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Lithuanian PR Association Joins ICCO

KIA, the PR association for Lithuania, has joined ICCO as the 42nd PR association member, bringing an 82nd country into membership.

KIA is an established PR association with an excellent tradition of industry development, codes of ethics and an active membership base. Arturas Jonkus, Partner at Agency 1323, and President of KIA will join the ICCO Board of Management to represent the interests of Lithuanian members.

 

ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham commented:

“I am delighted to be welcoming KIA and their members in Lithuania into ICCO. At such a turbulent time in Europe, it is vital that the international PR community works together for the collective benefit of the industry and stands up for our shared belief in the critical importance of free speech. Our growth during this period is testament to the growing confidence in the value of global membership bodies like ICCO”.

Arturas Jonkus said:

“We are very pleased KIA has joined ICCO. To gain access to international services and networks will be invaluable for our members. We also look forward to contributing insight, ideas and intelligence from Lithuania into the international industry dialogue and to working with other ICCO members to improve global standards. It is a vital time for the PR industry to pull together and collaborate on ethics, standards, and other critical issues ”.

BHM annual PR report expanded to now cover the entire African continent

BHM Research & Intelligence has announced that starting this year, its annual report on the public relations and communications sector in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, will be expanded to cover the whole continent, adding 53 more countries with a combined economy of over $ 2 trillion and a population of over 1 billion.

This will be the first-ever report that will cater exclusively to the PR and communications industry within the African continent.

The Africa PR and Communications report is being compiled in partnership with the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR UK), CIPR International, International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), Africa Communications Week (ACW), Wadds Incorporated, ID Africa, Plaqad Incorporated, and Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants. Other partners are to be announced.

BHM Founder Ayeni Adekunle commented:

“Since we launched the Nigeria PR Report on January 29, 2016, we have witnessed the growth of the industry at home and abroad. Five years after, we are pleased to confirm we are now expanding our research to cover a continent that holds plenty of promise for the global communications sector. We hope the Africa PR and Communications report will quickly become the authoritative voice in the industry, providing insights, data, and useful information for those working here, as well as everyone outside looking in.’’

With 54 countries and an expected GDP of $5.6 trillion in four years, the continent is home to six of the top ten fastest-growing economies in the world. Africa accounts for around 17% of the world’s population, but only about 3% of global GDP.

If Africa sustains and accelerates structural reforms, some believe the continent can emulate China’s rapid rise over the last 50 years. It will, after all, have 24 million more people, on average, living in its cities each year between 2015 and 2045, according to the World Economic Forum.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, taken a heavy toll, but the recovery is afoot.

The implementation of the ​​African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is further proof of the continent’s plans for the future, as it has the potential to create a continental free-trade zone with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 3.4 trillion, according to the African Union (AU).

These advances are also being reflected in the continent’s burgeoning PR & Communication landscape – the industry best equipped to help fix the continent’s reputational issues.

The 2022 Africa Report will contain verified facts and statistics on the Public Relations industry, analysis that can guide governments and multinationals, resources and recommendations that assist practitioners in building better careers and business models, designed to enhance and deliver value to all stakeholders.

Ayeni adds:

“The past 28 months have been volatile for the world. It invariably highlighted our strengths and weaknesses as a continent. And the PR & communications industry was one of the first points of call in advising government and business leaders on wading through the times and supporting initiatives across the continent.
“Yet, this only showed a glimpse of the potential of the PR & communications industry. Because beyond health and financial crisis, as an industry, there is a dire need for professionals to be embedded in every area of policymaking, advisory, and management. It is important that the industry understands the almost impossibly heavy sense of duty it has to the continent and the people.
However, we cannot do any of these without data-driven insights that will enable us to give the proper advisory required. By modelling well-founded world reports such as the Holmes Report, World Development Report, Relevance Report, Edelman Trust Barometer, and others, we are hoping to create a standard global report that can easily be used for referencing details, instances and facts about the industry.”

Moliehi Molekoa, a member of the APCR board and the Managing Director of Magna Carta, a pan-African reputation management consultancy, says:

“PR professionals, now more than ever, have an increased duty to advise clients based on sound data and experience. APCR will be one of the key sources of that data. We are filling a void within the industry, and this report will better equip us as professionals as well as the businesses about the African PR landscape. It will provide valuable insights on how to build, manage and protect reputations with the overall aim of elevating the role the industry plays in brand building.”

According to the Economist, It is expected that Africa’s total population would reach nearly 2.5 billion by 2050. The continent will also be home to the world’s largest under-25 workforce, which will open the door to immense opportunities for growth and development.

BHM Group, through this seminal industry-wide report, therefore, seeks to foster an in-depth understanding of the world’s business, tech, commercial and communications landscapes, among others. It will tell Africa’s story by Africans, for Africa and for anyone else hoping to gain a deeper understanding and foothold on the continent and the immense opportunities it offers.

New ICCO White Paper Challenges PR Industry to Confront Modern Communication Challenges

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has launched its first ‘Modern Communication Challenges for Society’ white paper, setting out the PR industry’s role in improving the global media and communications landscape.

Following consultation with members and working groups, the white paper identifies freedom of media and freedom of speech, media literacy and education, and new technology and digital media ethics, as the three issues most crucial for the PR industry to have a leading voice on.

To tackle these challenges, the paper calls for a serious alliance across industries, including journalism, advertising, tech, and policymakers. The paper outlines the issues and impact on PR practice, and PR’s role in finding solutions. As part of this work, ICCO and its members have been contributing to the relevant committees within the Council of Europe, to discuss legislative and educational solutions.

Massimo Moriconi, ICCO Europe President, ICCO said:
“PR professionals both design the modern communication landscape, and are key players within it, dictating how media impacts people’s lives. Freedom of media to enable free expression, media literacy to fight fake news, and responsible use of artificial intelligence, are all at the core of today’s agenda for ICCO. This first white paper was created as a global collaboration, taking heed from the Council of Europe’s great work. The paper will inspire and support PR businesses and communications stakeholders in our efforts to collectively design a better communications landscape and benefit society.”

Patrick Penninckx, Head of Information Society, Council of Europe said:
“We look forward to working with the public relation industry, global institutions, and other relevant stakeholders, to tackle these critical issues at a time of great change for the global media landscape”.

Nitin Mantri, President, ICCO said:
“This paper can be the start of a great dialogue between all types of stakeholders as we tackle core issues facing communications today – with PR professionals rightly at the heart of the conversation.
“It’s important to acknowledge this paper is being published amidst war in Ukraine, in which systemic, sophisticated misinformation is being communicated by the Russian government. Through collective, international high standards, we can fight bad practice in a coherent and emphatic way.”

The paper calls on PR professionals and all media stakeholders to:
– Engage with the issues directly and understand the role of PR within them.
– Engage with national PR associations and projects locally
– Open dialogues that span PR, advertising, tech, and journalism
– Bring forth ideas and solutions as we create further papers, tools, standards and agreements to confront challenges together.

The paper can be viewed and downloaded here: Global Communication Challenges 2022
Contact rob.morbin@iccopr.com

ICCO welcomes the United PR Association of Ukraine as a member

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has announced the United PR Association of Ukraine (UPRA) as its 41st national association member.

UPRA – which is comprised of 180 members – was established in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its mission is to bring Ukrainian PR and communications professionals together to inform the world of the truth as it relates to the atrocities committed in Ukraine by the Russian military.

The news follows ICCO’s suspension of the Russian PR association – the Association of Consulting Companies in the Field of Public Relations (AKOS) – following Russia’s flagrant violation of international law.

ICCO was founded and operates on the principles of truth, trust and integrity. ICCO stands firmly with Ukraine and the defence of its sovereignty, and condemns the crimes committed by the Russian Government.

ICCO President, Nitin Mantri, commented:

“We are thrilled to have the United PR Association of Ukraine in the ICCO family as a full member. ICCO has vociferously condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expressed unwavering support to the people of Ukraine. Now, as the voice of PR professionals and communicators around the world, it is our duty to help the Ukrainian association defeat Russia’s culture of lies, disinformation and propaganda. I am confident that together we will tell the real story and make truth and objectivity accessible to the world.”

Co-founder and Chairman of UPRA, Sergii Bidenko, said:

“In the United PR Association of Ukraine, we combine the old school and the new blood of Ukrainian communications to develop the profession with colleagues worldwide.

We appreciate ICCO’s efforts and strategy to develop communications, and we’re sharing the organization’s values. Therefore, we are happy to further develop in partnership with ICCO as members of a big international community of partners, colleagues and friends.”

Sergii Bidenko will take a seat on the ICCO Board of Management representing UPRA.

Four ways to elevate women’s voices and make the PR industry a level-playing field

Nitin Mantri, ICCO President, Group CEO Avian WE

Just two years into the new decade and the world has seen an astounding number of breakthroughs in science and technology. Shared knowledge resulted in the fastest development and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine; WHO approved the world’s first malaria vaccine for children; NASA learned how to fly in a Martian atmosphere, IBM launched the most powerful quantum processor yet, and every company worth its salt jumped on the “metaverse’ bandwagon.

The speed at which new discoveries and advances are helping humankind accelerate into a new world is both exciting and ironic. Because all the progress notwithstanding, when it comes to gender equality, we are abysmally behind. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the pandemic has increased the global gender gap by a generation – from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.

Gender inequality exists in every industry – from technology to corporate, politics, media, sports, entertainment, and beyond. It is a complex issue and there is no one size fits all solution.

What can we do about this? How can we ensure that the communications industry, where agencies are overwhelmingly staffed by women but often led by men, functions fairly and equitably? Here are four ways we can elevate women’s voices as powerfully, and as often, as we elevate men’s and make our industry a level-playing field:

Gender equality should be a CEO’s top priority

Gender equality must be in the DNA of every communications firm, embedded in its values and culture, and used as a lens for every decision from strategy to recruitment. And it must swoop down from the top leadership. If the CEO and the board of directors are not committed to ensuring a safe and supportive work culture that is conducive for the growth of their women employees, equality will just be a tick box. Change must start at the top of an organisation and the onus to eliminate biases lies on the CEO.

Build a work culture that integrates work and family

Even though we are living in the 21st century, women are still the primary, and at times, the sole caregivers in their families. In the absence of an office structure that integrates work and family, several women are forced to drop out of the workforce every year. We can prevent this by developing policies and programmes that support both women (as mothers and daughters) and men (as fathers and sons). Provide sufficient maternity and paternity leaves; introduce flexible hours for expectant and new parents, give caregiver leave or part-time work opportunities to employees who need to tend to the medical needs of aging parents or ailing family members. This way the burden of family responsibilities will be equally distributed, and women will find it easier to do their jobs.

Introduce returnee programmes
Invest in returnee programmes to balance the gender gap. Many women are not able to restart their careers after a break because the rapid evolution of technology results in their skillsets being outdated. We can address the industry’s talent problem by helping women reskill and upskill and join back the workforce. VMware, for example, started India’s biggest returnee programme called VMInclusion Taara in 2019 to address the increasing gender gap in the technology sector. Over 12,000 women have registered with the programme in a span of two years and around 2,000 women have found their way back into the workforce.

Measure progress to achieve gender equality

Gender equality policies and programmes will remain only on paper, if we don’t track and measure their implementation and progress. The best way to do it is by tying executive bonuses, including the CEO’s salary, to diversity goals. Companies like Microsoft, Intel, Nike, Facebook and Johnson and Johnson, to name a few have already done that. So, while we counsel our clients on the importance of sustainability and purpose, we also need to put our money where our mouth is and incorporate gender diversity goals in our business strategies. This will hold our leaders accountable for their behavior, help them address their unconscious biases, and build a steady pipeline of senior talent.

#BreakTheBias

It’s critical to remember that gender equality is not for the benefit of women alone. When companies empower their women employees, it has a multiplier effect on businesses, families, communities, and economies. High time we made a conscious effort to #BreakTheBias, and bring about genuine structural changes for gender equality in the communications industry.

Lessons in Transformational Leadership; An Interview w/ Dr. Vivien Chiong

Dr Chiong’s team at NTU Singapore (seen here at a campus roadshow for its augmented reality-enhanced student magazine) has been honoured in every major area of its work with more than 90 awards, including nine international team of the year awards since 2015.

Chief Communications Officer, Dr. Vivien Chiong has been pivotal in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s (NTU) transition to its position as one of the world’s leading educational institutions.

Dr. Chiong started out as a journalist due to her love for writing. In time, and following an impressive professional path through media and communications roles in a number of organizations, she joined NTU in 2010.

Since then, the NTU in-house team has received more than 90 awards. Dr. Chiong has also personally won 9 awards, including the 2022 ICCO Global Award for PR Leader of the Year. Amongst innumerable transformational communications strategies, she spearheaded NTU’s transition to increased use of digital tools in communication, including the creation of an augmented reality magazine to reinforce NTU’s “smart campus” branding.

Dr. Chiong also contributes nationally as the Chair of the Science and Technology Branding Taskforce, appointed by the National Research Foundation at the Singapore’s Prime Minister’s Office.

ICCO: You have had an incredible journey from starting as a journalist in Singapore, to leading the communications team at one of the world’s highest ranked universities. Can you tell us what initially attracted you to media and communications and how your views may have changed over your career?

Dr. Chiong: Media and communications is an all-absorbing career and I’m fortunate to be in a job where I truly enjoy the work I do. I started out in journalism because of my love for writing. Initially, it seemed like going into corporate communication was a natural development of my passion for conveying ideas through words, visuals and sound.

After embarking on my postgraduate studies, I became interested in integrating my knowledge of the different aspects of media and communication and to marry theory with practice, and in the strategic use of communication.

I have been in several different industries such as cable television, water and the environment, before moving into the higher education sector. These diverse experiences have helped shape my thinking as a communicator.

For example, working with colleagues at Disney and Cartoon Network in the earlier years of my career, I learnt invaluable lessons about characterisation. Later when I joined Singapore’s national water agency, I created a mascot called Water Wally – as a strategic communication tool for water messages. Today, even after 15 years, Water Wally remains one of the most endearing national mascots in Singapore.

 

ICCO: Can you tell us about a mentor or someone that inspired you in the early stages of your career?

Dr. Chiong: I have been blessed with good bosses throughout my career, who have always been willing to put their faith in me and are open to my counsel on communication matters. Whilst they may not have been experts in the intricacies of communication, their clear expectations of how they wanted it to help fulfil specific objectives have driven my team and I to stretch ourselves and come up with creative solutions to meet these objectives.

 

ICCO: Part of your growing legacy is your creative use of digital technology. In a continuously and rapidly evolving technological landscape, how do you identify developments that are going to be impactful in your work?

Scan the magazine cover to see the rest of the room: As a “smart magazine” that combines print with augmented reality, NTU’s magazine HEY! uses video, 3D models and 3D animations to engage its young target audiences. The augmented reality features are produced in-house and creatively applied across the magazine to make the pages “come alive”.

Dr. Chiong: I am fascinated by technology and what it can do. In the past, many in corporate communication focused on media publicity but the landscape has changed dramatically with digital technologies like mobile applications and social media. I’m especially excited by augmented reality and virtual reality because they bring new dimensions to storytelling.

At NTU, we revamped our print magazine HEY! into an augmented reality (AR) title to reinforce NTU’s Smart Campus branding. All photos in the magazine are taken using smartphones including the cover. Here’s an example of how we use AR. On a HEY! cover showing an NTU dorm, when scanned with the HEY! AR app, the photo seamlessly transitions into a video showing other parts of the room, giving the illusion of a 360-degree photo.

To create such communication effects requires a change in the editorial process. The creative director needs to decide on the cover photo on the spot – instead of poring over hundreds of photos back in the office – so that the video producer can ensure the video flows seamlessly from the chosen photo.

We also experiment with 3D models of objects that readers can scan and then bring into their immediate environment and interact with. Besides videos and 3D models, we also experiment with animation, sound and space. We have been very energised by all these new possibilities to better tell a story.

One of the best things about working in a university is that we are big on exploring the unknown. I have been very motivated to experiment with new ways of communication.

 

ICCO: Can you speak to an underlying strategy that you have applied across your work over the years that you are personally proud of and tell us why you think it is so successful?

Dr. Chiong: When I first joined NTU in 2010, my strategy was to integrate three existing pillars of communication – media publicity, content marketing, marketing communication — and to introduce social media as part of the university’s communication strategy. Later, I read in communication literature that there was a new term coined for this called PESO which stands for paid, earned, shared and owned media.

The PESO model of communication has served NTU well, given its diverse target audiences. It has also helped us to be smarter in the use of our modest resources. Most valuable to me is that the integrated approach ensures team members are not siloed in their area of work and learn to work collaboratively. I always confidently tell new staff joining us that here, you will get to broaden your skills to cover the full spectrum of communication work. This will lay their foundations to become a communication leader one day.

To help us in planning, scheduling and content sharing, we designed a bespoke system on Airtable which enables us to track more than 1200 communication activities a year. When we shifted to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, it had no impact on our productivity and teamwork which continued to be high.

 

ICCO: As ICCO’s PR Leader of the Year, can you tell us what the most important attributes are for a successful leader, particularly in communications?

Dr. Chiong: All leaders need to have a vision and be able to show the way to achieve the vision.

A communication leader needs to combine strategic insight and creativity with their vision and leadership to help fulfil the organisation’s mission and objectives. He/she sets clear goals, manages complexities and upholds high ethical standards.

In my experience having led several in-house communication teams, all communicators, no matter how junior, want to know how their work can help in achieving their organisation’s goals.

As a manager, it is important to motivate the team to work towards the organisation’s broad objectives. So I value qualities like teamwork, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

I place emphasis on the professional development of my team members. I may not work directly with each one of them on a daily basis but I observe and assess their individual skills, aptitude, interests and attitude. Working closely with my deputies, we expose them to a range of assignments and experiences that will stretch them and build their competencies. This also helps to prevent them from getting bored or stuck in a rut, or suffering from burnout.

I’m proud that in the last three years, three of my junior staff have been recognised with Newcomer of the Year awards. At NTU, we have also won nine international Team of the Year Awards since 2015 – the biggest being the 2020 ICCO In-house Digital Team of the Year Award – so thank you, ICCO!

I’m very grateful to award organisers and judges for all their hard work as the international peer recognition goes a long way towards motivating staff to continue to strive for excellence in communication.

 

ICCO: Having developed an NTU in-house team of at least 30 members representing multiple ethnicities and age groups, can you explain the benefits of such diversity, and how do you ensure all voices and perspectives can be heard?

Dr. Chiong: NTU is a cosmopolitan university competing globally and Singapore is a multicultural society. Operating in such a richly diverse environment coupled with NTU’s wide-ranging set of stakeholders, our communication can only benefit from having a diverse team of different age groups and ethnicities working on it. Because we work collaboratively and not in a linear fashion, many pairs of eyes will go through a piece of work. The idea is not for one person doing the assignment to send it through to his/her immediate supervisor for approval. They engage different team members and other internal stakeholders who bring different sensibilities and talents to improve the final product.

 

ICCO: The Global Women in PR annual index found that in 2021 73% of women “would be more likely to choose a job that offered flexible working over one that did not”. What is your experience of this within your team, and has NTU adapted to accommodate this growing need?

Dr. Chiong: Covid-19 has shown us that flexible and remote working doesn’t have to affect the quality of the work we do, particularly in communication.

A hybrid work arrangement could become standard in the future. Long term remote-only working will affect team bonding as Zoom sessions cannot replicate real life social interactions – those corridor and pantry chats that are good for camaraderie and the sparking of serendipitous ideas.

But equally, a change in environment can spark creative ideas. Clocking fixed hours at the same office desk may not be that good for creativity. If a hybrid arrangement is going to thrive in the workplace, it will need all staff to demonstrate the self-discipline and ability to deliver on their assignments.

My team has been operating on a hybrid work arrangement and we recently had a team bonding event where internal awards for the last year were presented. The nominees presented the challenges they faced and how they overcame them, so it was a wonderful sharing session for everyone to feast on some best practices and lessons learnt. The winner in each of the five categories was chosen by their peers. We had not brought every team member together in person for a long time, and I could see that everyone was delighted to be able to finally be in the same room.

 

ICCO: Retaining talent is the top priority issue for PR right now. What advice do you have for junior and mid-level communication professionals, who want to stay in the industry for the long haul, particularly younger women? And what can leaders do to improve talent retention?

Dr. Chiong: I think the age-old proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss” offers a caution for junior communicators. It takes time to learn about a new industry, to roll out your communication programmes, and show your results. If you keep hopping around, you will never stay long enough to show any results that are truly your own.

Many junior and mid-level communicators get into the field because they love the creative aspects of the work. But a passion for words and an aesthetic eye are not enough. A full-fledged communicator must also learn to conduct formative and post- campaign research, have a keen interest in analytics and in new emerging digital technologies.

As for talent retention, I think communicators will stay in a job where they feel their work is strategic and valued by the organisation, where there are opportunities to experiment and grow, and where their professionalism is recognised.

A Time For Authenticity and Action

Extracted from the 2021-22 ICCO World Report.

Sudha Singh’s thought provoking reflections on diversity, equity and inclusion are featured in the 2021-2022 ICCO PR World report.

As I review the data from ICCO’s World PR Report, I sit with the awareness and understanding that countries and cultures are not homogenous, they are different and unique. That when we speak about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we are at different points in our journey; sensitivity and awareness levels may wildly differ from country to country within a region or a continent. It is important to understand that priorities differ from country to country and sometimes in the same country the drivers of DEI differ from one region to another.

The US and UK – parts of the West that were roiled [in 2020] after the brutal murder of George Floyd and ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) – and Latin America fared poorly on the question of ethnic representation. The US was at 3.6 and the other two at 4.1. The key takeaway here is that there is heightened awareness and recognition of the inequalities in these geographies which is great, because it means that there is an acknowledgement of a) the problem and b) the need for urgent change.

This is further reflected in the fact the same three countries score highest on firms that have a diversity and inclusion policy with the US at 71% followed by Latin America(62%) and UK(60%).

However, there seems to be worrying shift though in the Middle-East, Asia-Pac, and Africa if we compare with last year’s data: representation of ethnic minorities has gone down in percentage terms. Surprisingly Western Europe fares the worst amongst the eight regions surveyed and we need further data to understand why that is. Overall, the data is indicative of the absence of sub-stantive progress across countries/corporates and that may very well be due to the fact that in the past 18 months companies have paused to reflect and review their efforts in the direction. Or that most corporates have been fairly oblivious to systemic inequalities. It is encouraging to see that a large number of those surveyed review their policy at least once a year if not more.

The DEI agenda in the West was propelled by the horrific murder of George Floyd, BLM and the pandemic that exacerbated racial and ethnic inequalities. It required seismic events to spotlight the trials and tribulations of marginalised communities.

The impetus in some regions/ countries is regulatory requirements and for many companies it gets to the top of the agenda because of the associated business and reputation risks. In India for example the conversation centres largely on gender; the LGBTQ agenda comes to the fore at multinationals – where DEI policies at the HQ become the trigger points in local markets. Western multinationals have the power to enable positive change in the countries and communities where they operate.

However, it is critical to keep in mind that companies must not try to force fit their policies in local markets, they must be mindful of local realities and engage with teams and experts to identify priorities or focus areas.

The last 18 months has laid bare the stark inequalities in our world. As we slowly move towards recovery, the outlook is fairly positive for our industry. This has also been a time for the sobering realisation that we are failing abysmally on representation, equity and inclusion, and the consensus all around is that it will require transformative changes if we are to build a fairer industry. For businesses as they struggled with aftershocks, it has been a time to align their core purpose to broader societal needs, listen to their stakeholders, take a stand on important is-sues and not just because of share holder imperatives. CEOs and the C-suite are grappling with the pace of change, to adapt, and understand whatever state of flux we are in at that point in time. For an industry that aspires to have a seat at the table, and advise clients on purpose and sustainability, this puts us on the back foot. How can we advise clients authentically if we as an industry are not equitable or inclusive?

As we look to the future it is important to think about what we can do to build a better and fairer industry. We can start by creating awareness about best practice through setting benchmarks and making cultural intelligence a key skill for all practitioners. According to a recent article in Forbes, the rise of awareness about diversity and inclusion has been one of the most transformative cultural trends of the last 10 years. How can we ride this wave, and what can we do to take advantage of the momentum?

Prioritise on just two things:

  1. a) Be Authentic
  2. b) Take Action

To be authentic live the values that we preach. Don’t just say it to other people or for your clients, embed inclusion into your business. Start with C-Suite buy in and accountability; listen to your employees and stakeholders; create an inclusive hiring process; be transparent about the pay gap; consider intersectionality; be a sponsor and monitor constantly.

Take Action: Before you head to the next conference or write the next blog on equity and inclusion check your equity and inclusion policy. If you have one, map where you are on the journey; share your journey including your challenges. If you are not on the journey, get started.

CMS More Accessible with 5 New Auditors Added to Roster

For more than 20 years, PRCA and ICCO have offered CMS audits framework for independent certifications to help agencies be accountable and to improve their business processes. Customers’ growing demand for trust and accountability is fuelling a desire from clients to work with more quality certified agencies.

The growing international demand for certifications has, in turn required ICCO to actively grow its pool of approved auditors, making the standard more globally acknowledged and accessible in alternative languages. The most recent a CMS auditor development course took place in Vienna from 16th to 18th February, hosted at the premises of The Skills Group. Organised by ICCO’s audit partner organisation AgencyExperts.org

Five distinguished PR experts and ICCO board members have successfully passed a state-accredited auditor exam under the auspices of the inspection organisation TÜV, comparable to BSI or ISO.

Now AgencyExperts has a growing pool of international CMS auditors who can be booked to run quality certifications in communications agencies and in in-house comms departments. The newly certified CMS auditors are all in the leadership teams of their national PR associations and experienced agency managers:

Alexander Dourchev, Bulgaria
Dimitris Roulias, Greece
Elena Fadeeva, Russia
Patrik Schober, Czech Republic
Andras Sztaniszlav, Hungary

(Photo: from left to right, incl. Anita Mohl, CEO AgencyExperts, Juergen H. Gangoly)

The new auditors are enlarging ICCO’s and AgencyExperts existing auditor team with experts from 11 different countries, additionally including Austria, Germany, Egypt, Switzerland, and the UK. With the PR associations of Ireland and Turkey also processing audits.

The next CMS auditor development course shall take place in autumn 2022. If you would like more information about gaining CMS accreditations or becoming a certified auditor, contact rob.morbin@iccopr.com

Almost a third of PR leaders ‘Open to 4-day week’

London, 21st February, 2022

 

23% of global communications leaders are interested in trialling a four-day working week with no reduction in pay and a further 9% have already adopted the model, according to new research published by the ICCO and PRCA.

The study – conducted by Question & Retain – follows a recent PRCA MENA study revealing UAE professionals believe they work more efficiently under the new four and a half day working week adopted in UAE.

128 CEOs, Directors, and Department Heads took part in the latest ICCO and PRCA  quarterly Confidence Tracker, which assesses market confidence in the global public relations industry.

Market confidence boost

The study reveals impressive levels of confidence amongst PR and communications leaders. The research shows more than two-thirds (72%) of PR agencies and in-house teams globally are hiring and almost nine out of 10 (87%) respondents are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ about the future of their organisation – this is a three percentage point rise since the last Confidence Tracker in October 2021.

Download the ICCO results here and the PRCA results here.

 

ICCO Chief Executive and PRCA Director General and  Francis Ingham MPRCA said:

“The data from our latest Global Confidence Tracker is very encouraging. Market confidence around the world is now higher than at any point since the beginning of the pandemic and the growing confidence is reflected in the number of organisations hiring. The four-day working week is an interesting proposition for agencies and in-house teams, many of whom are looking for creative ways to attract and retain the most talented professionals. The model won’t work for everyone but there are clear benefits for those willing to embrace change.”

PR Rising Star Victoria McNish on nurturing a career in political communications

In December 2021, Victoria McNish won the Rising Star of the Year award at the ICCO Global Awards—another crowning moment to add to an already impressive run in the industry. Having studied politics at Durham University, McNish’s career began in Parliament working in an MP’s office, followed by a two-and-a-half-year stint at public affairs agency Newington Communications. In 2019, she took up post as a consultant at DGA Interel UK where she worked her way up to Account Director. Outside of her time at DGA Interel, McNish serves as a mentor for I Have a Voice; a social enterprise working to improve political literacy among young people in the UK from disadvantaged backgrounds. She also sits on the industry’s youth committee – NextGen Public Affairs.

 

ICCO: Can you describe how you were first drawn to communications?

Victoria McNish, Account Director at DGA Interel, won the ICCO Global Award for Rising Star of the Year in 2021.

VM: I always wanted to pursue a career in the world of politics and having started my career working in Parliament for an MP, I came to realise how important it is that businesses and organisations contribute to the policy development process. As the on-the-ground experts in their field or sector, it is critical that businesses and organisations communicate their insights and make recommendations to decision makers. Political communications – or public affairs as it is better known – provided the perfect opportunity for me to do just that.

ICCO: What do you most enjoy about working in communications?

VM: For me, it has to be strategizing. From sitting down with a new client to get to grips with their bottom line or the regulatory barrier they face, to working with them to identify their desired political or policy outcome and translating that into a comms objective, and then mapping the path to get them from point A to B. Then the hard work starts!

ICCO: What are your thoughts on being nominated for and winning the 2021 ICCO Global Rising Star of the Year award?

VM: I was delighted just to be put forward by my very supportive colleagues, let alone be nominated or to have won. While it’s a personal achievement I’m very proud of, I am also pleased to bring a bit more recognition to ‘public affairs’ and why what we do is important as a lesser-known contingent in the comms world.

ICCO:  Which one of your most recent campaigns or projects are you especially proud of contributing to?

VM: I am most proud of the work my team did to support the UK’s beauty and wellbeing industry during the pandemic. The industry was one of the worse affected having been completely shut down with no access to cash flow. In the Government’s first lockdown lifting plan in 2020, they were bottom of the list with no reopening timeline and its thousands of practitioners – 85% which are women – were mocked by male MPs and the PM himself during PMQs. Our 4x award winning (5th pending!) #NotALaughingMatter campaign resulted in a momentous step-change in how the industry is perceived, and not only was it one of the first to reopen in April 2021 alongside non-essential retail, but the Government also set up a whole new ‘Personal Care’ team in Whitehall dedicated to supporting the sector.

ICCO: Are there any personal characteristics or skills that communications demands of you (or anyone) that you’ve developed in your role?

VM: Flexibility in communication approach and the ability to constantly adjust this is a key skill and one that I’m constantly learning – both externally and internally. Whether it’s how to best communicate a client’s position to political stakeholders while in keeping with their style and tone or changing the approach you take to each differing client relationship, or how you communicate with those on your own team internally in a way that best suits their needs and ways of working.

McNish’s DGA Interel team also won the Public Affairs award at the PRWeek UK awards in 2021 for the ‘#notalaughingmatter’ for the APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing’ campaign.

ICCO: As agencies battle for top talent, what would you say to a young person considering a career in communications to convince them it was the right choice? And what do firms need to do to retain their best staff?

VM: I would always recommend comms as a sector where young people have the opportunity to hit the ground running and progress fast. You are often thrown in the deep end and have to learn as you go, but you are surrounded by colleagues who’ve done exactly the same thing and can provide you with the safety net you need. Many agencies offer staff the opportunity to seize ownership of projects early on and move up at regular intervals, which is a great incentive for bright, ambitious individuals. Yet people shouldn’t have to arrive first and leave last to prove themselves. Agencies should empower staff to take on new challenges and progress, while also offering them a fair work life balance, a family-feel atmosphere and wellbeing support. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, which is a great thing about working at DGA Interel.

ICCO: How do you think public affairs will change over the next five years? (The way it’s conducted, the priority issues, influence of social media, tech etc)

VM: The pandemic has already had an irreversible impact on public affairs. Where once you could be waiting weeks for a politician to fit you in for a Portcullis House coffee, now if you capture their interest, you’re set for a zoom two days later. While the pace of engagement is quicker (I’ve had calls with MPs as they hop on a train back to their constituency), I question whether the same depth of relationships will be built over the screen as in person, and whether the ability to influence will be diminished as a result.

On the other hand, social media has already changed the way we communicate and will continue to do over the next 5 years. DGA Interel recently polled MPs and found that 95% check social media at least once a day, 49% say their use has increased during the pandemic, and 45% say it is important for engaging with business, charities and stakeholders. We now have an integrated digital unit as more and more of our clients are seeking this kind of support to run really effective political campaigns.

 

 

This is part 2 of a 2-part interview series with 2020 and 2021’s ICCO Rising Stars of the Year. Click HERE for interview with 2020’s winner; markettiers’ Max Mitchell.

Events

2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Every year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity explores the value of creativity in branded communications: from product and service development to the creative strategy, execution, and impact.

The five-day festival and awards provide industry professionals with access to pioneering consumer research, new ideas and emerging technologies which will help make and shape popular culture.

Background:
In 2013 ICCO gathered public relations (PR) agency leaders together from around the world and collectively agreed to ensure PR was adequately represented at the festival through both increased entries across all categories as well as a heightened presence at the festival. . Learn more.

ICCO European Forum

Register HERE

The ICCO European Forum is an annual gathering of agency and in-house members along with topic experts from across Europe and beyond, with a focus on European issues. This year, the topics will centre around themes from our Communication Challenges whitepaper in partnership with the Council of Europe, as well as action and response to the latest in Ukraine.

Speakers and panellists confirmed from Austria, Belgium, Finland France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Ukraine with more to be announced.

Register now to be part of the debate with Europe’s PR leaders.

Day: June 13th, 2022
Time: 1:00pm – 5:00PM CEST/ 12:00 – 16:00GMT/ 7:00am – 11:00am EST

13:00 – 13:15 – Welcome, ICCO Europe President
13:15 – 13:30 – Modern Challenges in Communications Introduction
13:30 – 14:15 – Panel 1 – Freedom of speech and freedom of press
14:15 – 15:00 – Panel 2 – Media education and literacy
15:00 – 15:15 – Break
15:00 – 15:45 – Panel 3 – AI and digital media ethics
15:45 – 16:30 – Panel 4 – Ukraine Support Network
16:30 – 16:45 – Summary

Register HERE