Late last year the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), of which I’m a member, published its discussion paper on social media. My initial post about it is here.
I’ve finally had a chance to respond to CIPR with my thoughts. Rather than write a new post I’ve pasted below the email I sent to Francis Ingham at CIPR. It includes a link to Google Docs where I’ve published detailed answers to the specific questions asked in the document.
I’ve finally had a chance to properly read and review the CIPR’s draft social media guidelines.
My detailed responses to the questions you posed are published in Google Docs at http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dgn42txf_12g9wkt7
My feeling is that the discussion document does focus too heavily on ethical issues, which I believe are for the most part 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, it’s the individual member’s responsibility to ensure they have the requisite level of competency to operate in the social media space.
I worry that such a detailed set of guidelines could be seen by some as a set of “boxes to tick” when working with social media, when in reality social media is evolving so quickly that a grounding in underlying principles (as enshrined in the Code of Conduct) and good working knowledge of social media is what a practitioner needs.
My other concern is that introducing too detailed a set of guidelines isn’t “futureproof”. New tools, techniques and practices are emerging all the time, and whatever the institute publishes needs to be generic enough to not need updating every few months. I believe the existing Code of Conduct is strong enough to apply to social media without additional specific clarification. I don’t believe it’s common practice for the institute to issue such guidance for other tools of our trade, so why would it do so for social media?
CIPR does have a role to play in educating members and sharing learning between members operating in different parts of the profession. There is much the institute can do to help increase awareness and understanding of social media among PR practitioners, but I believe this should be through education and information, rather than introducing detailed and specific professional standards for one particular PR tool.
I hope you find my feedback useful. I’d be happy to discuss further and be involved with future discussions about social media at CIPR so please do get in touch if you need anything else from me.
The discussion document has generated much discussion among bloggers and non-bloggers alike. It’ll be interesting to see what finally emerges from the process.