Public Relations

Looking back, moving forward

On a rainy Wednesday evening, I took myself off to the CIPR South West and Local Public Services AGM at the magnificent Bristol City Hall.

As well as it being the AGM, with members voted in and motions passed, there were also three different speakers discussing different aspects of PR. Here’s a quick summary of what I took away.

Emma Leech – Looking back, moving forward

CIPR President Emma Leech first discussed three key themes from the CIPR’s work from the past year; changing, challenging and celebrating.


Changes include making the fellowship process more transparent and to change the perception of it being so exclusive and secretive. Fellows play a vital part in our industry and should be celebrated and recognised by all.

Emma also touched on the CIPR State of the Profession report, particularly the always-on culture that our industry has. We need to change this for the betterment of practitioners’ mental health and to improve our work-life balance, something the CIPR is working on through a range of initiatives. More here.


The CIPR and its members have been and must continue to challenge the business community on behalf of the profession. Some PR agencies, departments or professionals might be seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ but in fact, work is vital.

Emma used the role of communicators in the NHS or emergency services as an example. Their campaigns or strategic communication can save lives and should never be undervalued.

Equally, PR for other sectors is important for maintaining reputation for the business or organisation. This quote that Emma shared summarised it well…

We also need to challenge the London-centricity of the PR industry. “It’s important that we recognise the scope and scale of talent everywhere,” Emma said. “Talent doesn’t have a postcode.”

So where are we going next? “It’s a very volatile world and it’s not getting any better for us, which means we all need to be more agile,” Emma said.

PR’s role remains important in the changing political, social and economical environments, no matter which companies we work for or sectors we work in.

There was plenty more covered in Emma’s presentation, and there are plenty more notes on my iPad, but above are the key points that stood out to me.

Mandy Pearce – AI in PR

“PRs are known as wordsmiths, we need to start being data geeks and face our fear of numbers,” said Mandy Pearse, CIPR President-Elect.

AI can help PR to improve efficiency, be more productive, offer better customer service, be more agile, and allow more informed decision making, amongst many other things.

For a wider look at where AI will impact our work, Mandy shared the helpful graphics below, looking at AI in PR today and in five years. You can view them in more detail here.

Image: CIPR

Tools like CoverageBook, stakeholder mapping, scheduling tools and social listening are already common, but AI looks set to take over tasks such as auditing, risk analysis and research.

However, there are areas in which AI may not take over in PR; law, ethics, and relationship building, for example. AI can and is starting to do many other tasks, so the practitioner’s role should be focussing more and more on strategic communication.

The final talk of the evening was from Rachel Picken, which I unfortunately missed as I had to dash to catch a train!

It was a thoroughly interesting evening, I very much enjoyed hearing and learning from Emma and Mandy, and meeting other South West PR professionals!

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