CIPR and a positive way forward for social media?

SimonGeneral6 Comments

So David Brain has had an unexpected opportunity to chat face to face with Colin Farrington, CIPR director-general. And the conversation has thrown up a challenge – what does the UK social media community want CIPR to do to promote these new communications channels?

The issue of CIPR, blogging and Colin Farrington’s view on it has received much attention among the UK social media community over the past few weeks. It was covered in For Immediate Release #175 and by bloggers including David Brain, Stuart Bruce and Simon Collister (as well as here).

In his post following his face to face with Colin, David lays down the challenge for the social media community to come up with some constructive suggestions for the CIPR.

So here are my initial thoughts on this:

Own the space

CIPR needs to take an aggressively positive stance on social media. There are many professions vying for credibility in this space, and as a respected body the institute can articulate the valid credentials for our profession.

It’s easy for anyone to get into social media, but the professionals who are seen to understand the strategic, tactical and operational use of these new channels will be those who can benefit most commercially from them.

That’s not to say a debate isn’t healthy – but a corporate stance is needed from the CIPR on social media to give a firm indication of its position – otherwise the messages on behalf of the UK PR community will continue to be mixed.

Create appropriate professional standards
The profession needs standards that respected practictioners can work to. I wholeheartedly endorse Stuart Bruce’s proposal that these standards are reached in a way appropriate to the community. He suggests using a wiki, rather than the standards being devised by committee (the usual route).

The idea is great as it acknowledges that social media is different, and will get more buy-in from practictioners in the space than the traditional top-down edicts (even when they are consulted on).

Look for linkages with “traditional” PR
The real value of social media will be when it becomes integrated into the everyday marketing and PR mix. Showing how this can be done will increase awareness and understanding among those who aren’t actively engaged in social media now.

Colin’s letter talks about the older members of CIPR – as the proponents of these exciting new communications tools, I think we can gain acceptance by showing how social media can be used as part of a broader mix of tools – after all that’s how it will be used in mainstream PR, certainly in the short and medium term.

These are very much my initial thoughts on this – hopefully a positive discussion will emerge in the social media community over the next few days, and a constructive way forward may emerge from the negativity of recent events.

6 Comments on “CIPR and a positive way forward for social media?”

  1. Simon, this is a great start thanks. I agree a wikkie would be a good way to collect thoughts rather than a committee, but I wonder if the idea of standards might be a little prescriptive in an area that is moving so quickly. Perhaps we can look to develop some principles that individuals and corporates that enter social media can adhere to; things like disclosure of interests etc. Also, I wonder if we need to share best case histories so that we can all learn from each other . . I know in meetings with clients I have been in, the best way to illustrate the benefits of social media has often been to show a CEO examples of other CEO blogs. And I do think the CIPR would be a good organisation to set this up and keep it fresh.

  2. Thanks David.

    I think some guiding principles would be useful. Social media moves so fast that these principles would need to be written to be as future-proof as possible. That said regular revisions would be important to reflect the pace and direction of change.

    The value of linking these principles to professional standards in due course may be that this increases the acceptance of social media among the famed “older members”!.

    I think case studies would be very helpful – especially with some hard metrics where possible. Having these under the CIPR umbrella would avoid them being seen as purely agency sales tools.

    I’m happy and keen to be involved with developing these, as I really believe they can help advance social media in PR in the UK.

  3. Ditto, ditto and ditto!

    I agree with all of the above but would also raise the issue that as so much ‘web 2.0’ PR (but not all)is fundamentally similar in terms of ethics, morals etc a series of overarching guidelines could be devised.

    I also think it won’t be too easy deciding standards. I can see a case for banning ghosted blogs for example. Some form of discussion or dialogue is important whether it’s via wiki or over beers at St James Square (I would obviously prefer the latter!)

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  5. Hello, I am a final year PR student and and a member of the CIPR and I would like to offer my thoughts. Following detailed analysis of the CIPR website using an array of web tools, it is clear the CIPR is lagging behind other institutes and organisations when it comes to online presence. In comparison to social media websites which encourage interactivity, the gap between what the CIPR offers and how its members are harnessing these new techniques is widening massively.

    It’s a matter of developing strategies in staged programmes. Firstly, the CIPR needs to be educated about these new communication channels otherwise their actions will appear ad-hoc and lacking logic. Secondly, consequences arising from application of social media in ethical, legal, operational and professional practice should be taken into consideration and what resources will be needed.

    There is more, but my dissertation is calling me. Thanks, James.

  6. James – thanks for the comment. The institute has just approved its “social media guidelines” for members, although the version it consulted on wasn’t great. We will see..

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