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10 Minutes with a PR Pro: Francis Ingham, PRCA Director General

Francis Ingham chats with us about politics, motivation and the importance of taking a clear stance

Role: PRCA Director General & ICCO Chief Executive Twitter: @PRCAIngham Francis Ingham was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Katie Simpson, Managing Consultant at Hanson Search, interviewed Francis to find out how he made it in the industry.

Why did you get into communications?

I wanted a job in politics when I left university, but I left in 1998 when there were very few Tory MPs or Tory jobs knocking around. So I got into public affairs, happily, after a little bit of a struggle. When I was at Oxford, I was the press officer for the Oxford Union, where I gained press for a lot of visitors, like the US Secretary of State and the King of Jordan. I’d always had an interest in, and a love of, PR. Even now, I write a lot of press releases and I’ll sell-in stories. I think that if you don’t have a love of our industry, you’re probably in the wrong job.

What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?

I try to work hard. The advice I give to students when I do lectures around the country – we have about 15 partner universities – is that the things that employers are looking for are hard work, enthusiasm and intelligence. You can be as intelligent as you like, but if you can’t get out of bed in the morning and get into the office, you’re never going to make a success of your life.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?

It’s now actually. For the last three or four years I’ve had a cataract of one eye and macular degeneration in the other, so I’ll wake up with a head ache, I will have a headache all the way through the day, and go to bed with a headache. It is quite annoying and adds a frisson of challenge to each day. But here are lots of people who have health issues in their life, and the funny thing is, over the last three or four years that I’ve been struggling with this I’ve actually achieved more than in the three or four years preceding them, so I think that motivation carries you a long way.

Who would you say has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?

Funnily enough, the most inspiring person that I’ve ever worked with was the then Director General of the CIPR, Colin Farrington. He took it from nothing, to being something really big. He was an inspiring boss.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

Colin Farrington once gave me a great piece of advice, to always ask yourself “what is victory?” It’s about thinking what your end goal is. It is such good advice, and I’ve always tried to listen to it.

In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry?

It will be a lot bigger. I go round and attend conferences, awards, seminars and whatnot in the UK and around the world, and while some of the sector in some countries is growing more slowly than in others, they are all growing. It is an industry of choice for the brightest and the best of young people. It is eating into other marketing disciplines and is extending its influence and its remit.

What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator?

Always responding quickly. I think it’s one of the lessons of having actually worked in PR that when you’re asked for a comment, saying “I’m very sorry, we’ll get back to you in the next few hours” is a pretty feeble response. What I’ve noticed with our members over the last eight years is that they like the fact that we comment on things, they like the fact that we take a clear line and give robust answers. They don’t always agree with what we say, but they like the fact that we are happy to say something and that we are vocal in standing up for the industry.

Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications?

Is it OK to say that I’ve got it already? I love my job. I never, ever get up in the morning and think “Oh God, I’ve got to go into work”. I love going into work, I love the variety of it. I love standing up for our industry. In loved in particular fighting with the NLA over the years and talking about the importance of lobbying, about the growth in social media, about the enormous growth of our industry. I’ve been proud to have done stuff like the apprenticeship programme and the internships that have all grown around the idea of opening up our industry to the very best of talent, regardless of background. And every day I have the privilege of working with people who are passionate about our industry and about their work. I get to work with people who are intelligent and who are delivering great services. What more could I want?

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Author: Katie Simpson

Working in the Communications practice at Hanson Search, Katie leads the Corporate PR team. No shrinking violet, clients and candidates alike know Katie for her tenacious, ‘dog with a bone’ attitude, meaning she leaves no stone unturned in her search approach!

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