When a business owner or board director engages the services of a PR practitioner, they should be confident that the advice they are given is up-to-date and reflects best practice. The big question is … How can they be confident?
In that ideal world we all want to inhabit, having the post-nominal letters MCIPR/FCIPR after your name would be the only badge of assurance needed to instil confidence in a client / employer. As a profession, is public relations there yet?
I would say that we are close, but are not quite there yet. Being a member of the CIPR means you have a minimum amount of PR experience and knowledge. Crucially, being a member also means you have signed up to adhere to a Code of Conduct. This is a start towards the credibility I believe is needed for our advice to be listened to and valued, but there is still something missing when it comes to an automatic reassurance to a client / employer that you know what’s what. This is where Continuing Professional Development (CPD) comes into its own.
When I joined the CIPR back in 2005, the training offered to satisfy CPD requirements was expensive – well it was to me as a newbie freelancer who was without a corporate training budget to cover the costs. In the next six years I only did one CIPR course. I learnt a lot from just doing my job day-to-day, asking advice from other professionals, and searching the net for the latest thinking, but I found it difficult to source credible training to develop my skills at a price that was manageable and from a trusted provider.
In late 2011, I was talking to a CIPR member who said CPD had changed a lot at the CIPR, and I was really surprised (pleasantly surprised) to see how far the training available had come. There were lots of free webinars, short documents to read, case studies, books, as well as formal courses. The range of subjects covered was comprehensive. Registering for CPD was a no-brainer.
The ability to become an Accredited Practitioner after earning 60 CPD points a year for two years is a fantastic idea. It shows a commitment to learning on behalf of the member as you can only maintain the status by remaining as a member and logging 60 CPD points each year thereafter. I was award Accredited Practitioner status earlier this year and make this clear in pitches and in early discussions with potential clients so they know and understand I am committed to continually developing my skills. Things change so quickly in the fast-moving world that is PR that you can’t sit on your laurels otherwise you will be left behind quicker than you can say: What’s this social media thing all about?
With the CIPR CPD programme being so easy to follow, and the wide range of activities that are easily accessible on the CIPR website, I firmly believe that all members should be registered for CPD and working towards achieving (and maintaining) Accredited Practitioner status. The CIPR has made it so easy for members to have access to the latest thinking and training that no-one serious about their career in PR should be anything other than be registered for CPD.
I am standing for election to the CIPR Council this year on a platform that includes Professional development and standards. In my nomination statement I pledged to work with the CIPR to put the CPD programme at the core of member benefits and position Accredited Practitioner as the minimum standard for a PR Professional. Being an Accredited Practitioner should be the benchmark for excellence that clients and employers look for when employing a PR practitioner – that badge of assurance I talked about earlier.
My vision is for PR to get to the position where being a member of the CIPR and having Accredited Practitioner status is stated in job vacancies and asked for when inviting pitches. We are not too far off this position, and need to catch up with other chartered bodies, such as those for accountancy, physiotherapists and the like when it comes to membership automatically instilling a level of competency in people’s minds.
The CIPR is certainly on a march towards professionalism and Sarah Pinch, who takes over the role of CIPR President on 1st January 2015 has one of her five Presidential promises focused on demonstrating the value of PR.
Sarah says: “Demonstrating value – As President I will work with the staff at Russell Square to ensure we give every member the tools to be able to demonstrate their value and work to quantify how membership can help to win new clients, secure that promotion and win respect around the board table.”
If you are reading this as a CIPR member and agree with what I have said here, then I would certainly appreciate your support when voting in the Council elections opens on 1st September. Whether you are a member or not, I welcome your views on how you perceive the professionalism of PR practitioners and particularly whether you feel a commitment to CPD and being an Accredited Practitioner will instil confidence around the value a PR practitioner will bring to a company. Please leave a comment below and let’s get this conversation going.