CIPR social media guidelines – my feedback

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Like Simon Collister, I’ve had a gentle and ever so polite reminder from Elizabeth at CIPR that I haven’t provided any feedback on the latest consultation on social media from the institute.

The proposed guidelines are an evolution of the previous set that were written in early 2007. It’s interesting to see how almost two years of progress has changed their relevance.

While social media and public relations have both moved on a lot in that time, much of the content of the previous document is as relevant (or irrelevant) as it was first time around.

There are a few new additions too. One of the most important is the Unfair Commercial Practices directive which contains a number of stipulations which can directly affect how social media (or indeed any other PR tool) is used.

My main nagging doubt with the guidelines is that I’m not sure I really see a role for them at all.

As I wrote in my email to Elizabeth:

Many of the ethical and practical issues around social media in PR are already covered by the institute’s existing Code of Conduct for members. Many of the examples given in the document relate to a practitioner having a reasonable level of professional competence in social media. While the CIPR has a role in guiding members, surely it’s the individual member’s responsibility to ensure they have the requisite level of competency to operate in the social media space?

I guess I’m still questioning the need for the institute to maintain a separate set of guidelines for social media. The mere existence of the guidelines suggests that social media is seen as distinct from “mainstream” public relations, when in fact social media is changing the practice of public relations fundamentally.

It feels like social media is still seen as needing to be positioned “at arm’s length” by the institute – rather than acknowledging the radical changes it’s making to communications and marketing practice.

I know the CIPR is a broad church and that I’m probably one of the earlier adopters of social media among CIPR members, but I genuinely believe that social media is changing the public relations game more than most members realise, and the institute’s position needs to reflect that – at the moment I’m not convinced that’s the case.

I’m a paid-up CIPR member and place a lot of value on professional associations and their role in public relations and marketing – particularly helping establish the disciplines as professions in their own right. I just hope CIPR can move with the times on this one.

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