Walking with dinosaurs?

SimonGeneral

I’ve just joined the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). I paid my dues a few weeks back and a thick membership pack arrived on my doorstep on Friday.

Over the past month a lively debate has been taking place among bloggers, triggered by comments made by the institute’s director-general Colin Farrington. His initial piece was published in the institute’s magazine and is available here.

In the latest issue of Profile, the institute’s magazine (and my first as a member!), Colin continues the theme in a similar vein.

I’m not going to go into the pro-social media (and especially pro-blog) arguments here as they’ve already been far more capably articulated by others – including Neville Hobson, Simon Collister and Richard Bailey.

Stuart Bruce raises an interesting point in his post – he questions whether as director-general of the institute, Colin has the right to put forward such arguments without the members or decision-making parts of the organisation having agreed a policy. I guess in much the same way as the government and civil service work – politicians set the policy, civil servants deliver it.

For me the question isn’t the rights and wrongs of the debate, although as I’m writing this on my blog you’ll probably work out which side of the fence I’m on. My concern is more how this reflects the thinking and direction of the organisation I’ve just joined. I wanted to join the institute as my work is more and more PR-led now, having started off with a pure marketing background (and having been a Chartered Institute of Marketing member for some years).

I joined CIPR to further my professional development in the PR field, and to become more connected to the PR scene. All the way through my career I’ve enjoyed working at the leading edge of marketing and communications channels. I like the challenge of applying emerging technologies to mainstream communications challenges.

I don’t know enough about the way the organisation works to know whether Colin’s comments should concern me or not. He’s entitled to his opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with sounding a note of caution just as some very wise people probably did before the internet bubble went pop.

I’d like to think that Colin’s views are trying to stimulate a wider debate among CIPR members about the way PR can use social media. At the moment the discussion is probably among people who are already using social media, making the conversation somewhat one-sided. The fact that the CIPR president, Tony Bradley, blogs and that there’s a suggested (light-hearted) tension there, points to an attempt to push a discussion I suspect.
I’m just not entirely comfortable with Colin pushing his views in this way. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be representative of the membership, and being director-general isn’t a personal platform for image making. It’s about running the organisation for the members (and doing it very well from what I understand).

So in joining CIPR am I really walking with dinosaurs? Many of the bloggers I read and respect their professional views are CIPR members so I doubt it. I just hope I’m proved right and my annual fee is worth it.