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#PR – Ask the experts: Stephen Waddington AKA @Wadds, CIPR President-Elect & European digital and social media director at Ketchum

Written by Paul Stallard

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The next person to take part in one of my #PR – Ask the experts interview is Stephen Waddington (also affectionately known as Wadds). I have only met Wadds once which is quite unbelievable because I have known him for close to six years through his generosity on his blog and Twitter. He has always been a strong voice for our industry and I am pleased to say that he has decided to take this to the next level by becoming the president-elect for the CIPR. Enjoy.

Paul Stallard: Wadds, would you please introduce yourself and explain why readers of this PR blog should be interested in your insight
Hello. Thanks for having me. I’m European digital and social media director at Ketchum and President-Elect of the CIPR. I’ve spent the last 20-years as a public relations consultant, author and journalist. I’m a doer and I tell it how it is.

PS: Congratulations on becoming CIPR President-Elect. Why did you want this role?
The public relations profession stands at a moment in time. We’re either set to become incredible relevant and valuable to organisations or frankly irrelevant.  I relish the opportunity to help on the front line with the CIPR.

PS: You have talked about the need to displace Max Clifford as the voice piece of PR. Forgetting recent headlines, why is this so important to you and our industry as a whole?
As a profession we’ve been lousy at building our own reputation. We’re too inwardly focused and insecure. The ad agencies clean-up at Cannes because they are confident; they turn up; and they enter the awards. The lesson is very simple.

PS: Why should people become a member of the CIPR over any other communication body?
SW: The important thing is that you make a personal commitment to continuing professional development and improving the reputation of the profession. Never stop learning and make your own contribution to the profession. I’m achieving both those goals via the CIPR. I’d encourage other practitioners to do the same.

PS: What is the difference between the PRCA and the CIPR and should PR pros make a choice between or join both?
SW: The CIPR is a Chartered professional membership organisation whereas the PRCA is a trade organisation. Both seek to upload standards and the development of the profession but each has its own objectives, governance structures and networks. The two organisations have areas of competition but they also work in many areas as a united voice for the profession.

I’m a member of the CIPR to support my professional development through training and continuing professional development. This ultimately I believe is the best root to raising standards and the reputation of the profession. I’m also a member of the PRCA and support its stance on industry issues such as pay for interns and copyright licensing.

PS: One of your pledges for CIPR President was to quantify the benefit of PR to the UK economy through a research initiative. I feel this is a really important step. How will the CIPR deliver on this?
I take up my term as President in January but the CIPR Board and Council are already discussing a number of initiatives to address these issues head-on. Watch this space.

PS: How does CIPR plan to improve its own communications both with members and non-members?
I’m delighted that the CIPR Conversation is back in a leaner, responsive format. We’ve recently started #CIPRChat which had terrific levels of engagement on lobbying. Then there’s Share This Too out at the end of August. There are regional events and strong social media communities. I’d argue that our real opportunity lies in communicating beyond the public relations profession.

PS: Who has been the biggest influence on your PR career to date?
Steve Earl. He’s an old friend who I worked with for 14-years. We worked together at A Plus and Weber, before starting Rainier PR in 1998 and then Speed in 2006. More recently we’ve written Brand Anarchy and now Brand Vandals. He’s one of the most focused, driven, and hardworking people I have ever met.

PS: What would you say someone just about to start a career in PR? What advice would you give?
We get people coming for interviews at Ketchum who claim to be digital natives yet they don’t blog, they aren’t on Twitter or Pinterest. At least create your own content so you understand the challenges that brands face in getting to grips with media change.

PS: You wrote Brand Anarchy with Steve Earl and I believe your latest book Brand Vandals is out in October. What’s it about and why should we take notice?
SW: We wrote Brand Anarchy to explain the impact that the changes in the media are having on the public relations profession and organisational communication. Whenever we talk about the book we’re asked how bad can it get, and what can I do about it? Brand Vandals will answer both those questions.

PS: What are the main challenges PR pros face today we compared with five years ago?
There’s a turf war taking place between advertising, public relations and digital. I don’t use that term lightly, it is a war. The battles are taking place in pitches and the reorganisation of communication and marketing departments day-in day-out. The public relations profession needs to be brave enough to align its business model from the hierarchical structures of old to the new challenges that organisations face.

PS: With your social media hat on; what do you think are the common mistakes made by PR professionals when using social media?
Social media is returning the profession to its roots as a management discipline. It enables us to identify and engage with audiences in a two-way conversation yet many practitioners continue to use it as a means to broadcast. That misses the point entirely.