It’s that time of year again.
Candidates for CIPR offices, the CIPR Council, and PRCA Council are reaching out to the members of each organisation in a bid to secure election. And like previous years there’s talk of the opportunity for greater cooperation between the two organisations.
In his candidate statement for CIPR President Elect Lionel Zetter has called for the CIPR to “join forces with another industry body.”
The name of the body that cannot be named is the CIPR’s nemesis the PRCA. Zetter’s call is one that rational industry observers have been making for some time.
Zetter has form. He was CIPR President in 2007 and is currently Senior Counsel at APCO Worldwide. In a previous role he oversaw the creation of an industry alliance for the construction industry.
The CIPR is the UK’s professional body for public relations while the PRCA is the industry trade association representing agencies and in-house teams.
Until 2007 there was clear ground between the two organisations. That changed when Francis Ingham left the CIPR to breathe new life into the PRCA as CEO.
The PRCA is thriving. It has doubled in size in the last three years and is managing the industry’s apprenticeship scheme, the industry agency and in-house management standard, and is a strong voice for the industry on lobbying.
Equally the CIPR’s report card is strong with leadership regionally, in social networking, Continuous Professional Development, professional standards and qualifications.
But in recent years the CIPR and PRCA have become fiercely competitive. Granted the economy is tough and competition is typically a good thing, but in this instance it borders on destructive.
There are clear areas of overlap in events and training, to the extent that the same speakers and trainers, myself included, represent both organisations. I’ve also sat on the CIPR Council and PRCA Council for the past two-years.
Privately practitioners that have a foot in both camps will tell you of their unease at being asked to favour one organisation over another.
There is a danger that the public relations industry could become irrelevant if doesn’t take the opportunity created by media fragmentation and the shift to audience engagement enabled by the Internet.
Alternatively with leadership and a move towards professional standards it could become better understood and respected as a management discipline and thrive. That was Dr Jon White’s conclusion from PR 2020, a research report produced for the CIPR.
If the CIPR and PRCA settled their differences and invested the effort spent obsessing about each other into the future of the industry it would be incredibly powerful. We need a clearer, louder voice on the national and international stage.
A merger of the two organisations is probably a call too far and the CIPR’s Royal Charter would almost certainly prevent such as move.
However there are clear areas where the organisations could cooperate for the good of the industry. It’s time to end this damaging divide.
That is Zetter’s vision. He gets my vote.
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