Professional institutes, PR and marketing

SimonGeneral10 Comments

It’s been another hectic week and weekend for one reason and another, but in those downtime moments between doing other stuff, I’ve been thinking about the two professional institutes that I’m a member of – namely the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

I’m a member of both institutes having joined each when studying for their particular professional qualifications and have maintained my membership of each ever since. I also used to serve on the CIM Kent branch committee and, since April, have been a member of the CIPR Local Public Services group committee too.

Given the focus of my current role and activities, my professional bias is towards the CIPR and its relevance to what I mostly do day-in day-out.

It’s been a turbulent time recently at the CIPR. I don’t profess to know the detail of what’s gone on, but from the significant trading loss last financial year to the major management changes, I can’t help but feeling now is a watershed time for the institute.

Leaving aside the internal issues, that’s a situation that’s thrown into starker relief by the resurgence of the PRCA – fellow industry body and erstwhile competitor to CIPR.

In these challenging times for communicators I think the role of professional bodies in articulating and promoting an industry-wide view on communications and the role it plays in contemporary business and public service is crucial.

I’ve been critical of CIPR’s stance on social media for some time now – it struck me as poor that the body that represents PR could be so dismissive of the role of social media in fundamentally changing the dynamics of the communications environment.

But more recently I’ve been heartened to see a more active stance from CIPR on this – with the summer series of social media events planned and conceived by interested members as a real step forward in engaging and opening up collective minds to this topic.

Yet professional bodies are, by definition, only as strong and influential as the constituent members and the way they work together to achieve a collective goal.

Those of us who are less active in working with professional institutes have a lot to thank those who give up their time and energy towards leading, overseeing and organising the myriad of the institutes’ operations.

And that’s what’s at the heart of my thinking on this.

Membership organisations will always comprise members with a range of different and sometimes opposing views. But there must be more that members seek in common than they see differently for the organisation to thrive.

Without that shared consenus the organisation will be consumed with its internal battles and factions – and lose sight of the broader goals that it should be pursuing.

And that’s my concern about CIPR at the moment – while there are a lot of well-intentioned people freely volunteering their time towards the cause, what’s important now is a shared view of where the membership wants the institute to be, and members working collaboratively towards that.

The appointment of a new CEO is a good step forward in moving on from recent troubles. So is the dynamic leadership of Kevin Taylor (previous president), Jay O’Connor (current president) and Paul Mylrea (future president). I know that all these members have given a lot of time and hard work to securing the future of CIPR.

So my commitment for the future is to contribute actively towards building a shared future vision for CIPR and working constructively with others wherever the opportunities arise to make this vision happen.

Without positive engagement from members across the institute, I suspect the institute’s future will not be a bright one, despite the best efforts of those members that put in a lot towards the shared cause.

10 Comments on “Professional institutes, PR and marketing”

  1. Julia

    Future CIPR President is Paul Mylrea (I’m sure he was too diplomatic to correct your spelling!)
    My main thought in reading this though is how similar your points are to any I could make about my own professional body – cilip, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Going through what sounds like equally turbulent times, and in need of all members to think very carefully what their organisation means to them, and where ever and when ever possible, to contribute their views. Your last line is absolutely valid to both organisations.

  2. Liz Barnes

    As a fellow of CIM and long-standing member, I have seen so many pressures that Professional Institutes are facing (CIM included), particularly in marketing / media / creative industries. Is this because the concept of a professional INSTITUTION is just so out-dated? Particularly in the social media age where reputations are built online, through collaboration and shared, transparent, rapidly evolving ‘learning’ rather than the ‘exam passing, CPD’ style that our professional institutions still favour. So many of the ‘great’ new marketing thinkers / strategists do not align themselves with institutions – but focus on building their own thought leadership and reputation online. So can the ‘institutes’ compete or survive??

    1. Simon

      Thanks for your comment Liz – that’s an interesting and very valid thought. Maybe the concept of a professional institution needs to evolve into more of a network rather than a corporate institution? However I think there will still be value in the endorsement that membership/professional qualifications give a profession when demonstrating expertise to those outside the professional – but the delivery of that could be very different in the future.

  3. Andy Green

    Is your unease actually part of a wider issue? What we know as ‘public relations’ is in a state of flux. The traditional stalwart for the industry of media relations is under threat with declining circulations and the very business model of media being questioned. We are also uncertain on the implications of social media and who ‘owns’ it.
    On the one hand I am very optimistic for the future – PR has great opportunities to take the driving seat. On the other hand we have failed in the past – witness how we initially let ownership of web sites slip to graphic designers in the early days of t’internet.
    Whether the professional bodies can show leadership is another matter. I am perhaps old school, believing you get the professional bodies youd deserve and you need to put in in order to to get something out. In a nervous age of uncertainty people are seemingly just wanting to take.
    The danger of CPD and ‘Certified practitioner’ routes is that when you are unsure you can over compensate in another area, rather than focus your energies on the critical challenge.

    1. Simon

      thanks Andy. Agree that members only get what they put in – but their collective contribution needs to be broadly directed towards a shared vision, otherwise contributions can be at best divergent, at worst destructive to the collective good. Good examples re missed opportunities – but I wonder do we need a professional body to grasp the opportunity for the profession, or should individuals take the lead using the power of the connected web – somethign that wasn’t there when some of the previous opportunities for the PR presented themselves?

  4. David Phillips

    Simon, One can only applaud your stand. Like you, I have been frustrated by the Institute and as a Fellow, it has been hard to walk the line between wanting to contribute and utter frustration. I have hesitated over renewing my subscription every years for half a decade.

    One Internet Commission (jointly with PRCA) and two Online Public Relations books for the Institute were ticks in the internet box.

    Much as I have enjoyed #ciprsm it could equally be yet another tick before the next ‘Award Party’.

    How robust the Institute can be with the Universities that pretend to offer 21st century PR degrees, training organisations and trainers that just about demonstrate how to sign-up for Twitter is not good news.

    Today, I received an email from and academic saying, in effect, that we simply do not have the calibre in academic research to explore the nature of relationships (formation, maintenance or horror of horrors, destruction) in this age of Social Media.

    What hope has an Institute with that sort of grounding for its next generation. Does it even know that this is a problem?

    We can forego awards, prizes and parties, which can be left to the ad men at PRW, and look to professional evolution for the Institute’s role in an era of many, many new platforms for communication, each with capabilities to deliver a host of communications channels for relationship building.

    It is not Rocket Science. It is much, much more important.

    1. Simon

      Hi David. Hope you’re keeping well. It feels like a decision point for me – and I’ve opted to stay on-board and contribute as freely as I can – but I can only justify that if it’s towards a shared future that makes sense to me given the way I see PR theory and practice evolving – and that’s where I think the institute needs to set out its stall. There are a lot of bright, committed and energetic people willing to be part of it – but too often we seem to get wound up in some very strange issues, losing sight of the commonality of our cause.

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