Our region and sector Groups are sometimes the only real connection members make with the Chartered Institute. As a former Group Chairman I know that we can do better to promote our aims, but we need to make sure that the structures and support are in place to do this. Otherwise, we risk losing vital and knowledgeable local volunteers as the effort of being a fully-committed Committee member can outweigh the personal and professional benefits.

The first question in the Q&A at the Hustings last week was what we would do if one of the others won the election. I said (again, paraphrasing, really can’t watch myself on video) that the things I believed in – equality, education and engagement – I would still work for, hopefully with the successful candidate.

No-one does engagement like CIPR Groups. I know, I’m a former Chairman of Yorkshire & Lincolnshire.

Geographic groups in particular have a special status – all our members have to live somewhere, whatever it is they actually do. Groups are the ‘touchpoints’ between members and what the CIPR can offer locally, whether that be seminars, events, conferences, awards or just a few beers and some networking. Committee members are all CIPR members; committees generally consist of up to eight Voting Members, plus a Chair, Deputy Chair, Treasurer and Secretary.

And they do this voluntarily, unpaid, in their own time.

Some of the best people in public relations I know are or used to be Group Chairs. Some of them even signed my nomination form (actually, almost all of them were).

But Groups are also the weak point in the Chartered Institute’s offering. They rely on individuals putting themselves forward and delivering ‘CIPR’ in the regions. Without these people there would be no Groups.

Every Group at some point has gone through a recruiting ‘crisis’ – usually when trying to find a Treasurer, which is nowhere near as onerous as it used to be (even I can do it – and I do). It usually happens when long-serving members retire, or when people trade up to officer roles leaving unfilled spaces behind them. Committees have to ‘sell’ themselves as much as the CIPR sometimes.

With ‘engagement’ as one of my priorities, I’d like to see the profile of Groups raised. I’d want to ensure that Committees have a resource so that they can share best practice, building on the existing Chairs Meetings. I’d want to see their concerns raised at the appropriate Standing Committee.

Most importantly – I’d want to see them have their own space, that they can manage themselves. A space where Groups can promote what they do to support members and attract potential new Committee members. Even, where Groups can see ideas from other areas and lift them (and, perhaps, improve on them) so that even more members benefit.

And here’s the thing: it won’t take much to do. But it would make a huge difference to our member ‘PR’.