Guest Interview: Leading the CIPR in Northern Ireland

Apologies for the delay in blog posts – inducting a little person into P1 is a tad stressful/emotional!

But it was worth the wait (I hope). Today’s Local Profile brings you an interview with a rather important man in the NI PR scene. Gary McKeown MCIPR, is currently Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in Northern Ireland, and is the longest serving committee member. With a background in public affairs and civil service communications, Gary knows his stuff and kindly took time out from his day job and his CIPR role (and his recent role as a father!) to tell us a bit about himself.


Gary McKeown MCIPR

How did you get where you are today?

After completing a Degree in Law and Politics at Queen’s University, I studied for a Master’s in Newspaper Journalism at the University of Ulster and eventually found myself working in PR. I then got involved in the CIPR where I completed its Diploma course and joined its Northern Ireland Committee, of which I am now Chair.

What three tips would you offer someone just starting out?

Understand what makes news, be creative and have an inquisitive approach to things.

What’s a typical week like in your role?

My job involves managing both planned PR and unexpected communications issues, so from one week to the next I don’t know whether I’m going to be working on something which I have plenty of time to prepare for, or if I’m going to have to think quickly on my feet to get something turned around in a very short space of time.

What has changed in for the better and worse since you started in the industry?

The increase in the use of social media has made a big difference for communications professionals, as it allows people to connect quickly, directly and succinctly. Of course, this brings with it many challenges, but people in PR need to be able to identify the opportunities and understand the risks as there’s no escaping Facebook, Twitter and the range of other channels which are now ubiquitous.

If you were hiring for an entry-level position, what would make a candidate stand out?

Someone who can write well, has good ideas, is willing to learn, has a good understanding of the role and what’s required, and has a positive attitude.

What is your proudest moment to date?

Professionally, it was nice to be elected Chair of the CIPR in Northern Ireland by my peers. It is also good when your work pays off when you achieve results such as good coverage or influencing change.

When you switch off (if you switch off!) what do you do with your own time?

I have an eight-month-old son, so he takes up most of my time these days!

Busy man! You can follow Gary (@GaryMcKeown) and the CIPR in Northern Ireland (@CIPR_NI) on Twitter.