A PR practitioner on every Board

Steven Shepperson-Smith is President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, as well as being a Fellow of the Institute and a Chartered PR Practitioner. Steven is Vodafone Group’s PR lead for Africa, charged with raising the profile of its portfolio of telecom brands – including Vodacom and Safaricom – and products – including M-PESA, the continent’s leading fintech platform – to the international community. Steven has also set up Vodafone Group’s international reputation management programme. Steven has worked in PR for over two decades including senior management roles both in-house and in agency.

In 2023 – its 75th anniversary – CIPR will be reasserting its founding purpose, to help improve society through effective, ethical communications. It also plans to prepare its Chartered Practitioners to take up positions as Board members and Trustees to have a greater role in the governance of organisations in future.

Steve Shepperson-Smith

CIPR President

Podcast questions:

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up as CIPR President. 
  2. What’s the theme for CIPR’s anniversary year?
  3. What kind of events and activities can we expect from CIPR in 2023?
  4. You want a PR practitioner on every Board – why?
  5. Why will Chartered Practitioners make good Board members and what will CIPR be doing to help them unlock these opportunities?
  6. What would you personally like to get out of your year as CIPR President? 

Podcast transcript here:

Disclaimer: this is an automated transcript. Please don’t call the grammar police on us. You never know, we may have ChatGPT writing our next one…

Asif Choudry (00:06):

Hello, and welcome to another episode in the yo my CommsHero podcast. And I’m your host, Asif Choudry. Today my guest is Steve Shepperson-Smith. Steve is President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, or CIPR. I’m all well known, as well as being a fellow of the institute and a chartered PRpractitioner. Steve is Vodafone’s groups, Vodafone group’s PRlead for Africa, charged with raising the profile of his portfolio of telecom brands, including Vodacom and Safaricom and products including, , m PSA or M Peso. It may be pronounced the continent’s leading FinTech platform to the international community. Steve has also set up Vodafone group’s international reputation management program, and Steve has worked in PRfor over two decades, including senior management roles, both in-house and in agency. Steve has been an absolute pleasure to welcome you on the podcast.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:00):

Morning Asif, and thank you so much for inviting me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

Asif Choudry (01:05):

So I’ve got a few quickfire questions, so myself and the listeners can get to know you a bit, Steve. So let’s, let’s start you with a nice easy one. Are you an early riser or do you love a lion?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:15):

, I’m an early riser. I’ve got two children, , after the age of, , four. So, , I’m an early riser whether I want to be or not.

Asif Choudry (01:22):

<laugh> forced into it. <laugh>.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:25):

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I’m, I, I, , I sleep late and I rise early, so, , I’m not a great example for how not a great, , , post boyfriend Healthy Living

Asif Choudry (01:34):

<laugh> and for any, , Buting parents considering, , parenthood don’t take that as a reason to be put off. , there are lots of joyful things, <laugh>.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:44):

It’s, it has been the best thing I’ve done in my life, hands down. Sorry, CIPR, but it’s better. Yeah,

Asif Choudry (01:50):

<laugh>, I was gonna say right up there with the committee chartered PRpractitioner. No,

Steve Shepperson-Smith (01:55):

No, no. It’s far, far better

Asif Choudry (01:57):

<laugh>, but apologies to CIPRfrom your president there, so at least they apologize. So, okay. Then, , early riser, lots of our, , , guests have been early risers. Do you, , prefer an ebook or a printed book?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (02:13):

, I prefer an audiobook, actually. Yeah. , so, so I’ve got so little time now that I listen to my, I’m a, I’m an avid reader, but I listen to books, , whilst I’m in washing up, while I’m cooking dinner, , yeah, while I’m on the Tube. So I’m a, I’m a, I’m a, I’m a constant multitasker. I hate downtime. , so, , , anytime I can, I’m, I’m listening to a book.

Asif Choudry (02:34):

Yeah, no, I’m a big Audible fan as well. But it was a recommendation from, , the Concerta legend that is Sarah Waddington on a, on an episode a couple of years ago, and she mentioned Audible. I’d heard of it. I’ve never really had a go at it, and I did, and I’ve not looked back. Still enjoy printed books. , but it’s only really in the last couple of years that I’ve picked up reading to that extent. But yeah, Audible’s definitely been a great way to conse books on the move. And, like you say, when you do in the household chores and stuff, it’s great.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:03):

, I understand. Let me, lemme also recommend to you as if, , borrow Box, which is the library, , listening app. So, , Audible’s great, Alamo Audible, audible member, but, , you can get a lot of books and borrow them from your local library using Borrow Box.

Asif Choudry (03:18):

Borrow Box. Excellent. There’s another podcast first for me, so I, I’m learning stuff on the podcast all the time, so <laugh>, there we go. That’s, that might save me a few quid as well, I reckon.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:27):

Exactly. Yeah, all about the budgeting as well. All about the bottom line,

Asif Choudry (03:31):

Borrow box. Great tip there already. I won’t even got into the questions yet, , Steve, so, , Twitter or Instagram?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:39):

, Twitter.

Asif Choudry (03:40):

And why is that?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (03:41):

Yeah, I’m a big, I’m a big Twitter. , it, you know, you look at the, you look at the stuff recently, I mean, Twitter’s obviously had its revise in recent times, but you look at the stuff recently with, with Greta Thunberg and Andrew Tates and over the space of six hours. Wow, that story traveled. And you really feel Twitter that, that, you know, you are there on the cu you know, really watching what’s happening in the world. And, , Twitter, in his Twitter at its best is absolutely fantastic as as, , and obviously it has his worst moments quite a lot as well. , but, , but yeah, Twitter at its best is for current affairs junkie like me, unmissable.

Asif Choudry (04:21):

Yeah. No, that’s great. And, , the, I’ll ask a final one here, which will be, let’s have a look. , are you a TV box binger or do you prefer to curl up with a good, I’ve got book here, but I’m gonna say audio book a good listen.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (04:40):

, I’m, I’m more of a reader, if I’m honest. Yeah. , but I do, I do watch a lot TV as well. , I will watch, try and watch every Man united game.

Asif Choudry (04:50):

You might have divided opinion here with that one, but well for any listeners, when you are listening to this, tell us, drop us a tweet and tell us, your football allegiances or whether you’re unfollowing Steve or sticking with him.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (05:03):

And so while we <laugh> Thank you. While we loop rounds, , back to your first question as well. I was up last night watching Wakanda forever, which was absolutely fantastic. , so I recommend it to your listeners, but, , that finishes about half past midnight way past time. I should have been in bed

Asif Choudry (05:18):

Wakanda forever. Yeah,

Steve Shepperson-Smith (05:19):

Excellent. I’m, I’m a big Marvel fan as well. Big comic with part of the, the, , the PRcomic club, , which is, a great community that, I’m involved in the industry as well. PR comic doesn’t always have to be about work. It can be about shared interest as

Asif Choudry (05:33):

Well. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s fantastic. , Steve, it’s been a pleasure to get to know a little bit more about you and, , we’ve hopefully not frightened people of parenting or, a borrow box. We found out about that as well. So yeah, we’ll have a look at that. So we’re here because in this year, 2023, it’s the 75th anniversary, , of CIPR. And, , CIPRwill be, , reasserting its founding purpose to help improve society through effective ethical communications. It also plans to prepare its chartered practitioners to take up positions as board members and trustees to have a greater role in the governance of organisations in the future. And this celebration, , we’re here recording at the beginning of Feb, CIPRhad a celebration and an event to mark the occasion yesterday in London. Steve, tell us a bit more about that one.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (06:27):

Oh, it was great actually. , so we went to the, , so Bright Church in Fleet Street, which is the journalist church. , it was where the Institute of Public Relations, , had its founding in 1948. , and we had a, sort of a lovely service. , the, the choir was immense, actually. Fantastic. , we had talks from, , Simon Lewis, , who is a former president, , GRE Anne Gregory and Afro Lee, , in the church and that was lovely. I mean, so, Simon was telling us about when he was president of the nineties, , and very much that kind of era of spin and how, you know, we, we really should have pushed back against that. , , but he was saying, you know, in the end that he felt really enthused that lots of young people coming to the industry, we’ve still got a really big, , voice, , in industry generally.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (07:27):

The times have moved on as well from, from that era. You know, he was the Queen’s First Press secretary. He was very involved in, in politics in the nineties as well. So, so probably, you know, that was probably the idea of, of the way people saw, saw PRand, and, and actually we, we have, we can see yourself going on in the last 30 years. , Anne was the president when, , we became charters. We moved from the NSTITUTE population to charter issue publications, , and talked very ally about what was required. It was a really tough process. And the Department for Education skills at the time in particular, you know, wanted, , it it to be a tough process to be a chartered practitioner. , you know, so it matters that, that we, you know, we make chartered practitioners.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (08:10):

They wanted them to have the highest standards of management understanding of, of ethics, of leadership and strategy. , and, but also, , which I hadn’t realised, I told her yesterday, she said that, , the Department of Education skills also wanted the pit, the, the, , c i p as it became to really push diversity and say, you, you need to move beyond an industry that’s at that time, you know, purely kind of white male and middle class and, and, , and reach out to more, , more aspects. And that dovetail really nicely. Aval Lee, who’s headed the CIPR’s Diversity inclusion, , subcommittee. , and, , she was talking very much about belonging. And I think this is still a journey we’ve gotta go on in CIPR the industry generally. So we, you know, we talk about inclusion. I’ll talk a bit more about that later on.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (08:59):

And she was saying, inclusion is really saying it’s okay for you as an, as a minority to, to join this organisation, whether it’s the PRindustry as a whole or the CIPR but belonging is really feeling like you belong there. , and, and I thought that was a great challenge actually for the next 10 years to, to really move from inclusion to belonging. , then we had a, a service, a, a reception after that. We had about 200 people there. And it was really heartwarming. Actually, I’ve been a member of CIPR for over 20 years, and it was really lovely to see members there in their eighties, , people there who were 21 who just graduated. And it really gave you a feel of, , of community. , I spoke, , we had a, a chap called Tim Travis Healy, who spoke as well. , sorry, Kevin, Travis Healy, sorry, who spoke, , hehe and his father Tim, have both been presidents. And, , talking about those early years when Tim was really one of the founder members of, of, , of the I P R. And Kevin was a member of 19 was president, sorry, in 1985, you really got the sense of how, , not just individuals but families had had built this organisation, , made me very, very proud to be, , to be a member.

Asif Choudry (10:12):

Brilliant. And, , yeah, so it looked great. I, I saw, , a lot of the photographs and some video content on Twitter, so, and had, , , the inevitable fomo when you’re not at some of these

Steve Shepperson-Smith (10:23):

<laugh>, you should have been there.

Asif Choudry (10:24):

Yeah, I know. Well, you don’t, I don’t get invited to all these, all these big parties anymore. You see, Steve, that’s what it is. And, , but no, I’ll, , I’m sure I’ll be at many, , other CIPRevent through the course of the year. But yeah, it was great to see a lot of the engagement and stuff happening on social. And, , so Steve, tell us then, you are CIPRPresident for 2023. How did you end up in that role? ,

Steve Shepperson-Smith (10:51):

I’ve been a, a joint CIPRover 20 years ago, as I said, and I’ve been a volunteer since around 2009. And it’s been a gradual process, really. , it’s not something I, I sort of planned when I, I joined CPRin, you know, my early twenties. , I, I did work for the Channel Islands group, , the corporate financial group, the Greater London Group I chair the Greater London Group during the pandemic. , I sat on the, on the C P R council. , I was then elected to board. I’m perfectly grateful to, to the council for doing that. , and then, then eventually I was coming to the end of my time on board and, and, but it’s the 75th year, so the lure of that was too good to turn down, really. , but after this, I’m, I’m definitely done. I’m gonna do <laugh>. I’m gonna go and do something else.

Asif Choudry (11:38):

<laugh> you. I’m back to being a parent, cuz it is quite, it’s, it’s a demanding, , position, isn’t it? I know I’ve spoken to, , Rachel Roberts last year when she was the president of Mandy Pierce before that, , and Jenny Fields. So I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to the previous, , three presidents that have started their journey and at the beginning of that journey as well. And it’s, , the amount of networking and especially with post covid in-person events opening up again. You know, it’s a, it’s a hell of a juggle with family life professional working life as well. So, so there’s definitely a demanding role, isn’t it? It

Steve Shepperson-Smith (12:21):

It, it is, , and funny if we’ve been talking about that this year. So, , a as you know, yourself as if you don’t get to turn off from being a parent. So that’s not, you know, that’s not an option. That, and that is my nber one, , job alongside Vodafone. , and I, I’m immensely grateful for both my family and my employer Vodafone, for allowing me to do this. , and it, you know, I’ve, I’ve just become a lot better at managing time, frankly. , so I, I’m very, very dedicated to not letting anyone down as anyone who’s, who knows me, who’s worked with me, will tell you. And, and I work very, very long hours, , to make sure that I’m not, , , skirting on on other responsibilities. And, and one of the challenges for CIPRhas been really making sure that the job can be done in the time that I have available, cuz it is a volunteering role.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (13:13):

Yeah. So, so I do a lot. So, you know, it’s, it’s probably easier actually than it, than it was for, for Jenny, for Mandy in particular. , oh, not Mandy in particular, , sorry. The, the people who were, who were pre pandemic, , I think Mandy unfortunately was, was right in the middle of the pandemic. , because there, there’s a lot more online sessions now, so I can join those over my lunch period. I can join those after work. , I, I’m not great at the moment at, , at doing drinks late in the evening, , because I’ve got, , young kids, so I’ve gotta get home for that. , but I, I, you know, I join when I can. , and, and you know, just being clearer kind of when, when we’ve got CIPRdays booking them at holiday and then, you know, going into going to, to do those events.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (13:58):

So, so you, you have to be really organized. And also I’ve, I’ve got a brilliant team on board around as well, and council, , and I can’t do everything. , so, you know, and it, it can’t, it can’t just be a call to the individual every year that the president comes forward and, and sort of does everything. There’s a, there’s a brilliant management team, there’s a brilliant board, there’s a brilliant council, and everyone gets out and it’s really important, particularly in the 75th year. But every year that we get out and we talk to our members and we talk to the people training with CIPR, , and that’s the way we really build the community. And, and you know, as, as someone who’s brilliant community builder yourself, I’m sure you understand that.

Asif Choudry (14:35):

Absolutely. It’s definitely a commitment, especially when it’s, , a side hustle, you know, but a side hustle for what you’re doing professionally, which, , it, it is a labor of love and you’ve got to, you’ve gotta want to do it. And that whole volunteering thing I think is important to stress that it is a volunteering role. So let’s be honest, if you, if you, if you don’t have that commitment to want to do it, , you can’t go into these things lightly because you, it’s, it’s a full 12 months and it’s not something you can duck out of halfway through cuz you’re making commitments to a lot of people and a significant organisation.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (15:13):

Yeah. And I, I, I completely agree with that. And I think the challenge is also pace. , yeah, we look across at Comms Hero for example, we are really impressed that you’ve kept it going that, you know, year after year that it’s still there, that people have that passion for your community. , and I think, I think it’s, I’m, I’m sort of just starting month two of CIPRand yeah, I, I can’t to your point, feel like I’m, I’m shattered after June and, and I’ve spoken to previous presidents and, and a nber of them have warned me about that, that towards the end of the year, you’re just a bit like, oh, I’m done. , and we have this old system as well. , we’ve already elected Rachel k clamp as the next president, which is great in ts of planning and everything.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (15:57):

But there’s also a tendency people to kind of look beyond the current president and say, well, you know, Steve’s score been around now for a couple of years, so, , what’s Rachel gonna do? And and the further you get through the year, the more everyone start to look at Rachel and part of the job, my job is really to protect her. Like Rachel, , Roberts protected me. And to give her thinking time, give her the time to plan her year, , and, you know, not thrust her into the limelight too, quickly. , but by the way, I’ll tell members listening to this podcast, she’s gonna be brilliant.

Asif Choudry (16:27):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So shout out for Rachel, , and I’ll hopefully be interviewing her to continue this, , consecutive year on year interview with, , incoming president, so right tellers and Steve 75th anniversary for CIPR. What’s the theme for this anniversary year?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (16:47):

Yeah, you mentioned it in the impact in the introduction. , we, looking at the social impact of PRin the past and in the future, , and, and our industry as everyone is listening to this podcast, will know rightly gets called out for the occasional behavior of a few bad actors. , but we don’t get enough credit, I think, for the positive impact of pr. And, and I was telling people, actually at the event yesterday, that PR technique have been used by every great social movement. So from civil rights to the environmental lobby, communications helped us all get through covid. , if you look at our internal comms practitioners, they create unity in organisations. They give workers a voice. , they, you know, those workers have really driven, or those organisations to higher purpose. That’s, you know, that’s largely internal comms, our public affairs practitioners and their counterparts, government, particularly our public affairs practitioners who sign up to lobbying registers and, and do things in the right way.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (17:42):

, and, and the people in local government comms, which is where CIPR started, and, and central government comms, they worked tirelessly to create the laws and regulations that underpin our democracies. , you know, it’s PR people that, , the world turns to, in a crisis, to make meaning of, issues and to set out the resolution and, and tell people when, when the crisis is affecting an organisation as, as, as finished. , you know, and, and look, I don’t wanna be too high mighty about it as if, you know, we’ve also flogged an awful lot of products, , along the way, and we’ve been responsible for helping share prices to go up and sometimes down as well. So, you know, I think, I think the, the, it’s a really rich industry and it’s an industry that perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for the impact it has on both org, private and public organisations, but also society as a whole.

Asif Choudry (18:32):

Yeah. So lots there for, , you know, this huge year and, , lots to look forward to. So what kind of events and activities Steve can we expect from CIPRthis year?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (18:45):

So, as I said, we started yesterday with the fantastic services of Brides Church. , we are going to do some other Celebrator events during the year, and I hope you can join us, Asif. , we’re gonna do a Fellows lunch, , a one CIPRgroup, smer drinks. , and we’re gonna finish with a Future Leaders conference, , that looks forward to what CIPRcan offer for the next generation of leaders in our industry. And if there’s some of your community, Asif in, in Comms hero that, , you think should be coming along to that, let me know. And, and, and I would love to have them there. , but I’d like to also talk about three big initiatives we’re launching in the year. So one of the speakers yesterday I haven’t mentioned yet, is a lady called Amy Poel, , from I Provision and I provisions the C I P’S benevolent charity.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (19:26):

And I think it’s really what mark’s CIPRouts from other, other groups, because yeah, we have this charity that can help practitioners, , who have fallen on bad times. And Amy shared some, some really, , emotional stories yesterday of people that they’ve helped. But what we, what we haven’t been able to do in the past is to proactively help social mobility. And that’s something which, , we are not quite there on yet, but we are really, really clear that we want to do this year is to launch a fund that can actually help people from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress their careers and to make a difference. , , so, so that’s a, that’s a really exciting switch for the C R P R and to being a bit more proactive in that regard. We’re, we’re in the process of becoming the first membership organisation.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (20:15):

Secondly, , to achieve the national Equality standard, so the first membership association globally to achieve that. Wow. And that’s, , is really gonna make our, our community sort of open and inclusive and welcoming to anyone, , , from any background. And I think that, again, that’s a, that’s gonna be a major step forward. But as Avro reminded us yesterday, it’s the start, not the end of the process. You don’t stop being driving, , equality, , and inclusion. , and, you know, we, and, and it is really good challenge that we wanna move from being a, being an organisation that’s really dedicated to, to d ei to being one where people really feel like they, they belong, , if they come from, , , from minority background. So, so that’s, but that’s a really exciting initiative, and I think it’s a real step forward. That’s, again, differentiates CIPRfrom, , any other membership organisation, you know, in, in, in the world, really.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (21:13):

, and then the, then the final thing, which I’m, I’m really excited about is we’re gonna start to, , offer training to our charter practitioners to get them ready for boards. And, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s my vision really as if that we have a, a chartered PRpractitioner on every board at some point in the future. , and, you know, it’s something that our charter practitioner said to us. They, you know, they want to move beyond, once they’re chartered, kind of what’s next. , we know that there’s a, , a, a, , demand, , or supply, , , deficiency, particularly with, , not-for-profit boards. You know, there’s, , schools and prisons and, , , and, and, and lots of charities who need good board members. , and we’ve got, we’ve got a supply of over 500 really good people, and it’s growing every day, by the way, , who can go and fill those roles. So, , you know, that’s, that’s a really exciting initiative for us.

Asif Choudry (22:11):

Yeah. And that, that the title of this podcast itself is a PRpractitioner on every board. And is that something that, is that your challenge or is that something CIPRhave taken on and you’ve picked that up then?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (22:26):

That’s very much my challenge. I’m not sure, , Alistair, our CEO, would necessarily agree with that, but, , , it’s because, because it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a huge challenge. , but I think, you know, reputations shut up the board agenda over the past few years. , and we live in a multimedia age. And, , the specialty of our industry is really understanding those stakeholders, how they communicate what they want from organisations. And, you know, we feel that CIPRmembers, and particularly our charter practitioners who’ve been accredited for their values and leadership experience have something to add, , to both community and business boards. , and, you know, I look at, , surveys like the Edelman Trust Barometer, and, you know, I, I’ve managed reputation on behalf of Vodafone groups. I look at a lot of these reputation studies, , that, that come out and, and they all have in common that there’s a trust gap.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (23:18):

People just don’t trust institutions. And it’s, it’s, it’s really interesting as if, to look back to why CIPR, why the CIPR was founded us in 1948. , at that time it was just post the Second World War and the, , the founders of that organisation and the government of the day felt that it was really important to have professional and ethical communications practitioners, people who were dedicated to training, , and who had a, , , a code of practice that they could fall back on so that they could make sure that the public who were making really important decisions about how they lived their lives after that, , that second World War could trust the institutions of the day, both public and private. , and, you know, flash forward 75 years, and we see trust internationally, not just in the UK at an all time low. And I think we, you know, so we wanna reinvigorate that challenge and say, you know, 75 years old, but actually it’s more relevant than ever. And by, by moving our PRpetitions onto board in the coming years, we can really help close that trust gap and drive up social inclusion again. So, you know, it’s a, it’s a big ask. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a big goal. , but it’s something I think that, that, , you know, we’re, we are uniquely, , able to do as the, as the CIPR.

Asif Choudry (24:37):

Okay. I know. And, and the PRpractitioner every board, why not, you know, because the, the, , debate rages on of, , people asking, you know, we wanna seat at the top table, and why doesn’t PRand comms have a seat at the top table? It’d be nice to be, , in a position when, where it’s just becomes the norm. , and that takes the C-suite and the leadership to continue to be educated as to the value of comms and marketing and what it brings to the table. Because invariably in times of crisis, whereas the first place organisations turn to to handle that crisis, it is comm’s, pr, marketing team. So it would be brilliant to see that point happens. So we’re in a position that people don’t have to, you don’t have to have debates on how to get, , a seat at the top table, , which still is discussed far too much in my opinion. And, , it’d be great to see that changing, , , certainly for the future generation of, of comms leaders that are out there and up and coming.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (25:42):

Yeah. And, and, and if we, if we want to, to, to, to be in governance roles, we need to earn it. That’s it. I heard that as well. Like a lot of people say we wanna see to the top table cuz it’s perceived that it’s well paid and it’s the top of the industry ladder. , but actually there’s a lot of community organisations out there that are, are desperate for really good, , trustees. And the starting point for our industry, I think is going out there and volunteering more. You know, and, and for c i p members who are, who are, , listening, you get c p d points for that. So, you know, if we’re, if we’re going to prove that we are capable of that seat, and ultimately, you know, when people say they wanna seat to the top table, they often mean we wanna sit it on PLC boards.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (26:27):

But you, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s steps towards that. We need to prove that something that I believe, you know, that this, this organisation, , can, can add to governance, , that we’re, you know, we’re strategic, we’re, we’re able, and we’ve got something, we’ve got something that other people from other industry sectors don’t have. , in that, that sort of in innate understanding and also the data about, about the stakeholder audience. , so, so I think it’s, it’s, it’s gonna be a hard road and it’s not something that we’re just gonna go kick the, kick the, the door down, but, but I think it’s, I think it’s a really important for us, particularly as a female dominated industry, to say we, we want to start a CIPRtraining charter practitioners in particular to go and take on those board roles and helping to, to, to drive, , you know, more, more inclusive and, and better boards and better governance, , and, and more trusted institutions, , across, , the UK and beyond. , and I think, I think that’s something that, , dovetails really nicely with the, , diversity, equity, inclusion, , stuff that we’re doing as well.

Asif Choudry (27:35):

Yeah. And that’s certainly a, a great smary of how, , you know, why chartered practitioners make good board members and, and what indeed what CIPRspecifically are gonna be doing to help them unlock those opportunities. And I, and I’m sure the listeners will be encouraged and, and, and geed up by that. So, you know, and I’m, , , it’ll be great to see how that pans out during the course of this year. So tell us, and Steve, just to wrap up these questions, you know, what would you personally like to get out of your year as the CIPRpresident and the first male in, what is that, five years now as well?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (28:10):


Asif Choudry (28:10):

You’ve broken a cycle.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (28:12):

Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I, but you know, I, I will say this, but I don’t think about male and female Yeah. Leaders. , the, the people who’ve come before me, you know, , Rachel and, and Jenny and, and Mandy and Emma, , going right the way back, , to people that, you know, I I thought were fantastic leaders. People like Stephen Waddington, Sarah Waddington, , I, I’ve, I’ve never characterized them in ts of there’s a female and male leader. It’s, it’s, , they’re just incredibly talented people who’ve taken on the, on the role and, and they keep on giving back. You know, I was listening to, I was reading a, , a, a post by Stephen Wallington last night. You know, he’s still out there fighting for the industry, doing some fantastic work, yet if you’re not, listen, if you’re not reading stuff already, go read his stuff.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (29:03):

This, the stuff he’s doing for his PhD management is, is really fascinating. I talked about iVision before. We’ve got another former president, Kevin Taylor, who’s leading that this year, and who’s, who’s driving sociability. And, and it’s, it’s unbelievable. And, you know, I said, I’m gonna quit as if, but it looks like it’s quite hard to get out because there’s all these people who are, you know, dedicated and they keep, they keep on giving year after year. The stuff Sarah’s doing with social, , socially mobile is phenomenal. Yeah. So, so, you know, , so, so proud of the impact that, , that my former colleagues do in the industry. And it’s such a, such a proud thing to be present. Nber 75 when you look back at the impact of, of, , of, of the previous 74. You know. , but it, in ts of what I personally wanna get out, it’s a really hard one because this is, as I said, it’s a voluntary gu voluntary role.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (29:53):

, it’s not something I’m doing for, for, for personal gain. , it’s certainly not something I’m doing for, for career gain. But I think being on the CIPRboard and now as president, what I’d say to other people thinking about it is it’s really helped me improve my organisational skills, , my decision making, my planning, as I said to you before, my management skills. And so, so I really hope to take that into future roles. , and, , you know, I, I, I owe Vodafone of my family, , , even more of my time in, in, in coming years and to, and to really utilize some of those skills for them as well. , but it, it’s, for me, it’s the, it’s the small moments really. , yesterday I met someone who had worked me as a graduate. I’ve not seen her in years.

Steve Shepperson-Smith (30:42):

And, and so, so moments like that meeting, meeting members, meeting people who have gone from being people I knew in CIPRto becoming friends over the years, , one of our former presidents, , it was my best man. And, , , it is the godfather to my daughter. So, so it’s a, it’s an organisation where you really build these deep friendships as well as yeah. These collegiate relationships. And, , so, you know, when I look back, if, when ultimately if members look back on our 75th year and say that it was success and I did a good job, then I’ll be super happy. That’s all I ask.

Asif Choudry (31:19):

Fantastic. And, , yeah, so there, there’s, there’s a whole year ahead and I’m sure, , listening back to that bit in, at the end of December, 2023, there’ll be stacks and of positive feedback and, , you’ll be able to reflect on the impact that it’s made. So you mentioned before, , Steve, about Comms Zero, and that’s why we’re here on the Comms Zero Podcast. So why, for you, why is Comms Zero important to you, and would you recommend people working in comms, marketing and PRto be part of it?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (31:54):

So, I, I said to you a couple of times already, as if, you know, I’m so impressed by what you’ve done with this community and, you know, with Comms Hero Week as well, and I as a, as an avid Twitter follower, I see all the passion that comes from that. So I, I’d really say to the comms and marketing community that Asif and his team, they see you and that, you know, I, I, I see the passion when people get the swag from you and, and, and your, you are saying the things that they’re thinking, they’re feeling underappreciated. You make them feel seen, you know, your team appreciate their work, and you’re clearly, you are on their side. So I think it’s a great community, and I, I give you every applaud and I, I say congratulations on you, , for, for, for building that and, and, and building that passion.

Asif Choudry (32:37):

I appreciate that, Steven. That’s, that’s, that’s fantastic. And we we’re avid supporters of CIPR, , you know, of last year. It was, it was an absolute pleasure and honor to, , sponsor the Young Communicator of the Year award, which Michael Louden picked up. And, you know, we’ve spoken to Sarah Eon and we, we’d love to continue relationships like that. And it’s reciprocated with specific sessions within CommsHero week C p D approved and stuff like that, which is great, you know, and we’ve all, we’ve had that public endorsement from CIPRand it’s important to us because if we can support the profession in whichever way, and again, it’s all voluntary. So, , this year we’re doing something different. Cause I’ve appointed, , I’ve scoured the com comms hero community and nobody knows this yet, apart from the 15 people who have been, we’re launching a comms hero ambassador program this year, right?

Asif Choudry (33:32):

So there are 15 people who’ve been, , selected and invited to get involved in shaping the Comms Hero Week agenda. We’re going to have our first ever Comms Zero awards this year. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And these will be the criteria for the categories which will be chosen by the 15 ambassadors, is the awards categories that you’ve never seen at any awards before, but you know, comms would like to receive. So that’s the brief that they’ve got and that, that’s the remit. So inviting guests to the podcast. So they’re gonna be actively involved in com, zero week, the awards event and shaping the agenda. And that’s something every year I’d love to bring on 15 new people in 2024. So it’s keeps it fresh cuz we’re in our ninth year now. So, , you know, bringing people in into the fold of that members who, again, voluntarily will get involved and give up their time, , will help us to keep that fresh nine years and and beyond.

Asif Choudry (34:30):

You know, and maybe one day I won’t be celebrating Comms Hero’s 75th birthday, , but I would hope that future comms heroes, , leaders are there to, to do that. So it’s been a fascinating interview Steve, and it’s really insightful to find out behind the scenes and behind the carefully cur curated docents and press releases that will no doubt have come out with, , you becoming president, et cetera. But to hear from you is fantastic to do that. And it’s important we’re talking about community people. If you’re not connected to Steve, you should be. So how can they do that? Where’s the best places to find you? What are the social handles, Steve?

Steve Shepperson-Smith (35:11):

So, so I said already I’m on, , , Twitter, so at Steve Shep Smith, , same on LinkedIn. So linkedin.com/steve shep Smith, , find me connect to me. , I’d love to, , to connect to people in the comms industry.

Asif Choudry (35:26):

Excellent. And, , you’ll find this, , podcast on Spotify, apple and on our website CommsHero.com. And you can follow us on Twitter at CommsHero. If you do listen on Spotify and Apple, please do leave a rating and review and hit the follow button, subscribe, whichever button is on there. Please do that. And if you would like to, as Steve has done, , being a guest on the CommsHero podcast, there are no qualifications required. You just need an internet connection. And that’s it really. And if you’re passionate about a comm subject, no matter what it is, comms or marketing, get in touch with myself or DM contactors form on the CommsHero website. But Steve has been an absolute pleasure and thank you so much for giving up your time. Thanks so much for inviting me, Asif.