Thursday, 15 September 2016

Tips for undertaking CIPR's chartered assessment

On Monday, I, along with 16 others, became the latest candidates to successfully undertake the CIPR chartered assessment. It was a rigorous and challenging process (which is right, if it was easy it wouldn't be worth having) but it was also kind of enjoyable in a tough-but-good way.

I was keen to become chartered because it demonstrates externally and within the profession that you're capable of the critical thinking required to add value to your clients and organisation. The PR profession is steadily becoming more respected for its input into strategic decision making and being chartered contributes towards that.

I thought it'd be useful to share some of my tips for my assessment:

  • You receive the questions about two weeks before the assessment but it's worth starting revising before that if possible. 
  • I found it useful to look at the competences that you'll be assessed for and then prepare an example from my own professional practice, along with any relevant theory or case studies. You may find that a couple of your own examples double up for a few of the competences. 
  • Some of my theoretical knowledge was a bit rusty so I brushed up on it using books like Evaluating Public Relations by Noble and Watson.
  • The assessment takes the form of three 75 minute conversations and a discussion with your peers around your two-year CPD plan. The conversations will cover the three questions on key competences of leadership, strategy and ethics.
  • When the questions arrive the CIPR recommend you spend a weekend working on them; I think that's about right time-wise. I read them all the way through, made notes and then kept going back over them to refine my answers.
  • You won't be able to read your notes fully as the conversation (in my group at least) was very engaging so it was only possible to glance at what I'd written.
  • Be prepared for the conversation to go off at tangents. It's useful to have an idea of your best examples from your professional practice that you'd like to include.
  • I developed my CPD plan in part from self-reflection and in part from considering what my organisation needs from me. Take a printed copy with you on the day as it needs to be signed by two peers.
It's also useful to make sure you're familiar with CIPR's guidance about how to apply.

If meet the eligibility criteria and you're considering getting chartered, I'd encourage you to go for it. It's a great experience. Good luck!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Book Review: I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam

I've recently read a fantastic book that I thought I would share with you: Laura Vanderkam's I Know How She Does It. Ostensibly it's a book about time management for mothers working in senior roles, but it is also a manifesto about making choices to live a rich and full life.

Vanderkam references and sets out to challenge the popular narrative that it is not possible to 'have it all' - that women can't have fulfilling and exhilarating careers while raising a family (frustratingly a narrative that is rarely applied to men who equally struggle with this challenge). With painstaking detail, she sets out the data - in the form of time logs - that disproves that narrative and confirms that not only possible to have it all, but that plenty of women already are.

This subject particularly resonates with me as I'm just about to return to work after maternity leave. My job and career mean a huge amount to me. I love the mental challenge that comes with working at a senior level; strategising, problem solving and making a positive difference to my colleagues and organisation. I take pride in doing a good job and it's crossed my mind more than once to wonder how I will balance this with being a mum. I've yearned for examples of women who combine motherhood with full-time, demanding roles, and here, in this book, they are.

Vanderkam unpicks the secret: she feels it's in looking at your time as a whole and consciously choosing how you spend it. She says there are 168 hours in a week after all, and there will be hard days when everything seems to go wrong, but over the course of a week or month, they can be balanced with moments of fun and pleasure if you make choices that work for you. Doing as little housework as possible (I'm all in favour of that) is one way to win back time, as well as having an equal partnership in the home, developing a great support network and out-sourcing tasks.

If Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In provides women with the 'why?' they should energetically pursue their careers, Vanderkam answers the 'how?'. It's refreshing to see the oft-played negative image of the harried executive missing nativity plays turned on its head with data and evidence. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about how they can create a more fulfilling and balanced life.

Vanderkam also blogs at: and you can follow her on Twitter at:

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Inspiring a generation: what can housing communicators learn from London 2012?

I attended the NHF Communications and Marketing conference today. The highlight was a session by Greg Nugent, who was Director of Brand, Marketing and Culture for the London Olympics and Paralympics.
I still get a bit giddy when I think about London 2012 and how amazing it was; after the opening ceremony I wrote this.
One of my favourite memories of the Games was being on a train coming back from Manchester and the ticket collector telling all the travellers about the medals Team GB had won that day, complete with impressions of dancing horses. When he finished the carriage broke out in applause.
To have created a brand that was so loved that people randomly applauded it (and it was the brand, as well as the amazing athletes, that people loved) is nothing short of genius, especially given the shaky-ish reputation the London Games had in earlier years.
Greg told the story brilliantly but what stood out was the relentless focus on what customers wanted. At the end of every day, the team asked visitors how their experience had been and pushed them to give even the smallest criticism. The team then had between 11pm and 6am the next morning (when the park opened) to put it right for them. Spectator experience was just one element of the brand but it was probably the most important one. Greg made the point that inconsistency in the brand experience drives customers crazy.
A direct connection with spectators was also key to the brand's success. With a powerful customer database, they were able to release information direct to the public at the same time as the media, which built trust in the brand.
By the end of the Games, they had only had 13 serious complaints (so few that Seb Coe could personally call them back) and 89% of the country thought it was the greatest thing that had ever happened. Ever. Which is pretty cool.

So what can housing communicators learn from this? Well London 2012 came and went. We're lucky because our brands are in people's lives for a long time giving us even more of an opportunity to wow them. The challenge is to make that direct connection and relentlessly focus on what our customers want.
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