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Personal Musings, Public Relations

The importance of being Chartered

I recently wrote that in order to improve its standing, Public Relations should let the quality of its work and the professionalism of its practitioners be the factors which drive its reputation and rather than waste energy fighting each and every negative comment.

Case in point, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has recently announced a major milestone. It has its 50th Chartered Practitioner.

A Chartered Practitioner in the words of the CIPR is:

“ a senior professional status awarded to members of the CIPR who can demonstrate an outstanding level of professional practice and knowledge, along with a commitment to continuous learning.”

This status, first awarded by the CIPR in October 2009 under the CIPR’s Royal Charter, gives practitioners the same standing as experienced professionals in other disciplines.

In other words, becoming chartered is an opportunity to recognise that PR has practitioners as rigorously tested as the professionals from other disciplines.

Why is this important? For some time the PR industry has performed a key service to commerce, governance and society in general. However, it still does not have a voice at the top table such as HR or the Legal team. There are times when PR should be the most important counsel to the Senior Management Team; instead, HR or Lawyers have the final say on PR decisions, often with disastrous results. The recent Thomas Cook crisis is a case in point.

The PR industry has to work to establish the professional credentials of PR, become advisors and gain a seat at the highest levels of business.

The mantra of the Government Communications Service (previously the Government Communications Network) is professionalism through innovation and greater effectiveness in order to prove its worth to minsters and senior civil servants. To promote professional further, the GCS has struck a deal with the Public Relations Consultants Association making all Govt Communicators automatically members of the PRCA with access to a wide range of training, greater CPD and  its professional code of conduct.

Improving professionalism and by extension an improved reputation is not going to be an overnight success.

In its PR 2020 research report from late 2011, the CIPR says:  “By 2020, the successful practice of Public Relations will be clear on what public relations is and the benefits it can deliver, strongly led, respected and established as a senior management discipline.”

So highlighting schemes such as the Chartered Practitioner status is a key step in promoting the professionalism of PR and getting “skilful practitioners”, as the report describes them, into the c-suite.

Unfortunately, there are issues the CIPR needs to resolve if Chartered Practitioners are to help the industry break into the c-suite.

The CIPR’s last State Of The Profession report states members want to be seen as professionals but rate client satisfaction as one of the “distinguishing characteristics of a professional practice” rather than the standards adopted by other professional disciplines who sit around the boardroom table.

The fact the CIPR has just reached its 50th Chartered Practitioners says the notion of becoming a Chartered Practitioner is not something CIPR members are aspiring to.

Not all 10,000 members will be eligible to start the process (there have been changes to eligibility to increase applications) but to have only 50 Chartered Practitioners over six years means fundamental matters must be addressed to improve the numbers of those considering being Chartered.

This should be improving this year, as it is the 10th anniversary of the CIPR attaining Chartered status.  The publication of a book of Chartered Practitioner essays goes some way to raising its status among CIPR members but making employers aware of its existence is just as (if not more) important.

In job interviews, I have never been asked what being Chartered means to me.  This was, as my potential employers later told me, because they were not even aware of Chartered Practitioner status.

When the scheme was first introduced, I asked the question when would it be promoted outside PR industry. The answer was when there were sufficient numbers who held the status. After six years, we have now fifty Chartered Practitioners and as we are celebrating ten years of the Chartered Institute this should be the time to go out and spread the word.

If more PR practitioners are to be part of the c-suite, they need to be able to show that they have reached a level of recognised expertise and professionalism.

The CIPR must promote the importance of being Chartered.


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