Commscampnorth faces: Q&A with CIPR Local Public Sector’s Mandy Pearse



This year #commscampnorth will be held in Bradford and we’re pleased to be joined by the CIPR Public Sector who will be supporters of the event.

Mandy Pearse is chair of the body and is standing for President of the wider CIPR body. There are two candidates and you can find more about them here.

In the first of a series of Q&A posts we thought it a good idea to chat about where she thinks events like commscampnorth and commscamp fits into the wider landscape.

mandyQ: Commscamp is free and an unconference. What kind of role does this play for shaping the future of public sector comms?

A: I love having variety in events. As someone who started in market research and engagement unconferences are a great addition to the mix. I’m never convinced anyone wants to attend a conference to be talked at all day. I want people to be comfortable to be candid about what didn’t work and how they fixed it. You learn more that way. I’ve been calling as CIPR Chair, Council and Board member for greater engagement with members and to try different approaches. It’s one of the reasons I’m standing for President to get more for members especially those not based in or near London.

Q: What’s your public sector experience, Mandy?

I’ve spent over 20 years working in-house in local government. I’ve worked in rural districts, new towns, regional capitals and unitary city councils with a lot of partnership working with CCGs, acute health trusts, police and fire as well as working across tiers with town and parishes & county councils. I started out in engagement, research and marketing but then moved into corporate PR and public affairs. I’ve managed teams both big and small and supported a lot of solo practitioners.

More recently my work has focused on training PR folk as well as delivering basic comms skills for service managers and politicians. I also work as a consultant with senior leadership helping them to see the value PR adds and get it resources properly.

Q: Tell us how the CIPR can help.

A. One of the biggest benefits of being a CIPR member is the access to local events and learning sessions organised by the volunteers in the regions, nations and sectoral groups. The other key benefit is the access to  accredited learning (both training and qualifications) and a pathway through CPD to becoming Chartered. I want to put more resource and emphasis on these areas.

Q: You’re standing for election for President of the CIPR. What will you do for public sector comms people?

I have a vision and six pledges all with a detailed plan underneath on my blog page

I feel it’s all relevant to public sector but I’d really highlight the need to get CEOs to understand the value of PR, modernising to make access to training at a time and way that’s suitable for busy people who have family lives, more support for the volunteers which provides more local network and learning opportunities and the getting more for membership.

Q: What advice would you give to someone starting out in public sector comms?

Ask questions, read widely and never be afraid to ask for help from colleagues across the UK. We all come from different backgrounds and we need to continue to learn whatever level we are at as we work in a rapidly changing environment.

Q: What advice would you give to someone a bit jaded by the difficulties of public sector comms?

A: I can reassure people that the challenges are not all exclusive to the public sector. I have heard people in the third and private sector’s working in-house raise similar issues of not being able to get a seat at the top table, being just seen as tactical and not being given the support to really deliver. I’ve also heard agency and freelancers talk about the difficulties of getting clients to do think wider than just media and do proper evaluation. What is different is the financial pressure on the public sector. I’ve written about some of this for #Futureproof . However, the one thing I will say is you will never have such a diverse, fast paced, exciting environment where every day is new as working in the public sector.

Q: As you know, the sessions at commscampnorth will be chosen on the day. What’s the one topic you’d most like to see happen and that you would pitch?

A: My session would be on personal resilience. It’s far more than just talking about mental health. I want to look at the really practical things we can do to build the personal resilience of both ourselves and our teams. I have ideas on this having faced huge challenges in both my working and personal life.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge to public sector comms people? Brexit, a lack of budget or the pace of change?

A: The pace of change in our industry, the media landscape and in society is the big one for me. The public sector is known for its extraordinary creativity on minuscule budgets and Brexit is a moment in time but being flexible and adaptable to survive in the PR world is key. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already employed to write news by both Reuters and PA. Current estimates suggest in 5 years almost half of the activities we do will be capable of being done by AI. We have to skill up now and focus on the strategic bits and very human stuff like reputation, managing stakeholders and engagement.

Q: Lastly, and most importantly, what’s your favourite cake?

I’m a coffee and walnut fanatic.

Mandy Pearse can be found on Twitter @mandypearse and on LinkedIn here. You can also find the CIPR Local Public Sector group on Facebook and Twitter. You can find out more about the CIPR here.



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