Chartered Institute of Public Relations election 2016: why the CIPR needs serious leadership

Voting in the CIPR presidential election starts this Monday, and it’s clear to me that there is only one heavyweight candidate. Her name is Emma Leech. She directs comms and marketing at Loughborough University, where is responsible for 137 staff.

The simple truth is that it’s hard to get in-house comms directors (who don’t need new clients) to stand for the CIPR presidency. The upshot, quite frankly, is that the CIPR’s offering to senior, in-house talent has been neglected (especially in terms of events). As a result, too many comms directors just don’t think the CIPR is for them.

In this election, Emma, uniquely, has the ability to bring more comms directors into the fold and reenergise the CIPR as a place appealing to PR practitioners regardless of rank.

I also think it’s good to have an additional figure on the board who’s used to managing a large budget in a complex organisation – in Emma’s case substantially bigger the Institute itself.

If you believe in the CIPR and want it to thrive, and if you believe it deserves the best talent at the top on offer, Emma is the obvious choice.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: September 9th, 2016, In Categories: CIPR

Circle Health


Some career news: I am moving on from the business group London First, a role I’ve really enjoyed. At LF, I’ve worked to raise the group’s profile and influence, principally through media coverage, in so-called “tier one” outlets such as the Financial Times, Evening Standard, City AM and on the BBC. In fact, our coverage in UK titles is up by about 450 per cent since I joined and, in August, LF’s content made seven front pages. That’s a record for the organisation, I think, and one I don’t think I will be repeating soon.

The team at London First is truly first rate and I’ve made some really good friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked for two outstanding line managers, Michael and Will, and learned a lot from both.

Still, all good things must come to an end. And I’m excited to be joining Circle Health, a great company which runs hospitals and other healthcare services. It’s AIM-listed and co-owned by its (1000+) employees. Its hospital in Bath (pictured above) was described by The Guardian as delivering “among the best accommodation offered by private and NHS hospitals”. Here I’ll be leading comms and marketing – from social media and brand marketing to internal comms and stakeholder engagement.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: September 7th, 2016, In Categories: Circle Health

PRCA’s name change cements the organisation as the voice of the industry

PRCA - Logo Blue

Last week the Public Relations Consultants Association tweaked its name. It is now the Public Relations and Communications Association. A tiny alteration, you may think, but it is one that helps the organisation more accurately describe what it does. It also reflects the fact that many people in our sector would say that they work in comms in preference to using the term PR.

As a term, public relations has its devotees. Some try to claim that PR is strategic and comms is tactical, but given that the largest companies have a “comms strategy”, that doesn’t seem a particularly plausible distinction.

In practice, communications or comms is what big, in-house employers call the function officially. Indeed, it’s very rare, for example, to find a “director of public relations” these days. Recently, Tony Halmos, the revered director of public relations at the Corporation of London, retired – and the job title has disappeared.

PR, as it tends to be used by practitioners, is a useful colloquialism for comms, a term for communication that is aiming to increase sales to consumers, or a reference to media relations. Its two-letter initials are short and the general public has a feel for what it means – a good, well-paid job which is something to do with image or getting your message out.

I don’t think we should get too hung up on defining these terms – or being po-faced when they are used in ways normal people use them, rather than complying with the definitions from PR textbooks.

The PRCA name change will undoubtedly make the association appeal to people in marketing departments who wouldn’t naturally think of themselves as working “in PR”. And some internal communicators object to being called PR practitioners as they don’t deal with “the public”.

So the PRCA’s name change is a shrewd move that both cements the association as the leading voice in the comms world and also sets itself up for further growth.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: August 24th, 2016, In Categories: Blog

How to produce the perfect quote to ride a breaking news story


Do you ever try to jump on breaking news stories in an attempt to get quoted? Many people find that success seems random – and lots of time and effort can go into developing and issuing quotes that never get news. There are ways of making it less random: here are four ways to maximise the chance of success.

First, keep it snappy. Organisations often get bogged down in subordinate clauses or creating six-sentence quotes, trying to address every nuance and detail possible. But even the most upmarket newspapers are unlikely to quote more than a couple of sentences. If your quote is more than a two sentences long, then you ought to split them into paragraphs that are essentially rival options for reporters to quote.

Given this, it’s vital to write sentences (or at worst pairs of sentences) that are standalone – that don’t require the journalist to include lots of other text for them to be understood. PR practitioners who are only internally focussed can make the mistake of thinking that success is just about getting a quote signed off internally, but actual success is about getting something approved internally that is also interesting enough for journalists to use.

Secondly, avoid trying to force irrelevant product mentions or branding where they oughtn’t to be. A news story in The Times is not going to include a quote like: “At XYZ Healthcare, Britain’s newest provider of walk-in medical centres, we believe that today’s government announcement…” A quote will appear because someone from your company is an authority of the subject – the head of investments at a pensions company, for example, talking about outlook for the stock market. The company will get a mention by the reporter (“Joe Blake of XYX Pensions said…”) but it generally reduces your likelihood of success if you try to plug your company in the quote.

Thirdly, never use the phrase “we welcome” in a quote. It’s boring – unless you are welcoming something that most people would suspect you to be against. News is fundamentally about conflict, after all.

Finally, speed is everything. If it takes five hours to get sign-off, or if you try to respond to things that have already hit morning newspapers, the approach won’t normally be successful. You need to be getting quotes to journalists before they’ve started writing their stories. That means developing relationships with stakeholders who give you the head’s up about their news in advance, by using tools like Google News and Signal, or by subscribing to the Press Association Mediapoint Wire.

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: May 30th, 2016, In Categories: Media relations

MarketingWeek’s Mark Ritson: social media is over-rated. What’s needed is integration

Posted By: Alex Singleton, On: May 29th, 2016, In Categories: Integrated marketing, Social media