Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the independent network of 675 professionals (including 44 current MPs and peers), has doubled the number of industry patrons supporting its efforts, while ensuring that 50% of them are women.
Adam Honeysett-Watts, Principal Director, said:
“As an industry, we need to do more to support women in public affairs and communications. Thankfully, there are many great role models out there who are willing to lead by example. I’m glad that 50% of our core team are women and I’m delighted that, from today, 50% of our industry patrons are also women. In addition, they will volunteer their time as part of our ongoing CiC-Start Mentoring Scheme.”
The confirmed new industry patrons are Cllr Anita Boateng (FTI Consulting), Cllr Laura Round (freuds), Poppy Trowbridge (strategy and board advisory), Samantha Magnus-Stoll (Hanover) and Cllr Sarah Wardle (BECG).
It’s wishful thinking to believe 2021 will see a return to normality. The fight against Covid-19 will continue as the No.1 priority, but the impact of Brexit – with or without a deal – will follow closely behind. As vaccines continue to roll out, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. In reality, once the Budget is out of the way, the Government faces challenging local elections with an impending political crisis unfolding in Scotland as the Nationalists push for a second referendum. All of this through a backdrop of rising unemployment. In short, no Prime Minister has faced so many challenges at once since the Second World War. A supportive team, with senior ministers, officials and advisers in control of their own briefs and who can command loyalty from others, partnered with clear and concise messaging from the PM himself will get them through it and it’s up to all of us to do what we can to help. This battle has only just begun.
With a new president in the US the idea of ‘build back better‘ is going to be the mantra of many governments across the globe. In the UK, it is already the mantra of the current administration. Turning up with ideas to help that effort will be the starting point for 2021. Covid-19 has also exposed a four-speed UK. Navigating another constitutional debate in Scotland will be of key importance when the starting gun gets fired on the Holyrood poll in the new year.
Problems always bring opportunities, and public affairs professionals are the ultimate problem solvers.
The big challenge on the political horizon was supposed to have been Brexit. But even this historic issue has been eclipsed by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Even as the UK leaves the EU there will be British firms who need help to do business on the continent and EU firms who need help to do business over here. As for the pandemic, it has fundamentally reshaped British government and the British economy, and businesses will need help in seizing the opportunities and avoiding any fall-out.
Adam Honeysett-Watts is Founder & Director at do Different.
Laura Dunn is a Digital, Social and Creative Communications Consultant to MPs
Many MPs have utilised the benefit of digital during the pandemic and over the two lockdowns. From hosting Facebook Live Q&A sessions with constituents to spotlighting local businesses who continued to safely trade and diversified their services to help their communities, MPs’ social media channels have taken on a new meaning and purpose to provide coronavirus updates, and keep constituents informed of their work and ways they can help during these times.
It’s been interesting to see the individual brands of different MPs emerge on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and the different types of content that are being produced. One series to highlight is Andrea Leadsom’s ‘ParliFacts’ videos.
There has been much debate about the use of digital in Parliament and the ‘hybrid’ model that was introduced by the House to enable participation in-person and remotely by Members. Expect this debate to continue into the new year.
Covid-19 has reshaped ways of working for most people and the offices of Members of Parliament are no exemption. Teams are now working remotely – or at least semi-remotely – and are likely to continue doing so throughout 2021, meaning direct contacts will always be far more efficient. In short, brush-up on who you know. Brexit, Covid-19 and the economy are all issues that swamp Members’ inboxes daily and they’re not going away any time soon; to communicate with MPs in 2021 must be to practice the art of brevity.
Although the UK recruitment market has experienced a 50% drop since the start of the pandemic, there continues to be a demand for communications and advocacy skill sets. As organisations navigate Covid-19 and the economic turmoil, C-suite leaders increasingly rely on their communicators for wise counsel and action – as Churchill once said, “the difference between management and leadership is communication.” A national vaccination programme will be a boost for the market, giving the confidence for leaders and managers to re-invest in new talent for the recovery. Some of the temporary shifts in how the office-based work is delivered will become permanent, a new ‘hybrid’ model of home and office working will doubtless emerge, though it can only be long-term if it is sustainable. As responsibility for regulation moves from the EU to the UK, we are experiencing an increased demand for policy and regulatoryexpertise. Whether actively looking or open to opportunities, I encourage you to put your best digital foot forward and brush-up your LinkedIn profiles in readiness for what’s ahead.
Alec Zetter is Policy and Public Affairs Headhunter at Ellwood Atfield (EA)
It has been a tough eight months in the recruitment market. What was supposed to be an exciting year of new growth hires to prepare business for Brexit has, instead, seen thousands of redundancies – remember “full employment”? – and share prices plummet (unless you work in food delivery or online shopping). The number of opportunities out there have fluctuated since March 23, from complete shutdown to small merry-go-rounds in certain sectors.
However, there is certainly reason to be positive. The message from our clients and others is clear: communications, advocacy and public affairs are as important as they’ve ever been, and the value placed on them will only increase as we look to recover from the pandemic, re-write our legislative and regulatory frameworks and repair the economy. Associations, businesses and NFPs need to have their voices heard, and who better to deliver that for them than, well, Tories (and others) in Comms.
If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.
Katie Perrior is Chair, and Aisha Vance-Cuthbert and Laura Dunn are co-Directors of Conservatives in Communications
Once again, thank you for your continued support and to those who participated in the CiC Census 2020. The anonymised and aggregated data is a helpful guide for everyone concerned.
As a reminder, we invited all supporters to weigh in and we received a strong response. In particular, we polled gender (25% of respondents are female) and invited everyone to suggest how we should get more women involved. We received plenty of comments (125 in total!), including some constructive feedback and ideas. We read each one.
Before we get underway, let’s remind ourselves about our group: Tories in Comms is an independent, voluntary and informal industry network for conservatives who work in our sector. While we have a role to play and take our responsibilities seriously, there are others who must take the lead.
For example, while it’s great that just over half of all MPs elected in 2019 were Conservative (365 of 650), it’s also disappointing that – just like our base – only one quarter of them are women (87 of 365). The Party must do more to improve this, and outfits such as the Conservative Women’s Organisation and Women2Win continue to play an important role.
Women are under-represented as senior leaders within the worlds of PR and PA. Other groups, such as Women in PA and Women in PR agree, and they too continue to make a difference; though businesses must do even more.
In a similar vein, the Party, businesses and network must do more to ensure the membership, workforce and base are ethnically diverse.
Let’s look at how we can improve things.
Us and you
Our core team is 50% female, including our chair and two directors. Laura is our women’s lead while Finley Morris is our lead on young people, including, yes, young women. Men have a role to play in encouraging gender parity.
We will continue to advertise all volunteer positions in our newsletter as well as on our website and social media.
There are several organisations doing an excellent job to encourage female participation. We don’t want to duplicate efforts, rather promote each other’s respective work.
Today, we’ve agreed to work closely with Women2Win and Women in PA, and we look forward to working together on future events and content. You will find them highlighted on our website.
Historically, our group was 100% focused on networking and there was a preference for after-work drink receptions. For the past 12 months, we’ve continued down that path with events on Wednesdays, 6-8pm. However, we recognise that format doesn’t suit everybody, especially women with children and/or those based outside London, and therefore we commit to hosting breakfast and lunch events. We will also look to vary our guest speakers and topics and virtual events. Where we can meet in-person, name tags will also be provided, and we’ll do whatever we can to make all our events welcoming and inclusive. While our Summer Reception has been cancelled and Conservative Party Conference is unlikely to go ahead as planned, we’ll do our very best to host face-to-face events soon.
Our commitment to female involvement has been there from the get-go. All three of our most recent events since our relaunch featured women: Lord Black hosted a Q&A with Katie, Kulveer Ranger hosted a Q&A with the Home Secretary Priti Patel MP and Katie chaired a panel on the 2019 election. We will continue to invite high profile women, including our parliamentary patrons like Baroness McIntosh as well as MPs Esther McVey, Joy Morrissey, Nickie Aiken, Siobhan Baillie and Theo Clarke, and we commit to having at least one female speaker at every CiC event.
All supporters are invited to submit content for our newsletter, and to be promoted on our website and social media, and we really encourage you to do so especially if you have something to add on this issue.
Mentoring and profiling
Almost three quarters of survey respondents are interested in becoming a mentor while two thirds are looking for a mentor. Throughout 2020, we will profile our female supporters. Watch this space for details of both ideas.
We don’t assume people know about Tories in Comms, so we’ll continue to promote the group, by partnering with organisations and leveraging social media.
We also encourage every supporter to invite one female friend or colleague to sign-up to the network and attend an event.
OUR 12-POINT PLAN
We will advertise all volunteer positions
We will work with our partners on events and content
We will host both breakfast and lunch events
We will vary up both speakers and topics
We will use nametags at events going forward
We will ensure our events are both welcoming and inclusive
We will continue to invite high profile women
We will strive for at least one female speaker per industry event
We will encourage women to submit content for our newsletter
We will launch our mentoring scheme
We will do more to promote the network and supporters
We will encourage supporters to encourage others to sign-up.
Our commitment is real, but we cannot do this on our own, so whether it’s encouraging your female friends and colleagues to join us or writing a piece for our e-newsletter, please do get involved. A final note to all our male supporters – thank you for everything you do which helps us progress and succeed. We’re fully aware that most of our career progression has been through decisions made by men and while we want to see more females in these leadership roles, we’re thankful for that support from our male colleagues over the years.
A survey conducted by Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the independent and informal industry network for over 435 professionals, reveals that its supporters are optimistic about the future of the sector (7.24 out of 10), with 99% in employment. The positive findings come as the Government looks to ease lockdown measures in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This in spite of 62% feeling that the mainstream media (MSM) is not providing balanced and unbiased reporting. Bloomberg and the BBC ranked as the most trustworthy news brands while Al Jazeera and Russia Today ranked as the least trustworthy.
The group, which is marking one year since it was relaunched by its chair Katie Perrior and principal director Adam Honeysett-Watts, has been encouraging supporters – including 23 parliamentary patrons – to take part in its inaugural Census 2020. In addition to its industry patrons, a new tier of Tory peers and MPs – who have previously worked or have an interest in communications (public affairs, PR, policy, digital, marketing, events, journalism or publishing) – have recently signed-up. The team has also been widened to build out its offering to young conservatives and to get more women involved.
Survey respondents were largely positive about the Government’s original ‘Stay home’ message (4.49 out of 5). They scored all nine aspects of the daily press briefings, such as stage management and inviting the public to submit their questions, as effective; with the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognised as the most impressive performer. That said, there is little appetite for the conferences to become a permanent fixture. Further, supporters were invited to submit ideas for a new slogan or comment on the ‘Stay alert’ message. Of those who did, 69% proposed an alternative, which may have contributed to a lower score of 3.18 out of 5 for the Government’s overall strategy.
Turning to other topics. While 73% of participants benefited from flexible working and / or working from home (WFH) before the pandemic began, 90% will be advocating for this post-lockdown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, supporters do not miss commuting to and from work (77%), and many used this available time to spend with the family and to ‘think’ more about their work. Professionals have adapted quite well to the changes with 44% saying they have been more productive, especially when it comes to producing written materials for both internal and external clients. 42% said they’re more active while 41% have reallocated earnings.
Katie Perrior, Chair of iNHouse Communications and a former Director of Communications at Number 10, said:
“Our supporters have risen to the challenges posed by the country’s response to the global pandemic. That aside, we’re a people industry – our successes are built on networking and relationships. Although the many technologies – for example, Microsoft Teams and Zoom – have worked much better than expected, they are no substitute for face-to-face. Survey respondents cited less time with colleagues (60%) and friends (45%) as reasons they like least about WFH. I too, look forward to seeing my colleagues and clients as well as family and friends, in-person, very soon.”
Adam Honeysett-Watts said:
“We spotted an opportunity to relaunch and grow CiC into a more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent resource, and the pandemic has shown how much one is needed. While industry networking is the main reason our supporters joined us and continue to be involved, there is appetite for us to offer more. That includes advertising job opportunities (63%), sharing industry news (61%), connecting with our parliamentary patrons (59%), widening blog content (55%) as well as offering careers advice and mentoring opportunities (50%). Many of these are already in the works, including the latter, where 72% of supporters cited interest in being mentors.”
Note to Editors
You can learn more about the survey and access all of the results here.
Today, we are pleased to launch our inaugural network survey – Conservatives in Communications (CiC) Census 2020 – and invite all supporters to participate! This is your once-a-year opportunity to provide feedback, so we can better serve you and add more value going forward.
ONLY SUPPORTERS CAN PARTICIPATE. CHECK EMAIL FOR LINK
As you will know, we are an independent and informal industry network that presents like-minded individuals with the opportunity to mingle, gossip and share ideas, and, where appropriate, provide sector expertise to the Party machine.
We relaunched in 2019 – with a new chair and directors, a website and some social media – and our mission is to be more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent than in previous years. Please do take a moment to review what we consider to be our top 10 achievements to date:
Rebuilt the network to 400 professionals, from a real variety of backgrounds
“Tories in Comms has accomplished a lot in 12 months and I believe it has a bright future; adding value to supporters’ professional and personal lives. Based on the conversations I’ve had, there is real appetite to do even more – we just need to agree on the priorities. This survey presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. Thanks in advance for your contribution!”
–Katie Perrior, Chair of iNHouse Communications and CiC
“I’ve been a supporter of Tories in Comms for several years and was grateful for your support during the general election campaign. I would recommend the group to all conservatives in communications, so that they benefit from the networking and business development opportunities as well as the chance to contribute ideas and content via its blog and newsletter.”
–Theo Clarke MP, Patron and an early Supporter of CiC
Invites supporters to complete inaugural survey, including reaction to Covid-19 strategy
Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the independent and informal industry network for professionals, marks one year since the group was relaunched.
The network now boasts almost 400 supporters from a variety of backgrounds. Iain Anderson and Kulveer Ranger are among those providing business expertise as industry patrons, while circa 20 peers and MPs – largely from the 2010, 2015 and 2019 intakes – form a new tier of parliamentary patrons who represent a number of different interests.
Katie Perrior, chair of iNHouse Communications and a former Director of Communications at No.10, remains as figurehead of the group. Adam Honeysett-Watts – with the support of Aisha Vance-Cuthbert and Alec Zetter – manage day-to-day operations. Finley Morris was recently brought on to develop and drive its dedicated youth effort.
The network has organised a number of events in Westminster and off Fleet Street, including a Q&A with the Home Secretary Priti Patel MP and a panel discussion about lessons learned from the general election campaign, featuring Sir Robbie Gibb, Professor Matthew Goodwin and Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome.com. BECG, Ellwood Atfield and Kekst CNC sponsored them.
In addition, the group has an active industry blog and circulates regular e-newsletters; the latest of which encourages supporters to participate in its inaugural survey: Conservatives in Communications (CiC) Census 2020. The census is being billed as a “once-a-year opportunity to provide feedback, so we can better serve you and add more value going forward.”
The survey comes at a critical time for the industry as professionals get to grip with Covid-19. It includes questions about the government’s communications strategy, current and future slogans, highly rated Cabinet ministers, future televised press briefings, trustworthiness of the media, flexible working and work from home (WFH) schemes, and an optimism tracker.
Adam Honeysett-Watts, Principal Director, said:
“We’ve made good progress towards our mission to be a more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent industry resource. That said, there is much more we could and should be doing – when it comes to getting more women involved – so, we look forward to analysing the results, determining priorities and acting on them over the next year.”
For more information, including how to sign-up for events, email us. The findings are expected to be published in late May.
Adam Honeysett-Watts is Principal Director of Conservatives in Communications
I’m biased towards women. There, I said it.
Some of the best people I’ve worked with are women. Some of the best people I’ve hired are women. Some of the best people who’ve managed me are women. Some of the best people I’ve campaigned for are women and, some of my best moments include developing networks* for women.
You’ll find great women throughout the history books. Take The Dream of Romeby Boris Johnson for instance. Here, he discusses how the Roman Empire achieved political and cultural unity in Europe, and compares it to the failure of the European Union to do the same. We’re introduced to one of the most prominent women in Rome’s history : Octavia the Younger (69–11 BC) was the sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, and the fourth wife of Mark Antony – who had an affair with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. She became a political adviser and negotiator between her husband and brother, and was respected and admired by contemporaries for her loyalty to Rome.
Fast forward two millennia and travel two thousand kilometres to when and where another woman had risen to the top. The Leader of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, was the first woman to be elected Prime Minister in the UK. During the 1975 Tory leadership election, she famously said this:
Now, I’m not going to argue with the Iron Lady! Last year, when I spotted an opportunity I worked with two women to get it done: Carol Freeman and I persuaded a former director of communications at No.10, Katie Perrior, to chair the network we wanted to relaunch – whose mission includes being more diverse. And, when Carol moved her family to the West Coast, I asked Aisha Vance-Cuthbert to step up.
Over 12 months, we’ve rebuilt Conservatives in Communications to almost 400 professionals, including 19 parliamentary patrons like Joy Morrissey, Nickie Aiken, Siobhan Baillie and Theo Clarke. We’ve hosted three events, including one with the Home Secretary Priti Patel. And, we’ve tasked individuals with establishing effective ways to improve diversity among our ranks.
That said, as of writing this, I guestimate only a quarter of our supporters are women. It’s clear to me and the whole team that we could and should be doing more – as a sector and a network – to encourage greater participation.
Next week, we will launch our inaugural survey – Conservatives in Communications (CiC) Census 2020 – an opportunity for supporters to give constructive feedback and make suggestions anonymously. I hope supporters take advantage of this, because, together, we can and will make a difference.
I look forward to seeing the final results and reading your comments, and to implementing the proposed recommendations. As a former board member, and adviser to the president, of UN Women UK, I’m going to practice what I preached then about equality and continue to encourage all genders to partake as agents of change.
* UN Women UK, DTCC Women’s Network in London and Conservatives in Communications
If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.
This piece was written for our website. I’ve opened up the comments section.
Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the
financial technology sector
On Wednesday, a group of storytellers – who just so happen to be Conservative supporters – met at the Ellwood Atfield Gallery in Smith Square to hear from Katie Perrior about her time in Number 10, and to explore the purpose of, and indeed future for, the Party.
Perrior served as Theresa May’s PR chief right up until when the
2017 election was called (when May was 24 points up in the national polls). And
a fascinating story and exchange of ideas it was for the 100 or so guests –
in-house and agency PR and public affairs specialists plus current and former
special advisors and CCHQ staffers – who turned up for the relaunch of Conservatives in Communications, which Perrior
I won’t spill the beans on what was said, but I do want to share
some brief thoughts, based on my experiences, as a way of demonstrating the
value that those of us in this network can bring to future leadership campaigns
and potentially in government.
I was born in Beverley and grew up in Hull, listening to the band Beautiful South. At just six years of age, my mum died of breast cancer, and shortly after my sixteenth birthday – while finishing my GCSEs – I became an orphan when my dad passed away suddenly. I knew I had a stark choice: to sink or swim. I chose to study – to pursue a career, and to work weekends – so that I could afford to live.
After a much-needed move away from home and positive three years
at the University of East Anglia, I jumped on a train to the Beautiful South
and began searching for full-time employment – just as signs of a global
financial crisis were beginning to emerge. I settled for a life in PR,
enhancing the perception of the finance sector and promoting the technology
needed to progress it.
Why am I telling you this? The backdrop was an unpopular Tory
government under John Major, followed by years in the political wilderness for
the Conservatives. And all because of a failure by a succession of people to
tell the Tory story of aspiration and opportunity that I knew existed.
In short, the Party didn’t have a convincing narrative and
failed to connect with the British electorate which resulted in three
consecutive victories for Tony Blair.
Despite the nationalisation of Northern Rock and RBS, and
everything else that was happening, David Cameron was unable to secure a
majority and ended up forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Whatever
your thoughts about those years in power (and mine are positive), there’s no
doubt in my mind that George Osborne’s management of the economy, together with
strategic and disciplined messaging, helped the Tories to victory in 2015: it
was all about, and I apologise in advance, that Long Term Economic Plan.
Confidence in the economy picked up, businesses performed well,
and as a result hired new staff, from which I and others subsequently
benefited. Fast forward four years and, wow, has the situation reversed.
Whichever side you were on before the referendum (or are on now), there’s no
doubt in my mind that Brexit is consuming everyone’s time and preventing us
from getting on with more important things – and articulating that work.
As the leadership contenders begin to set out their stalls, let’s
judge their ability to tell the Tory story – and during that process, where
it’s required, I’m sure you’ll see the influence of Conservatives in
If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.
Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the industry network that brings together senior Tory PR specialists, has relaunched under the chairmanship of Katie Perrior.
Industry stalwarts Lord Black, Kevin Bell and Lionel Zetter –
all of whom have been involved in CiC since it was established in 2011 to
support the Party – have agreed to be patrons.
PR director Adam Honeysett-Watts and Westminster recruiter Carol Freeman are supporting the effort, including an event yesterday at the Ellwood Atfield Gallery in Smith Square.
Lord Black, deputy chairman of Telegraph Media Group, moderated an audience Q&A with Perrior – who worked as Director of Communications to Prime Minister Theresa May before returning to iNHouse Communications.
Among the 100 guests were industry and association campaign
leads, agency partners and colleagues, as well as current and former special
advisors and staffers.
“The Conservative Party would be wise to tap into this talent
pool, and leverage the network as it seeks to shape and tell its story to the
For more information, including how to sign-up for events, email us.