surprised to be offered an impossible choice of breakout sessions, and equally curious to know what I missed in the topics I didn’t select. I’ll be following up on these topics via social media to see what I missed! On this occasion I am extremely satisfied with the choices I made, but with so much content on offer it is important to make sure you consider where you’ll think you’ll get most value. For now, I have to live with the regret of missing sessions from:

Amy Maxwell is a communications officer working in local government, and secretary for CIPR East Anglia.



AI in PR: What do we need to consider now?

By Sarah Roberts

The CIPR has introduced a new #AIinPR panel, which is being led by Ketchum’s Stephen Waddington.

It aims to understand what technology and tools already exist for PRs to use artificial intelligence in order to do their jobs even better.

And there is a great deal currently available at our fingertips.

I recently spent some time assisting with the mapping of the 95+ tools against PR skills and competencies, and what is clear is while there is a degree of sophistication in the technology, not many make use of artificial intelligence.

So, what is artificial intelligence?

It’s important we understand what artificial intelligence (AI) means; it’s what makes machines seem like they have human intelligence. Hubspot nails the basics in this video:

Human plus machine

There is a lot of hype in the media about robots coming for our jobs, and this results in techno-fear (as Wadds refers to it) being felt across our industry.

Co-authors Paul Daugherty and James Wilson of Human + Machine don’t subscribe to this panic. They believe that AI helps us to do things more effectively, like many other technologies, and the best way forward are fusion skills – human plus AI capabilities – rather than entire replacement of people.

Public relations is relatively low in the rankings for jobs that will be likely be replaced – estimated last year at 17.53% for public relations executives.

Skills replaceability

We’re at a stage where much of the focus on AI is around doing the same processes, but better through automation.

We’re essentially automating steps within our jobs, for example, how we brand listen and interpret data, which adds value to the way we work for our organisations and clients.

Eventually, as the technology develops, there will be a shift in the application of AI to do things entirely different. How much this will affect how communicators work is yet to be known, and there are some skills that likely never will be replaced.

There should always be a place for developing human relationships without AI, right? Let’s see how that one develops.

Opportunities for professional communicators

With new technology comes the emergence of new roles, and some of which will need to draw on our collective skill set – creativity, engaging narrative, and a fundamental understanding of human behaviour.

Most people consider the opportunities for jobs to be more from a coding perspective, and yes, there is definitely demand for these skills.

HBR Idea Cast explores three new job categories that are developing to help build and manage smart machines, which co-authors of Human + Machine coined ‘the missing middle’:

  1. Trainer – A person who trains AI how to behave, e.g. personality trainers drawing on psychology, sociology and drama.
  2. Explainer – People who explain the business consequences of AI, e.g. AI detectives.
  3. Sustainer- A person who manages the ongoing consequences of using AI.

AI has a significant impact on choice

We need to be mindful of what impact AI is having on our publics, and particularly those who we are actively trying to reach.

Netflix found that 80% of video hours result from algorithmic suggestions based on users’ viewing habits. In the battle for the customer base in the on-demand entertainment industry, retention and user experience are of top concern.

It’s also estimated that 1/3 of Amazon sales are generated by the recommender system.

How can PR cut through recommended content when it appears to work so well, or more importantly, how can we use it to our advantage?



In the CIPR Platinum podcast, the discussion around transparency is a needed one. Disclosure and clearly labelled bots are essential to know that you’re not actually speaking with a human.

Fake news

AI has the capability to create deep fake videos – where a person is made to say something they didn’t actually say. Take Fake Obama as a caution *strong language warning*:

Stephen Waddington highlights the struggle to tackle fake news:

“Fact and fiction can spread at equal speed, and actually fiction might spread faster.”

How would you handle a fake video of your CEO? It’s something we all need to consider.


The Fast Company reported on bias in AI, which highlighted some of the issues facing developers.

From Microsoft’s Tay which became racist within 24 hours to the AI used to predict future crime during sentencing that was biased towards black people, more work needs to be done to address the imbalance. Developers need to get rid of bias rather than amplify it.

Get ready to be recruited through AI

As the AI filters into more aspects of our lives, expect to see a change in recruiting processes as AI is incorporated into organisations’ talent acquisition.

Unilever now incorporate AI into the first two rounds of their hiring process. The first an online game designed to understand a candidates values and behaviours, and the second, a video analysis of the applicant that looks at comfort levels and facial gestures.

The results are clear – diversity has been expanded and the process end-to-end has reduced from 4 months to roughly 4 weeks.

Final comment

There are so many unknowns on the road ahead, so I wanted to finish on some wise words from the CIPR’s Platinum Podcast, where co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto David Weinberger urges us within the PR profession to not pass up the opportunity that this new technology gives us:

“This new technology and the tools that machine learning will provide, gives PR an opportunity to engage with customers and journalists in real ways, in ways that that reflect what it means to be human and in line with the values with the people they are talking with.

“That’s an opportunity not to be squandered.”

Further reading/listening/watching


Four reasons I am excited about this year’s Best PRactice Conference


Two weeks to go and the programme is finalised, speakers are preparing their sessions, the coffees and pastries have been ordered (very important) and the East Anglia committee’s excited! Here’s why:

Variety | The ten speakers and breakout session leaders have a diverse range of experiences and expertise to share, being a mix of in-house pros, agency pros and consultants with knowledge of sectors such as higher education to tech to finance. Be ready for debate, post-its and some serious flip-chart action.

Partnerships | We’ve teamed up with the CIPR’s MarComms and Internal Comms committees to deliver four of breakout sessions and they’re shaping up a treat. Learn how to maximise the value of organisational champions, manage crises, make the complex simple and further your understanding of the buzzword concept of EX (employee experience). Cambridge Marketing College as event sponsors will be on hand to chat about advancing your career by completing one of their courses, and Brand Recruitment have kindly given us some goodies for your conference packs.

Networking | The conference is growing year on year and the energy of the people who attend, their willingness to share ideas and their appetite to learn is what makes the event a success. Our conference is a chance to mingle with familiar and new contacts from the area who experience similar challenges to you day in, day out.

New venue | For the first time we’re hosting the conference at the University of Cambridge’s Hauser Forum which is modern, closer to free parking and the room layout is perfect for breaking out into smaller group sessions.

Date: Wednesday 16 May, 1 – 5pm
Location: Cambridge

Book your ticket

Plain English or dumbing down?

I’ve recently seen a great illustration by Helen Reynolds bouncing around on LinkedIn and Twitter about the comms approval process (recommend a look). One of the steps Helen has included is clients or colleagues adding in jargon for the comms person to then replace with plain English. I have some thoughts about this and have chatted with the rest of the CIPR East Anglia committee about ways of tackling conversations about jargon.

In a typical week we’ll all read, hear and use phrases that are sector, organisation and discipline-specific. I work with project managers, IT people, university administrators and academics so for me this can include things like: “We’re adopting an agile approach to reduce project risk.”, “What is the RAG status?”, and “What was GrAdmin and the UTF’s reaction to this?”.

It saves time to use these phrases with people who definitely understand but it can also massively stand in the way of connecting with people and landing a message. Besides, jargon can be ambiguous. Ask 10 different people in IT what ‘agile’ means and you’ll get a variety of answers.

At sticking points in the comms approval process there is often someone saying that making things clearer is ‘dumbing down’ or ‘being fluffy’. Common protests are “This is complicated. We shouldn’t make it sound simple.”; “We want to sound credible” and “I think the audience will understand.”

Where to go from there if you disagree? Here are some of our ideas.

  1. Clients often have no idea they use jargon and to simpler alternatives they say the detail is lost. I always ask them who their audience is and how they get their info – it usually works. On the whole I find clients are amenable to anyone who can simplify things. – Andi Hodgson
  2. It depends on the audience. If it is an article for health professionals that terminology is expected – otherwise you would be thought less of. But having worked on Easy Read versions of some of our documents, it’s really opened my eyes how simple we can actually make things without losing meaning. – Nic Wray
  3. Run the wording through a readability test like Fleischmann’s to back up your claims that the audience won’t connect with the comms. And test acronyms out with audiences in surveys! – Sarah Roberts
  4. I find it helpful to use my clients’ ‘jargon’ while building relationships, and be sensitive to the fact that they want to demonstrate their credibility when discussing simplifying comms to match their audience. Research the language that your audiences use. – Jez Peters
  5. By the time I have asked clients what all the words/phrases/jargon mean they usually work out for themselves that there is a problem… – Sally Pattinson

What has worked for you when you’ve been asked to include jargon that you think should be scrapped? It would be interesting to hear your experiences and opinions.

Crisis PR: Where has the time gone?

Forget the golden hour, you now have minutes to save your reputation.

In a bid to say thank you to our members for their invaluable support, CIPR East Anglia teamed up with Paul Mylrea, Director of Communications at the University of Cambridge to bring you an exclusive event:

“Where has the time gone?”

Forget the old rile to observe the ‘golden hour’ in an emergency. In an era where communication is instantaneous and everyone has a voice, brands now have just minutes to save their reputation.

Drawing on the experience of handling the 7/7 bombings in London, managing communications for the UK’s government’s international aid department and being at the heart of the BBC’s constant media storm, Paul Mylrea looked at how changing behaviour is transforming the way we need to react.

If you missed this awesome event, fear not, we have attached the slides from the event below to give you a glimpse of the issues discussed.

Paul Mylrea CIPR Crisis Event July 2017

CIPR EA would like to convey huge thanks to Paul Mylrea and the University of Cambridge for hosting this event.
Remember, CIPR members who attended can log their 5 CPD points!

CIPR EA Annual Meeting

CIPR members from across the East Anglia attended the CIPR East Anglia Annual General Meeting, which followed the regional conference on 23rd May in Cambridge.

The meeting gave members the opportunity to hear in more detail about the activity the group undertakes on their behalf, as well as develop plans for the year ahead. It is also the time when we elect new committee members for the year. Roles elected were:

Lead the East Anglia committee. Overall decision maker for the Committee. Attend quarterly Council meetings at London HQ. Chair events. Raise the profile of the East Anglia committee across the region. Maintain and boost membership within the region. Sustain relationships with CIPR.

New position, shadowing the group Chair as they lead the East Anglia committee in preparation for taking over leadership of the committee the following year.

Organise committee meetings / calls. Minutes. Keeping the committee updated and connected. Manage and coordinate contact details for all committee members.

Manage the committee’s finances. Pay suppliers / partners. Provide quarterly books for CIPR HQ. Provide monthly updates to Chair. Adhere to CIPR policies and guidelines. Be responsible for the committee’s Eventbrite page.

Annual Conference Coordinator(s)
Source sponsors for the event. Source reputable industry speakers for the event. Overall project management. Source venue. Work with local media / PR professionals to promote the event. Work with Treasurer to manage income and sign off on all expenses.

PRide Awards Coordinator
Select categories for the awards (already done) and agree fees. Select judges from the committee. Source sponsors for the event. Work with CIPR HQ to coordinate the event in the lead-up and on the night. Select menu for the awards. Source speaker. Source photographer. Work with treasurer to manage income and get sign off on all expenses. Source entertainment. Overall project management. Encourage entries for the awards (target for 2016 is 50 entries).

Event Coordinator
Working with the group Chairs and committee members to coordinate the event’s programme for the year and liaise with individual committee members on events they are planning to ensure we have a compelling events programme across our region.

Newsletter and E-Shot Coordinator
Working with CIPR HQ. Responsible for providing engaging and relevant copy for the CIPR HQ weekly e-shot. Responsible for providing engaging and relevant copy for the monthly newsletter slot for the committee.

Website Coordinator
Manage our regional committee’s website ensuring a regular flow of content and promotion of events, especially the conference microsite.

Social Media Coordinator
Manage our regional committee’s social media accounts – Twitter and LinkedIn. Responsible for ensuring both accounts are engaging with PR professional’s / PR industry / local media on a regular basis. Responsible for posts / tweets during CIPR East Anglia events.

Charity Coordinator
This is a brand new role! Working with the committee’s Chair(s) to come up with a detailed overview of how the CIPR East Anglia can work with a regional charity to provide PR support. This will be proposed to the committee at the Q2 meeting for feedback / questions / approval. Once approved the charity coordinator will lead in selecting a regional charity and managing this relationship.

Visit our committee page to see who was elected.

Speaker Announcement

With little more than a month to go until CIPR East Anglia’s Best PRactice Conference, sponsored by Cambridge Marketing College, we’d like to welcome two more speakers to the programme: Stefano Hesse and Penny Arbuthnot.

StefanoHesseStefano joined Aviva last year, following a six-year stint as Facebook’s EMEA director of corporate communications, where he built the European communications function from scratch. Before that, he was head of corporate communications and public policy for Africa at Google, as well as its head of corporate communications and public affairs in southern Europe, and led communications and public policy for eBay.

Stefano be will talking about digital communications and how PR professionals can navigate consumers’ concerns about privacy, sharing some of his experiences from Google, Facebook and Aviva and taking your questions in a Q&A.

Penny Arbuthnot1Penny is director of award-winning Ipswich based agency Genesis, which won Gold for Best Mid-Sized PR Agency in the 2016 CIPR Pride Awards. Penny thrives on creating and directing results-driven corporate communications and consumer engagement and advising on all areas of PR.

Penny will be joint leading an interactive break-out session about evaluating the impact of PR and the importance of solid planning, providing examples of approaches to measurement and evaluation and the reporting techniques that she has found to work successfully.

The CIPR East Anglia PR Conference is fantastic opportunity for PR professionals to attend interactive seminars, specialist subject breakout sessions led by industry experts and ultimately network.

Join Stefano and Penny at the conference on Tuesday 23rd May from 12:20pm. Book your tickets here.

Programme here.

Speaker Announcement

With this year’s CIPR East Anglia’s Best PRactice Conference now open for bookings, we are delighted to announce our first speakers, Stephen Waddington and Sarah Stimson.

Stephen is Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum helping clients and colleagues to do the best job possible engaging with the public. He is responsible for driving the integration of digital and social capabilities in client engagements across the agency’s international network. He is also a Visiting Professor in Practice at the Newcastle University, supporting the university and students through teaching and mentoring.

Stephen will be delivering a presentation on Public Relations in 2017, along with being on the panel to discuss PR in post-truth world in the afternoon.

Sarah has fifteen years of PR recruitment and training experience. Having previously worked in IT consultancy, she made the move into PR recruitment when she joined Taylor Bennett in 2002, subsequently working for other PR recruiters before returning to the Taylor Bennett Group to found their junior recruitment business Unicorn.

She remained as MD of Unicorn while developing the Taylor Bennett Foundation’s award-winning diversity PR traineeship programme and in 2017 was promoted to Chief Executive.

Sarah will be delivering a presentation on Diversity in PR highlighting how to raise the profile of public relations as a career choice among more diverse young people, how to improve recruitment processes and the importance of inclusion in the workplace.

The CIPR East Anglia PR Conference is fantastic opportunity for PR professionals to attend interactive seminars, specialist subject breakout sessions led by industry experts and ultimately network.

The conference takes place on Tuesday 23rd May from 12:20pm. Make sure you don’t miss out and book your tickets here.

Why you should attend the region’s biggest PR Conference

If you’re a PR professional in East Anglia or nearby, then you may have heard of the Best PRactice Conference. After the success of last year, 2017 is a must for all to attend.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at some of the feedback we had last year…

The breakout sessions at the CIPR East Anglia conference are a bit like speed dating – getting to know many great professionals very quickly and focusing on a topic they are hungry to learn more about – in a convivial, fun if brief period.  Each session left us all wanting to carry on longer with each other – which may be the ultimate sign of success.  A great formula if an intense one!” Sandra Macleod, Director of Reputation Dividend and CEO of Mindful Reputation

“The 2016 Best PRactice conference was the first one I attended (CIPR Member since 2010). I was drawn in by the breakout sessions as a way to focus on the areas that matter most to my work and development and, the chance to ‘exchange ideas with peers’. I took quite a few ‘take-aways’ with me and have already used them.” Karen Clarke, Communications Lead at VoiceAbility

This year…

Taking the feedback on board, a few improvements have been made for this year’s event.

2017 will see the conference introducing more interactive elements including a panel discussion allowing delegates the opportunity to challenge experienced PR and communication professionals.

The Breakout sessions proved very popular and following attendees’ suggestions, this year a couple of the sessions will take place in separate meeting rooms to make sure everyone can hear each other!

The Best PRactice Conference takes place in Cambridge on Tuesday 23rd May. It will start at 12:30pm with a buffet lunch, followed by a mix of interactive presentations, expert-led breakout sessions and networking drinks. Topics for this year range from Diversity in PR, Measurement & Evaluation and Employee Relations.

Come along to sharpen your skills, discuss fresh perspectives and benchmark your work against some of the very best. Make sure you don’t miss out and book your tickets here.