Making membership of your professional body a ‘no brainer’ – Q and A with leading PR industry figure Mike Browne

Q. Tell us please a bit about you, your career, and your membership in CIPR, as well as the membership body you now work in, and your role there?

A. I’ve been in communications for nearly 30 years. My early career was leading comms for local authorities including two London Boroughs. Consultancy interim and work then took me to other authorities, regulators, an Ombudsman and even a Pension Authority. For the last five years I have been Director of Brand and Communications for the Law Society. I arrived as an interim, but love the issues rich brief and the breadth of our work, so agreed to stay.  I joined CIPR early doors in my career.

Q. What would you say are the most obvious similarities between CIPR and your body, and what are the biggest differences?

A. The biggest similarities are those shared by all membership bodies, the struggle for share of mind and demonstrating value to time poor members. A clearly expressed and delivered offer based on insight into what members need is the best way to achieve this. The biggest difference between CIPR and The Law Society (TLS) is that Solicitors have to be a member of the Law Society at the moment, but we want to get to the point where if membership became voluntary, it would be a “no brainer”. We are doing this by focusing on tackling five core member needs and consistently demonstrating our impact. Member satisfaction has risen by 8% in two years as a result.

Mike Browne

A. Like CIPR our member research has shown us that we are perceived to be London centric, despite the fact that there are large concentrations of members in many other parts of the country. We now run a number of key events such as our anti money laundering conference in multiple centres and are doing more to make event content available through webinars and podcasts so that they can be accessed anywhere and at times to fit members’ busy lives.

Q. What’s your experience of the CIPR’s membership offer in comparison to what your organisation has for its members?

A. Our member research tells us that the more different types of our activity our members engage with, the more satisfied they are, the better their value for money perception and the more likely they are to speak favourably about us. It also tells us that engagement and satisfaction vary at different career stages. Thinking about different stages in my career I have expected different things of CIPR. In early career it was primarily networking and practice sharing through my sector group which I went on the chair, later on I engaged by lecturing on the CIPR diploma, now it is mainly through CPD. At some stages it has simply been through the letters on my CV. At the Law Society we have developed research based personas for different types of member to help focus our offer and our communications, this is helping to clarify where we put our effort and how we spend members’ money.

Q. Has your membership body had any successes in promoting diversity that you think might translate well to CIPR?

A. The solicitor profession is increasingly diverse with more than 50% now being female, but a significantly smaller percentage of women at board level, so there is a way to go. Similarly, BAME solicitors are less well represented at senior levels in large firms. We run two schemes, our Diversity Access Scheme helps fund and mentor 10 candidates per year from under represented backgrounds as they train to enter the profession. Our Social Mobility Ambassadors Scheme features the stories of ten people per year who have overcome challenges to enter the profession from non traditional backgrounds so that people considering a career in the law can seeand learn from role models.

Q. What’s your one favourite thing about CIPR membership, and what one thing (if any) would you most like to see change in CIPR?

A. My favourite thing has to be simply the sense of belonging to a wider community. In terms of change, I think wider and deeper membership. I spoke to one of my press team, who is early in his career the other day and he was not aware of the existence of CIPR. Naturally encouraged him to join, but I would like membership to be a “no brainer” and to bring obvious value to members so that we all advocate for it.

Q. Can you pass one please one piece of wisdom or learning from your career to people starting off in PR?

A. As the great philosopher Chumbawumba said many, many times, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down. Any career setback is an opportunity to learn and grow. When you look back on difficult times, these are the things that have made you a better, more rounded professional.

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