Being chartered, regardless of the profession you work in, is validation of your skills, knowledge and understanding of the context of what you do. Being a chartered PR is a message to those who employ you that you practice to the highest standard and is a badge which shows you are committed to life-long learning and development to be at the top of your game.
Yesterday I attended one of the CIPR’s Chartered Assessment Days. They are rigorous and thought-provoking and it was no mean feat to get through the day and have the hallowed Chartered certificate presented to me. Fifteen candidates ended the day as Chartered PR Practitioners (read the CIPR news release welcoming us as Chart.PRs).
The Chartered PR Assessment
Candidates are split into groups of 4 or 5 members and grilled on ethical behaviour, leadership and strategy. Each of the three sessions last one and a half hours and is an open discussion around a case study. The assessors make sure we stay focused and ask pertinent and often probing questions to ascertain our understanding of the subject, gauge our level of application through seeking examples from our experience, and make us think about the subject in a wider context.
The assessment is based around competences and candidates need to demonstrate we understand how the PR function operates and how it relates to the organisational considerations of employers/clients. The case studies sent to us in advance provide a talking point to kick-off the group discussions.
I spent a couple of days in total preparing for the assessment day. The CIPR sent a pack with general guidance, the assessment criteria, case studies, questions on each case, and a template for a two-year CPD plan … but these are just a starter.
Competences – I went through the list of competences (assessment criteria) and jotted down thoughts on each, plus some examples I could draw on from my experience to demonstrate my understanding.
Tip: The conversations during the assessment sessions take many twists and turns when something is said which leads the discussion in a particular direction. Jotting down notes (which you can take in with you and refer to) will help pull your mind back to the points you want to get across.
Case studies – I read these through a couple of times to fully understand them (you may only need to do this once, but I tend to read things a few times to properly digest them). The next step was to go through the questions for each case study and let them guide me to think about the subject as a whole. Yes, you need to think of answers to the questions, but let your mind think of other salient points as well.
- The ethics case study was last year’s ‘Sweatygate‘ when Fuel PR misled journalists by not disclosing that an employee was the case study and a pseudonym was used.
- The leadership case study related to an Edelmen exec’s views on “Four essential traits for today’s Public Relations leaders”.
- The strategy case study was taken from the CIPR’s “Chartered Public Relations” book – chapter 11 “Communications micro-strategies”. This strategy is similar to the model I have honed over the years for my clients so I really enjoyed this session.
Tip: It may help to show that you have done some additional research and can quote / refer to others. I did some ‘Googling’ on ethics and for opinions on ‘Sweatygate’, plus sought other PR professional’s views on leadership and strategic models.
Tip: The assessment sessions do not follow the pre-determined questions like a script. Looking back on what we discussed, we did cover most of the areas raised by the questions … in a round-about way. The assessors have the knack of getting the information they need out of you without asking prescriptive questions.
The Day Itself
The day is long – 9:30-18:00 – intense, rigorous, challenging, filled with enthusiastic, energetic and like-minded people … which left us all exhausted by the end.
As I’ve said, the assessment is split into three one and a half hour sessions, with a break in-between each.
The fourth & final session is a peer review of our CPD plans. All candidates are asked to complete a two-year CPD plan (a template is sent in the advance pack). The plan is not assessed, but if you fail to submit it to the assessors and have it peer reviewed by your group, then you will not proceed to becoming Chartered.
I used the assessed competences as a base to work out what skills I wanted to build on and which I wanted to learn and discussed with my group why I wanted to do this learning and how I was going to achieve it, e.g. CIPR CPD, course, conference, mentoring, reading, work-shadow, etc. We gave tips and advice to each other on what has helped us so everyone benefited from this collegiate approach.
It is not a given that just because you satisfy the eligibility criteria, do the prep work and attend a day’s grilling and probing, that you will be granted Chartered status. Not everyone is successful on the day.
If you are not able to proceed to Chartered status then you are told on the day and given headline feedback to explain why. Once you have worked on the reasons why you were not successful, and where you need to improve (you are sent more detailed feedback a few days after the assessment), attend another Chartered Assessment Day.
There are many reasons why a member is not granted Chartered status and it should not be summised that they are not good at their job. Perhaps:
- he/she did not do enough prep / did the wrong prep
- the people in their group had an adverse effect on his/her performance and they did not shine as brightly as they could have done
- he/she did not feel well or was having a bad day and off-their-game
- he/she do not have the requisite level of experience in all the areas assessed … yet
- he/she did not give enough examples of practice to make the assessors confident of their level of understanding of the subject
Are you ready?
If you satisfy the eligibility criteria then you should be ready and have enough knowledge and experience. Time on the job does not equal quality of experience so it does not follow that those of us who have been around the block a few times are a shoe-in to become Chartered over those who have maybe 5-6 years work experience. It is what you know, how you apply this knowledge and your understanding of the wider organisational context of PR that matter.
The assessors make it very clear that when in the sessions, who you are, the job you have, the company you work for, the level you work at, length and level of involvement with the CIPR, number of staff you are responsible for, etc., are irrelevant. Everyone is assessed on the same qualities.
The CIPR Message
In September 2015, the CIPR amended the regulations governing Chart.PR status to open up the eligibility for CIPR members to #getChartered with the goal of increasing the number of Chartered professionals in public relations to more than 250 over the next 24 months.
Members (MCIPR), Fellows (FCIPR) and Honorary Fellows (Hon FCIPR) of the CIPR are eligible to attend a Chartership Assessment Day if they have completed one of the following:
- three consecutive (or five non-consecutive) years of CIPR CPD
- two (or four non-consecutive) years of CIPR CPD and hold a Masters degree or the CIPR Diploma.
Members can declare their interest in attending a Chartership Assessment Day in 2016 by emailing CIPR Director of Professional Development & Membership, Sukhjit Singh Grewal.
Is it your time to #getchartered?
There is no doubt that at the end of the long day every candidate (and assessor) was pooped. It is an exhausting day but well worth taking part in. If you are ready to take the next step in your career and:
- demonstrate to your peers that you have met the rigorous criteria set out for Chartered status
- enjoy greater influence within your organisation and in the profession
- gain a professional competitive edge and enhance your career prospects
- reassure prospective employers and clients that you practice to the highest standards