Vote Leave 'architect' speaks at AGM as Harold Burson receives President's Medal

More than 70 practitioners gathered in Bloomsbury, London yesterday evening to hear Matthew Elliott reflect on his experience as Chief Executive of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations' (CIPR) Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Elliott - widely credited as the 'architect' of Britain's decision to leave the European Union - identified twelve key moments that edged his campaign to victory.

These included President Obama's assertion that a Brexit vote would leave Britain 'at the back of the queue' on trade and David Cameron's failure to secure a deal with the European Union, which led to 140 Conservative MPs migrating to the Leave camp.

Elliott's keynote speech was followed by an on-stage debate with Connect Communications' pro-remain Founder, Gill Morris FCIPR, chaired by former CIPR President Lionel Zetter FCIPR.


Prior to the keynote speech, Harold Burson was awarded the 2017 CIPR President's Medal for his outstanding contribution to public relations practice. As Founding Chairman of global agency Burson-Marsteller, Burson has enjoyed a distinguished career spanning over fifty years.

Former colleagues Dr Roger Hayes FCIPR and Bob Leaf Hon.FCIPR paid tribute to Burson, with the latter describing him as "the greatest ever PR practitioner". "He was unique and cared more about people and clients more than anyone" said Leaf.

Burson - who continues to commute to his office on a near daily basis at the age of 96 - shared his reaction to the award in a statement from New York.

Harold Burson, Founding Chairman, Burson-Marsteller
I am truly humbled to receive the President’s Medal from the CIPR and to join so many highly accomplished and distinguished honorees. I am extremely grateful to be recognized for seeing the opportunity to make PR a global enterprise, which is what I call one of my ‘defining moments'. But, as I look back on Burson-Marsteller’s 64 years, I am most grateful for having had the opportunity to work with and employ many of the brightest minds in our industry.
Harold Burson, Founding Chairman, Burson-Marsteller

The AGM provided members and volunteers with an opportunity to reflect on the CIPR's performance in 2016, as outlined in the recently published Integrated and Financial reports.

CIPR Vice-President, Rob Brown FCIPR hailed 2016 as a year of firsts for the CIPR - from the launch of the multiple-award winning Influence magazine, to the introduction of Corporate Affiliate membership for consultancies and in-house team.

CIPR Chief Executive, Alastair McCapra reaffirmed the Institute's intention to relocate from its existing offices in Russell Square to a nearby location. The move is expected to significantly reduce overheads and enable the CIPR to deliver greater value for money for members.

Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).