Profile: Jane Wilson, CEO, CIPR

The recently appointed chief executive of the CIPR has a strong voice in and out of the workplace, as Peter Hay discovers.

Jane Wilson
Jane Wilson

It is no secret that the CIPR has suffered a tough couple of years. The industry trade body lost £700,000 last year, mainly because of property issues, and then long-standing director-general Colin Farrington bowed out in March, leaving a vacuum at the top.

But six months on, things are potentially looking brighter for the organisation following the appointment of Jane Wilson as CEO.

She started her new role early last month, having joined from online ticket agency

Radiating energy, the charismatic Glaswegian flashes a wry smile as she says: 'You should know that I have just written my financial reports and my board reports, and I am still here and still smiling.'

Wilson, 39, acknowledges that the CIPR has been through a 'bad patch'. However, she says this is what makes the role more appealing. And having headed comms at Capital Radio when the station was struggling, she is no stranger to helping turn the fortunes of an organisation around.

'Sometimes in that position you can become more inward looking. But that is one of the biggest attractions of the job. I'm not just taking the helm of a ship that is merrily going along.'

This typifies Wilson: a straight-talking corporate figure with the lightest of touches.

She has already created a two-pronged attack plan for the CIPR.

'I believe the PR sector needs a strong voice. It needs an organisation that will go into battle on its behalf. Hopefully, what the CIPR can bring to the party is to say it will help you act as one voice in matters that require this.'

Her first priority is to improve stakeholder engagement and customer service. In her first two weeks, she has met all of her staff, as well as making a start on liaising with CIPR professional groups and members, demonstrating more than just good intentions.

Kevin Taylor, former CIPR president and founding partner of Robertson Taylor PR, says: 'Jane is a very impressive and dynamic person. She is what people regard as a self-starter: she thinks about what should be done and gets it done.

'I find her extremely personable and she comes with a good deal of charisma. I feel she will marry this human touch with her professional work at the CIPR very successfully.'

Wilson believes her experience in high-profile corporate and financial roles can help, through the CIPR, to prove the value of PR to a broader audience of company CEOs.

'I have been fortunate in my career to have sat around the boardroom table from an early stage, having access to people of that level and working for organisations that value good communication,' she says.

'At the CIPR, we need to engage at a high level with CEOs and board members, and talk to those people about the importance of communications, PR and policy development.'

Wilson also has experience of taking on a challenge and succeeding, in her role as comms director at GCap Media (formerly Capital Radio).

'When I joined, the words "Capital Radio" did not appear in the media without "troubled" or "struggling",' she explains.

'Whenever DJ Chris Tarrant talked about leaving the breakfast show, the share price would drop.'

However, during a six-month period, she managed to turn this around by setting up a meeting with Tarrant and the FT to show the financial community he was committed to the station.

Five years later, she was eight months pregnant singing her rendition of Peggy Lee's Fever at the Garrick Theatre for the Capital Radio Talent Show.

While watching her at the PRWeek photoshoot, it is easy to see why Wilson has such a natural affinity with the entertainment industry.

She explains: 'I'm a frustrated actress at heart. I have always sung and I always acted when I was younger.

'But I made a decision that I could always be an actress later and chose to do a real degree.'

Now a singer with the Southbank Centre Voicelab Choir, Wilson is certainly not afraid to make her voice heard.

'Being the CEO of the CIPR is nothing compared to having to sing a Nick Cave song at my brother's wedding in November,' she smiles.


Jane Wilson's turning points

- What was your biggest career break?

It was when I took a temporary role as corporate comms manager at Scottish Media Group. It was only meant to last until I found a 'real job', but it became permanent and was the start of my career in corporate and financial PR.

- Have you had a notable mentor?

I have been incredibly lucky to have worked with some amazing people in very supportive environments. David Mansfield gave me my first heavyweight role at Capital Radio and was a great boss, while Fru Hazlitt was an inspirational leader and female role model for me.

- What advice would you give to someone climbing the career ladder?

A life spent on a ladder does not hold much appeal for me personally, so my advice would be to step off the ladder now and again and enjoy the scenery.

- What qualities do you prize in new recruits?

I favour the old Southwest Airlines approach that you can train skills but not attitude, so a positive can-do approach is important. I look for team players and loathe the phrase 'that's not my job'.



2010: CEO, CIPR

2010: Comms director,

2003: Comms director, GCap Media (formerly Capital Radio)

2001: Account director, Impact Consultancy

1999: Corporate comms manager, SMG

1997: Marketing and comms director, First Ford

1996: Marketing executive, Celtic FC

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