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CIPR members ought to be hired first, paid more – and promoted faster claims CIPR President Jason MacKenzie

Despite having little talent for pulling pints, working in a bar was a smart move for Jason MacKenzie, president of CIPR, as that led to his first break. Here, in our quick ten-minute catch-up, he describes his career since then and his plans for the CIPR.

What did you want to be when you were a teenager?

I wanted to be a reporter until I was 15, when I realised that my lack of interest in news might be an impediment. By my early 20s, I was rehabilitated and worked for five years in media, first with a free weekly newspaper, then a regional ITV station. Being a journalist and presenter was a fabulous grounding – although newsrooms have changed hugely since then. Faxed press releases have long since disappeared...

Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?

Who knows? I’m hesitant to answer a hypothetical question – and there are plenty of career chapters yet to write, hopefully. Actually, he’d probably be singularly unimpressed. Good lad.

How did you get your first break?

The story goes like this. I was in a bar one night (as a bartender, rather than a patron) to supplement my meagre income as a trainee journalist, when a customer asked me why I was doing a second job. She had worked at my paper before me – and told me that there was a job going with her new employer. I applied, got the job – and moved. Nicky Bougourd, I salute you. I wasn't that good at pulling pints anyway.

What is the best career decision you have made?

Every move I have ever made has served me well. I’m lucky. My advice (at the risk of sounding like a cliché-ridden pop psychologist) is to be bold. Press forward. Seize opportunities.

Any career regrets?

None, yet – apart from staying in a role for too long. That’s an easy mistake to make but thankfully one that generation Y appear adept at avoiding.

How do you split your time between lecturing and your other commitments?

I’m in a transitional phase. I’ve cut back on lecturing over the past year and am spending more time working pro bono for the CIPR in my capacity as president, writing a book, speaking at conferences and events – and cherry-picking projects that play to my strengths (and usually have an international component). 

What are the greatest challenges of your present roles?

The two greatest challenges are undoubtedly the intertwined behemoths of time and email management. The tyranny of the urgent is oppressive and unavoidable, in my experience.

What is your priority whilst you are president of the CIPR?

The drive to professionalism is paramount. The PR business must grow up – and the Chartered Institute has a major role to play as a catalyst. We must pursue professionalism and all that it entails: ethics, providing quality counsel, strategic input and effective implementation focused on delivering measurable results. We must evolve the practice of PR – and, in turn, the way in which it is perceived.

What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?

Commit yourself to continuous professional development: the star performer of today will become the dinosaur of tomorrow, unless they commit to CPD. CIPR members ought to be hired first, paid more – and promoted faster.

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