Selling the union

August 06, 2021

The NUJ is the union for press officers, public relations officers, communications specialists, in-house journal editors and editorial professionals in a wide range of related roles.   

Prior to the pandemic, the PR & Comms branch had established a core committee, issued regular newsletters and was having monthly quorate meetings – a significant improvement on previous years. Our website was rebuilt and is now meets modern and professional standards and publishes blog postings from officers and lay members.

Since the pandemic even the most technophobic of us have had no choice but to embrace Zoom and other video-calling services to conduct meetings and social events.   

As branch chair, I was concerned that Zoom meetings would present another barrier to participation, yet it led to an upsurge in attendance – with numbers sometimes doubling and new members becoming more involved.   

The branch recently agreed to donate £500 to the union’s welfare charity, NUJ Extra, to help colleagues who were having a tough time because of Covid-19. We have put on a series of events. with speakers talking about analytics and influencing in the PR and marketing world, among other topics.   

As part of trying to be professionally relevant to our members, we have a standing item on the agenda dedicated to discussing workplace issues.   

When I go to media awards ceremonies or professional events for the NUJ, I always assume colleagues know almost nothing about the union. As well as explaining the list of benefits of membership, I always ask: “Would you drive a car without insurance?” Rhetorically I answer, “No of course not, because you might have an accident.” I finish by asking: “So why would you go to work without insurance when you could be disciplined or face the sack?”   

Everyone is at different stages in their relationship with the NUJ. Some people are prospective members, some have just joined, and others are active reps and branch officers. The branch provides advice for workplace issues and we have trained caseworkers who, day jobs allowing, accompany members to meetings with management.   

The branch is responsible for the union’s code of ethics for PR and communications workers. The guidelines are not a set of rules, but an outline of the principles of good public relations. They promote the highest professional and ethical standards and support those working in professional PR and communications roles if they are faced with difficult choices. 

Our most recent branch speaker Ella Minty spoke at length about trust in our industry and how we maintain and, in some cases, regain it in our workplaces.  

This feeds directly into the third principle in our code of ethics which is that we should not disseminate false or misleading information.  It is both a practical and ethical guide. 

Organising, recruiting and, most importantly, retention is the name of the game for everyone in the union and identifying workplace issues that can be collectivised will be key to upping membership figures and participation. 

  • John Millington is one of the NUJ NEC members for the London region and chair of the PR and Communications branch. He writes this in a personal capacity, This article originally appeared in the July edition of NUJ Branch.

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