Contractors will benefit from greater representation, an elevated media profile and new membership benefits as a result of PCG adopting an exciting new strategy, says incoming chairman and IT contractor Julie Stewart.
“PCG is entering a new era as we implement the fresh strategy developed by the previous board of directors, senior management team and consultative council,” she explains.
“Our recent office move to be closer to Westminster signalled the start of PCG’s strategy to deliver a growing voice to the UK’s flexible workforce and expanding PCG’s appeal so membership is attractive to more sectors.”
Stewart sees freelancers and contractors as a vital element of the UK’s economic recovery, enabling businesses of all sizes to benefit from their skills and experience.
Enhanced media role to promote contractors’ interests
Elected chairman in May 2013, Stewart replaces Chris Bryce, who has taken on the role of interim CEO of the membership organisation. A 27-year veteran IT contractor, Scarborough-based Stewart expects to spend two days a week in her new role, which lasts for 12 months until the next election.
“I’ll be working closely with Chris and John [Brazier] in his ambassadorial role, and leading the board of directors as we implement PCG’s strategy,” continues Stewart. “A central part of my role will be media relations and acting as PCG’s spokesperson.”
PCG is entering a new era
Julie Stewart, PCG
However, although she will be the main voice of PCG, Stewart stresses that the new media strategy will involve people from throughout the organisation. “Members of our expanded policy and research team, together with Chris and John, will represent PCG when their expertise is needed.”
PCG’s new location and capabilities driving contractors up the policy agenda
According to Stewart, PCG’s move in June 2013 from West London to the St James area of central London, a short walk from the Houses of Parliament, is part of the strategy to drive freelancer and contractor issues up the policy agenda.
“Our new central London location enables us to engage directly with both the political and media establishments,” she notes. “We can react quickly to the broadcast media news cycle, providing spokespersons for face-to-face interviews at short notice.”
PCG’s policy and public affairs team, led by Simon McVicker, has been expanded and an economic policy adviser, Georgios Nikolaidis, has joined to provide support for the campaigns targeting MPs and policymakers.
“Our objective is also to educate the broader business community and the public about freelancing and the benefits contractors can bring to an organisation. Our new public relations strategy will play a major part in this,” adds Stewart.
Expanding PCG’s membership services
Alongside the enhanced political and media engagement, PCG’s new strategy includes expanding its membership services and appeal. Stewart explains: “Our core membership has traditionally been limited company IT and engineering contractors and freelancers.
“We continue to value them, and are widening our appeal to industries where flexible working flourishes but may not have representation and a membership organisation offering the benefits PCG delivers. These include the media, arts and healthcare.”
The coming months include an active speaking and events schedule, including this year's National Freelancers Day on 21 November 2013
Julie Stewart, PCG
But Stewart does not see PCG becoming a quasi-professional body or union: “All the disciplines in which contractors and freelancers work have existing professional bodies. We’re not setting out to compete with them – we want to complement them. And freelancers and contractors certainly don’t want another legal structure putting a label on them.”
Stewart adds that PCG’s strategy as a membership organisation providing professional services and support will see its services being promoted harder and more commercially in future.
Stewart’s challenges in the coming nine months
In addition to its physical move, PCG has grown rapidly in recent months, and the core team has gone from 16 to 25. The expanded team includes new membership services personnel as well as policy team members, and ensuring their smooth integration is one of Stewart’s challenges, alongside hiring a new CEO.
“I will be actively involved in the search for our new chief executive, which we expect to take two to three months. We also need to communicate the strategy and change of direction to our membership,” she highlights.
“The coming months include an active speaking and events schedule, including this year’s National Freelancers Day on 21 November 2013. I’ve also taken on the challenge to eventually expand our network of hubs beyond London. Our hub workspaces for members and non-members provide a sense of community spirit and facilitate networking.”
Stewart can see a time when the PCG membership’s needs may require satellite offices outside London, especially as the number of events and seminars to inform members continues to increase.
“We now have the right people in the right roles with the right information,” Stewart continues. “I would like to see us making good use of our location to promote freelancing in Westminster and through the mainstream media, and for us to be the spokesperson of choice for the media seeking commentary and insights into freelancers and contracting.”