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Meet our new committee member: Kate Hughes

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what attracted you to joining the International committee?

I’ve worked for Cambridge University Press & Assessment for 15 years in communications roles – for the last 10 of those, specialising in internal communications. Over that time, I’ve broadened and deepened my practice through direct experience of various complex internal communication challenges. My best example of that would be returning from maternity leave in the middle of a pandemic with the added context of a new team and an impending merger! I’ve been a member of the CIPR for 7 years and find it enormously beneficial for connecting with colleagues in the industry, keeping abreast of developments in the profession, and prioritising my professional development. I consider myself a disruptor and I believe that innovation is the key to adapting to the rapidly changing world we live and work in. I hope to bring this lens, as well as my experience of working with colleagues and audiences around the world, to my work on the committee.

 

What would you say are the biggest challenges or opportunities facing PR professionals in your country / internationally right now?

There’s obviously a lot of talk about Generative AI and I know many communicators are concerned about the potential impact on our jobs. This isn’t what keeps me up at night, but I do believe that, in order for comms teams to stay relevant, we have to be able to step outside traditional methods and think creatively to engage audiences that encompass multiple generations and diverse cultures and perspectives. Last year I attended the CIPR International Committee AGM, which included a presentation about the ‘Humans Needed More Than Ever’ report on the impact of AI in PR. One thing that really stuck with me from that presentation was the assertion that “I’ve done it like this and it’s always worked” is no longer a good enough argument; we need to up our game to be able to define our contribution and argue for our profession. This, I think, is the real challenge we face – but we also face a fantastic opportunity to move up the food chain and make an unignorable impact. This is where I see the potential for applying approaches from outside our profession – such as design thinking, Lean methodologies, and user-centric design – to revolutionise the way we work and add value.

 

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the amazing global internal comms team I’m part of at Cambridge. We’re split across the UK and the Philippines, but that doesn’t stop us from collaborating to deliver great things. We received an award of excellence from the Institute of Internal Communication last year in recognition of the Agile ways of working we’ve adopted over the last two years. We’ve taken elements of Scrum and Kanban (which are relatively new to the comms profession but work extremely well in this context) and formulated a model that improves collaboration and efficiency, empowers junior team members, and creates space for professional development throughout the team. It’s so rewarding to see this evolution having a positive impact on the team and the people we serve.

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