Last week, we published a piece by Alex Malouf who manages corporate communications for P&G across the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Africa. He also holds (or has held) board positions for several communications associations including the Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA), Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and Advertisers Business Group (ABG).
In his article, he wrote “It’s integral to our mission of empowering communicators in becoming strategic advisors, particularly to organizational leadership. Given that, I’m confused as to how at least three members have been added to the organization’s Strategy Board in the months following the Annual General Meeting on February 5. There was no member’s vote on their nomination and no communication sent to members besides the update on the website.” (Full article here.)
“Alex Malouf is absolutely right.
The Executive Board of MEPRA took the view that we should allow more senior industry communications professionals to join our Strategy Board during the year, without waiting until next January’s AGM.
Our only excuse was that they wanted to join. And that the other Strategy Board members agreed that they should.
He’s also absolutely right that our revised charter had not specified this could be done; we simply hadn’t envisaged we would have so many people wanting to join this advisory forum. So we considered it, discussed formally in our Executive Board meeting and voted to allow these new additions. Then we asked the Strategy Board members for their agreement.
So, a simple, pragmatic decision which recognized the value of more engagement by senior members of our industry in this advisory group.
Instead of looking for a smoking gun, maybe the better question is: why did they want to join?
Maybe some had seen the major growth in MEPRA’s membership. We’ve got a diverse agency membership, encompassing large and small, multi-service and boutique players. We’ve got booming in-house membership, from airlines, to hotel groups, to health companies, to major Government departments. We have a revitalized individual membership group. And we will soon re-launch a student chapter that has widespread support of the UAE’s academic community.
Maybe some were convinced by the ever-growing range of services MEPRA is giving its members. From major events such as the Majlis in May and the new Creative Congress this coming November, to our Industry Leader dinners which bring together the finest minds in the sector with regional and international experts, to a new Academy offer developed by Executive Director Sabrina De Palma which has delivered more training in this year than in many of the previous years combined. There is our new Fellowship, which welcomed Sunil John and Sconaid McGeachin as its inaugural members, our new mentoring programme, which has seen 16 senior industry leaders commit time to help our younger members. Then there is our partnership with the CIPR, which provides MEPRA members access to more than 1,200 free training resources and a pathway to become an accredited PR professional, as well as growing relationships with the Arthur W Page Society, PR Week and many others. Not to forget the MEPRA awards – entries in by Sunday, folks!
Many saw our work in professionalizing the secretariat, with new systems for bringing on board members, regular visits to our member companies, and improved feedback loops on our performance. Sabrina and Stephanie are doing a fantastic job in developing MEPRA’s offer. We all know we are not perfect yet – but we are really focused on improving in all areas.
Some of the new Strategy Board members may have been persuaded by the greater transparency we have brought in, which sees detailed quarterly reports sent to the full membership (as videos – we’re modern communicators, after all), as well as regular newsletters about all our activities and a rapidly growing social media presence – and all minutes of Executive Board meetings being shared with all members of both our Boards.
Within that transparency, we’ve been able to demonstrate to those new members our best ever financial performance in the year to date, which means we are able to invest even more in new initiatives to improve the standing of the industry (it all goes back in; MEPRA runs as a not for profit organization).
I know, from their comments, that a lot of these new members had simply realized the new Board structure gave them a chance to contribute – their views, their expertise and (satisfyingly often) their constructive criticism – in a forum of senior peers, in a very time-efficient manner. As business owners and managers, as senior advisors, as heads of departments, very few of this group have the luxury of time that allows them to give up hours and hours every month, or indeed to serve on multiple Boards – but they do seem to enjoy this chance to contribute.
Whatever their reasons, I am delighted. To those that have joined our Strategy Board, at the start of this year and since, I offer my humble thanks. Your contributions have made MEPRA an even more representative organization, building on the success of previous years. Thank you. Those thanks are multiplied to the members of the Executive Board, who have given up huge amounts of time, effort and energy this year.
A bigger Strategy Board, which sees directly the work of the Executive Board and the association’s officers, and which advises on direction and new initiatives, is the real guarantee of governance for MEPRA. If a majority of member organizations are in the room, then we can be pretty sure we are delivering what they want.
We will propose amends to the charter at the end of this year, I am sure. I am also sure new situations will arise in future which won’t be covered by the charter – that is the sign of a vibrant, growing organization.
My term as Chair ends this December and I will step down also from the Executive Board; another sign of good governance is regularly bringing in new faces (and new views) to this forum. The one thing I hope moving forward is that the new leadership – and both Boards – continue to take sensible, pragmatic decisions which encourage greater engagement by an increased membership.
That will ensure MEPRA remains at the vanguard of the industry in terms of representation, reach and relevance.
Finally, I remind all members that if they ever have concerns about any of our work, they should please feel free to raise complaints directly with the Board. We will treat them with due respect, investigate and act accordingly – in full transparency. We’ve not received such a complaint about this issue but will report formally if we do.”
– Ray Eglington, Chair, MEPRA and group managing director, Four Communications
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