Thursday, 2 May 2013

PR associations - an uncertain future

On April 21, I posted a blog titled Are PR associations past their “sell-by” date? It was a rhetorical question and brought a lot of traffic to this blog along with some comments. It also inspired CIPR presidential candidate Jon White to start a LinkedIn discussion about the questions posed.

(BTW, I am not campaigning for either CIPR presidential candidate. I know both Jon White and Stephen Waddington and wish them well. It’s a benefit that in 2013 there is a civilised debate taking place).
Despite groans from one contributor that a “Professor of Public Relations” might actually be involved in discussion and debate, I have analysed the posts from more than 20 practitioners on this site, the LinkedIn debate and some other blogs (e.g. Stephen Waddington’s “Wadds” and Heather Yaxley’s “Green Bananas”).
These are the headlines:
1)      There’s no concept of what ‘professional PR’ or professionalism is in UK public relations practice. It’s a vague sort of aspiration that has no dimensions;

2)     About half the respondents consider CIPR should enforce a CPD policy as a requirement of continuing membership.  It should make entry more (rather than less) demanding.

3)     Some consider that CPD is too loosely applied at present; others think enforcing it would be a step too far and “would pull up the ladder” on good members who are less committed or able to spend time on training and continuing development.

4)     About half believe that there should be a PR body of some sort, preferably only one. It should be less costly, less London-centric, offer cheaper training and more benefits. It should be more engaged with stakeholders, but less with internal issues. Others were much less supportive and considered CIPR to be past its expiry date like many club-type organisations. “I think the CIPR should hear the clock ticking”, wrote one contributor.

5)     The majority consider that CIPR does not campaign for PR practitioners and their businesses. (PRCA, however, should be congratulated on its battle with NLA which has been successful in the Supreme Court).

6)     CIPR's stance on ethics is soft and relativist. Johanna Fawkes’ comment that “weak engagement with ethics undermines a lot of claims (that PR has) a social benefit, and that most Codes, including CIPR’s, are general statements of intent rather than moral guidelines” captured this.

Overall, there was an undefined feeling that a CIPR-type body should exist but there were no convincing arguments about its purpose or objectives.
Finally, a personal observation of mine on a comment that CIPR be “a provider of hard evidence of PR’s value”. Surely, that is the practitioner’s role to develop campaigns that create value that is recognised by clients and employers. Even if CIPR bestrode the whole communication landscape, it could not deliver what practitioners should be doing through application of research, planning, best practice and applied theory.
For at least two decades UK practitioners have had readily accessible information on research, planning and evaluation but have mainly chosen to ignore it for quick fixes like AVEs and other junk data.