Seven reasons why you shouldn’t miss Bessie Lee’s address at the Palace of Westminster

by Stefan Stojadinovic One of many facts that my ‘surfing’ on Twitter has made me realise is that with the coming of spring the PR community wakes up and the offering of PR events, lectures, and panels is greater than ever. Even if you narrow down your interest to a specific field of interest, you will still find yourself facing an abundance of choice. I feel like I could use some help at times. Don’t tell me only what the event is about, tell me why I should invest myself in it and attend. I decided to give you a few (seven to be precise) reasons why you should attend the Maggie Nally memorial lecture, based on what I have witnessed when attending last year and what I know about the event coming up on 22 April this year.


I am not going to tell you to make the Maggie Nally lecture your number one choice. I am actually going to explain why you definitely should make it your number one choice.

  • The legacy of Maggie Nally

Margaret Nally was the first woman president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (back then Institute of Public Relations). She had also been the first woman chairman of the NUJ’s Press & PR Branch. At a time when Margaret Thatcher was in power and breaking barriers for women in the UK, the role of women and their equality in the workplace was much discussed. Today, the situation is better but the context is much alike. The ‘glass ceiling’ within the PR industry is still very much present. And not only in the PR industry of course. CIPR ‘s State of the Profession survey report found a clear pay inequality gap of £8,483 exists in favour of men. The Governments report titled 'Women on boards' shows that four years on from his original report female representation at board level in FTSE 350 companies has almost doubled to 23.5% – but has missed the target of 25% by 2015.


‘A lot of women could achieve more – they just don’t try hard enough’ Maggie said in 1975. Who better to epitomise a success story than this year’s speaker Bessie Lee, CEO of WPP China, one of the world’s leaders in marketing communications services.

  • The legacy of the Maggie Nally lecture

All you need to do is glance at the list of speakers from previous years. The names include Sir Howard Davies, then director of LSE, Rt Hon Lord (Tom) McNally, at the time Liberal Democratic Leader, House of Lords, and more recently Nemat Shafik, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, in 2013, and Rob Flaherty, Senior Partner, CEO and President of Ketchum. Talk about a list of all stars. Each year, the keynote is thought provoking and it does not lack the aspect this time. ‘China – a digital nation’ - at present the first clue in our mind when we read this is that Twitter is forbidden in China (but how do they ‘do social’ then?!?’), but there is so much more to it that we don’t know. It goes without saying that you will learn something new, a key requirement of any event I plan on attending.

Rob Flaherty, 2014 Maggie Nally Lecture
Rob Flaherty, 2014 Maggie Nally Lecture

  • The high profile speaker for 2015

As I have already stated, Bessie Lee, CEO of WPP China. She has worked in the media and communications industry in Greater China for more than 20 years. That is 20 years in one of the most intriguing and difficult PR environments in the world.

  • The crème de la crème of the PR world

Last year, apart from shaking hands with Rob Flaherty and plenty of PR pro’s from Ketchum, I had the pleasure to meet the editor of PR Week, the president of the CIPR for 2014, as well as Patrick Nally, Maggie’s son, often dubbed as the founding father of sports marketing whose company brokered a partnership between FIFA and Coca Cola that has lasted nearly 40 years, among many others. Scores of interesting people. Make yourself comfortable, mingle, shake some hands. It will prove to be a great night.

Bessie Lee, CEO WPP China, speaker at the 2015 Maggie Nally Lecture
Bessie Lee, CEO WPP China

  • The young talent

Here is when we come to the ‘nurturing young talent’ of public relations. Patrick Nally kindly sponsors five students from top UK PR university courses to attend the lecture and the dinner. Last year, these bright young minds were lots of fun and they were great to talk to. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing with them the difficulties of entering the industry, the state of the academic world of PR and many other topics. And they were even more excited to be there then I was.

  • Palace of Westminster

I am not sure if the lecture would be as interesting as it was if the venue was different. The Houses of Parliament have something special about them. When you take a seat and the atmosphere sinks in, the surrounding just seems appropriate. I can’t imagine it being done at a better venue.

  • Cholmondeley Room and the Terrace of the House of Lords which overlooks the Thames

So at this time the lecture has finished and you are comfortably discussing the address and what has been said only a few feet from the Thames. To this day when I am describing the terrace I note that it is ‘the closest I have got to Big Ben in my life’. It is a marvellous experience. Last year the lecture was held in February, but I still disregarded the weather aspect and spent a bit of time on the outside part of the terrace. This year it is late April - nothing short of amazing. And to conclude let me tell you the negative about this year’s Maggie Nally lecture – I won’t be there. Well that is the negative for me I meant to say. For you, the worst will be missing it.

Author is a communications analyst working for a major steel and mining company and a committee member of CIPR International.


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