Professional institutes, PR and marketing


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.