LONDON — Senior PR practitioners from across 53 Commonwealth countries are today being invited to join a new members’ body, the Commonwealth Communicators Organisation (CCO).

The aim of the invitation-only CCO, launching on Commonwealth Day, is to enable senior PR practitioners from Commonwealth countries to network and share best practice. After carrying out research into the leading practitioners in each commonwealth country, 250 senior communications professionals across the world have been identified as potential founding fellows.

The first chief executive of the CCO is public affairs, communications and policy consultant Mark Ramsdale, a former head of public affairs at the Public Relations and Communications Association.

He told the Holmes Report: "I’m delighted to have been appointed as the first chief executive to the Commonwealth Communicators Organisation. With British and South African heritage and an Australian wife, I am hugely supportive of the Commonwealth, its ideals and its relevance in the world today. The CCO will bring together senior PR practitioners in fellowship to share and develop good public relations practice and to continue to promote the ideals and priorities of the Commonwealth Foundation.”

The inaugural chairman will be Francis Ingham, UK & MENA director general of the PRCA and chief executive of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation. He said the idea for the CCO had come from a conversation with Charles Skinner, the former head of communications at the Home Office, the day after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

"It was our feeling that after Brexit, the Commonwealth would come back on people’s radar as an organisation that we are still happy to belong to," said Ingham. "The Commonwealth has never been more relevant, and on my ICCO travels over the past year or so I’ve found real enthusiasm for the idea of a new organisation, especially in countries such as India and South Africa where they are hoping to restore stronger ties."

Ingham stressed the CCO would be more like an exclusive club than another trade association: “We won’t be doing training or awards – it’s a senior-level networking body that will purely be focused on individuals across the Commonwealth.”

As well as networking, the CCO will hold an annual conference for fellows, which will move between different Commonwealth countries. A key outcome of each conference will be developing a global campaign around one of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s priorities.

The launch was welcomed by the secretary-general of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, who said: “This new group has the potential to raise the visibility of the Commonwealth and the work of the Secretariat across all 53 of our member countries. I encourage the association to develop global campaigns around our programmes and priorities so that Commonwealth citizens deepen in understanding of the values of our Commonwealth Charter.”

The CCO will also develop a mentoring programme, matching members with junior practitioners in the same or in different countries, a members-only online forum and an annual Commonwealth Directory of members.