A group of 25 PR industry leaders from the North East came together last week at the CIPR North East Strategic Communicators Forum to discuss and debate what we have learnt during the pandemic so far, share good ideas, consider how to enhance the value of communications to our organisations, and our region. The event also raised £100 for iprovision
Communicators have a more important role than ever
The last six months have shown the truth of a fundamental PR principle … to keep communicating and being proactive. Organisations which moved quickly and confidently to digital channels for either internal or external communications speak of impressive results.
But the impact of the pandemic is much more profound. As one forum member said: “The ‘crisis’ is not Covid but the permanent change to society it has brought, and the new demands that places on our profession.”
From day one of lockdown a big challenge for communicators has been avoiding fatigue whilst trying to keep pace with changing Government advice. It has been essential our audiences and stakeholders receive swift and accurate information, which has meant keeping pace with the announcements, making sure the needs and priorities of the organisations we represent are still reflected, and ensuring we are involved and influencing not just the messages but the actions of our leadership teams.
And this means there is greater top table recognition of the range of benefits communications can deliver. Its value and worth as a strategic management discipline have come to the fore. We are seen to be adding value.
At the forum Lucian Hudson reminded us of a second fundamental principle when he said: “Communications is about being human. There is so much to do but we are not just human doings we are human beings, and we need to get the human side right to get anything else right,”
This means understanding the mood of our audiences to use the right tone. Communicators need to be mindful of the way other people feel, consider feedback, appreciate difference yet work for common ground. As we leap towards digital channels, Zoom meetings and fast-changing yet critical public information, are we remembering this?
It is not just technology that is important to getting a message across – it also requires effective culture, processes, leadership, and teamwork.
Campaign, Collaboration and Change
Lucian Hudson, the new Director of Advancement and Communications at Durham University, and his colleagues Claire Whitelaw and Rachael Richards began the forum by exploring how we might not just respond to the impact of coronavirus, but plan for a future in which the profession has a more important role than ever for the organisations we serve. Lucian’s approach with the team at Durham University has been built on three principles: Campaign, Collaboration and Change, summarised in the accompanying slides.
So what did we learn …
Forum members broke into small groups to discuss these principles further, and share their experience of the pandemic, across sectors and organisations, in a unique way.
1. This is an unprecedented crisis
2. It is taking a toll on individuals and teams
3. We are in it together
4. We need to turn quantity into quality
5. Internal communication is of utmost importance
Four key themes came out of the day:
These will now be taken forward and discussed and debated in more detail at our follow up forum event in November when forum members can again join small groups to share experiences and learn and exchange ideas with colleagues on the big challenges for today.
North East Strategic Communicators Forum
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) North East Regional Group has created a series of professional development and networking events for senior / strategic professionals in the North East's PR & communications industry. If you are the person with overall responsibility for communications in your organisation and you are interested in the forum please tweet or DM @CIPR_NorthEast or email Deb Sharratt.
Further events for strategic communicators from CIPR North East via the North East Strategic Communications Forum are planned throughout the year. CIPR North East also has a various training, networking and social events across the year for all PR practitioners. Follow @CIPR_NorthEast on Twitter or LinkedIn to keep up to date.
Indie kid & mum to 2 boys. PR, Uni lecturer & blogger at My Boys Club. Love music, sport, media, travel & politics.