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Achieving Chartered status

In October last year I set out on the CIPR Chartered Practitioner scheme in a bid to achieve Chartered status. I have been blogging about the process along the way. I’m chuffed to report that I have been awarded Chartered status by the CIPR today.

Statement of experience
The Chartered Practitioner scheme is in three parts: a statement of experience; a written paper; and a formal interview.

The Stage 1 statement of experience is a self-appraisal of your career. It probes examples of leadership, attitudes to learning, areas of professional practice and opinion on the future of the public relations industry.

The paper: Grunig through a digital lens
The Stage 2 paper took more than 70 hours over a two-month period to research and write. It’s a significant piece of work.

I explored the relevance of James Grunig’s Excellence Model and Four Models of Public Relations in an era of networked communication. Grunig stretched me. In hindsight I should have chosen an easier option and explored a topic better aligned to my day job.

Grunig’s models form a cornerstone of communication theory. A critical appraisal of his work is a well-worn tack for public relations undergraduates. However I hope that I have made a useful contribution to the debate by examining whether the models remain relevant at a time when the Internet is destroying and rebuilding the public relations industry.

I’ve never met Grunig but I feel that he’s become an old friend through the numerous books and papers that I’ve read. In time I plan to seek his feedback on my paper and find a suitable outlet for its publication.

I completed the paper over the Christmas break and submitted it to the CIPR at the beginning of January. Positive feedback came back from the chief assessor within a week or so.

In researching and developing the paper I relied heavily on friends and colleagues in the public relations industry to fill in gaps in my knowledge and critique my work. My thanks to the following people for their insight and support: Richard Bailey, Liz Bridgen, Andy Green, Jed Hallam, Laurel Hetheringon, David Phillips, Philip Sheldrake, and Philip Young.

Thanks also to Margaret Clow for her help with proofing and numerous rewrites. She forced greater clarity with each iteration. Every writer needs a Margaret. She’s responsible for the dramatic reduction in typos on my blog in recent months.

The interview
I had my Stage 3 interview with two assessors, themselves Chartered Practitioners, last week.

The hour long interview was brutal. No line in my statement was left unquestioned and my knowledge and experience of management and communication practice rigorously tested. The Grunig paper was scrutinised paragraph by paragraph.

Chartered Practitioner evaluated
My motivation for setting out on the journey to Chartered status was rooted in the criticism that the CIPR’s Charter received during the last election. The Charter and Chartered status distinguish the CIPR from other communication and public relations organisations.

In my view Chartered status combined with Continual Professional Development (CPD) is the best opportunity that the public relations industry in the UK has to shift from a craft to a profession.

Achieving Chartered status has been challenging. My conclusion, having gone through the process, is that it sets a high benchmark that it would be an error to make it easier.

Friends in the accounting and marketing industries have shared similar experiences to mine from their own professional accreditation schemes. They have all sacrificed evenings and weekends to pass qualifications and maintain their annual Continuous Professional Development (CPD) record.

The CIPR scheme is rigorous and I’m proud of the achievement. However I think that the CIPR and Chartered Practitioners have a job to do to persuade fellow practitioners and employers of the benefit of Chartered status. I don’t underestimate this task.

On that final note if you believe, as I do, that the public relations industry needs to make the shift from a craft to a profession then you should sign up to CPD via the CIPR and start your own journey to Chartered Practitioner.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

16 Comments

  1. Huge congratulations, very well deserved and would love to read your paper. Hope you have a glass of something cold lined up to celebrate.

    I’m in my second year of CPD to gain accredited status and is useful to understand the process for chartered. I see the value in the scheme and am sure you will inspire others to consider it too.
    Well done again, Rach

    • Thanks Rach. Yes I’ll be cracking open a bottle of bubbles this weekend. Good for you for starting on the journey towards Chartered Practitioner. Its the best opportunity that we have got to improve the reputation of the industry.

  2. First, well done and congratulations. I’m always hugely impressed by people who take on challenges like this.

    I remain healthily (in my opinion, at least) sceptical of the PR-as-a-profession thing though.

    Do you feel like a better PR practitioner as a result of achieving chartered status? It’s not as though you were an under-achiever to start with, and you’ve been lauded by our peers for as long as I can remember as someone who knows what he’s talking about.

    • Thanks for the comment Sean. My motivation was to explore whether the accreditation scheme was fit for purpose after it came in for criticism in the last CIPR election. Having achieved Chartered Status I have no doubt that it is a rigorous process. Critically it gives us the means of demonstrating our professional credentials and measuring up to other professional advisers. I think a commitment to CPD is critical start point for anyone that is serious about developing a career in a professional service and its also the start point to Chartered status.

  3. Congratulations on the achievement.

    10 years’ experience is a lot for today’s career-hopping standards. If they want to attract more practitioners, that bar could be lowered some for professionals with quality of experience over a quantity of experience.

    • Thanks Dan. Interesting point. Yes time served is a lousy measure of experience but I’d challenge anyone to be able to respond to the first stage of the accreditation with less that 10 years of experience, or thereabout.

  4. Would be interested to know how many managers have attained this rather than managing directors? How many from Tower Hamlets council and not the BBC or Cabinet Office? As it is approaching five yeats in existence is the qualification democratic or elitist?

    • At what stage does a rigorous standard become elitist? I can only comment from personal experience. I’m from a working class background, started my first PR business from a standing start, taking on debt and risk in the process, and have earned everything that I own.

      • I am not questioning the need for a rigorous standard but that everyone has an equal chance to succeed when they apply.

        Not everyone can be an Olympic gold medal winning swimmer but if everyone has access to swimming pools they could be.

        The CIPR is saying that they want everyone to attain the status.

        It says ‘each individual’s achievements will be assessed within the context of current and previous roles and the organisations worked with.’

        But how do you compare working for Microsoft with working for Greenwich Council or The Cabinet Office?

        That is what I mean by democratic. Unless there is a way to ensure all experience and successes are viewed equitable some practitioners may be viewed as more equal than others.

  5. Well done! I have been considering doing this for some time now and I think you have just made my mind up -with your frank hinesty – not to do it! I am a public sector PR worker and don’t think up to doing this. I have lots of experience but would collapse under the scrutiny of the interview described.

    • Thanks for your response Wendy. Perhaps we could take this offline. Please look me up and let’s have a chat. I’ll talk you through the process.

      The interview is as rigorous as any conversation with a client, line manager or stakeholder that calls you to account. As such you shouldn’t see it as a barrier.

      My contact details are here: http://wadds.co.uk/contact-stephen-waddington/.

    • Hi Wendy,

      I am in public sector PR and fell at the last hurdle (twice) but it gave me the confidence to go for and get my Diploma. There is a need for a wide range of experiences and disciplines being represented among our Chartered Practitioners. I am sure Stephen will successfully guide you to attaining the CP status.

  6. Dan – thats a good point, I think the CIPR (disclaimer – I work for the CIPR) – should regularly evaluate the criteria for entry and ensure they are relevant. However, this is not an easy status to gain and applicants do need to demonstrate breadth and depth of experience.

    Wendy – don’t give up. Come in and have a chat about it with people who assess Chartered status and then decide. I’m also considering whether I’m ready to go for it and will happily discuss my own reservations with you if it helps.

  7. Well done, Stephen! What next? CIPR President? I’d vote for you.

    On the subject of Chartered Practitioner, I’ve also started on this path though I do ask myself why! I thought the Stage One process was pretty daunting but that’s probably because I expected a quick, short factual form. In fact, it’s much more than that. And then there’s the ‘brutal’ interview to face! I might flee before I open my mouth.

    So, why did I go in for it? Well, as a new Council member I feel it’s important to lead by example. As you say, it’s what sets our institute apart from other organisations. Then, with so many other disciplines clamouring for a slice of the cake we consider as ours, decent qualifications, which are recognised to be stringent and difficult to obtain, will go a long way towards helping PR practitioners gain credibility. We can’t bang on about wanting a place at the boardroom table unless we have serious professionalism to offer.

    So … excuse me … I’m off to write my dissertation!

    • Thanks for your comment Eva. Good for you. Its really important. The industry needs more role models in its effort to shift from a craft to a profession.

      Let’s take the conversation about aspirations for CIPR President offline.

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