Colin Farrington, CIPR and social media

Colin Farrington, CIPR and social media

The discussion around the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the thoughts of Director-General Colin Farrington on social media continues.
A few weeks back David Brain, President & CEO Edelman Europe, sent an open letter to Colin Farrington about the subject. On Friday David posted Colin’s response to his letter. This has since been picked up other practictioners in this space, including Stuart Bruce and Simon Collister. Stuart and Simon make some very pertinent points that I wholeheartedly agree with.
In a previous post titled “Walking with dinosaurs?” I talked about my concerns on CIPR and social media. There was a fair amount of coverage of the broader issue and indeed this post was one of the most visited on my blog to date.
I was particularly interested in the point Colin makes in his letter about the work the CIPR commissioned back in 2000 into the impact of the internet on public relations:

This still draws criticism from older members.

I appreciate that keeping the broad range of members (and other players) happy is probably an impossible task, but this does hint to me that the institute places more emphasis on this than keeping with the pace of change in our industry.
The business of communicating is changing at a phenomenal pace – some communicators are driving this pace, some are in the middle, and some are dragging their feet or completely ignoring the change.
It’s the classic adoption curve I suspect. But the role of an industry body with the status of CIPR needs to be towards the front of the curve, otherwise it risks disenfranchising the element of its membership that is driving the change.
There’s one other area that Colin covers in his letter that I should note:

Some “blogs” are stimulating and purposeful. But there are many…that seem to me to be either pointless and/or unlikely to have anything but a negative effect on reputation.

Colin is right to an extent – there are many blogs that seem to many of us to be pointless. But the real point is that not every blog is aimed at him. A blog about poodle breeding will seem pointless to most of us, but to that small group who are into breeding poodles it’ll have the potential to be a valuable communication channel.
Since I’ve been posting regularly on my blog and engaging actively in the social media space, I’ve found it a very nurturing and encouraging community in which to learn and grow my skills.
For example very soon I’m going to launch my first podcast – not something I’ve done before, but an area where I want to develop my skills professionally. I’ll do my best, but it won’t be perfect first time, but I’m putting it out because I know that I’ll get genuine, honest and constructive comments from the online PR community.
This type and tone of interaction is pretty typical – almost an unwritten rulebook adhered to by the majority who interact in social media’s many conversations. So when posts are written or comments posted that aren’t in this spirit they really stand out. I was stunned when I saw the comments to a post from respected PR professional Elizabeth Albrycht.
Sure, everyone’s entitled to their own viewpoint, but as professionals in this space we should know there are ways to disagree without causing offence. And sometimes written online communication can be misconstrued – “the wrong end of the stick”. But to go back again in a similar vein just compounds things.
I’ve never met Colin, but in an age where our reputation spreads faster than ever before, this paints him in a poor light, and by implication the organisation he runs – the CIPR.


I work as a fractional Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for company building and I also write a newsletter called Build for leaders who care about creating resilient and sustainable businesses.