The future of the public relations profession needs you. Are you in, or are you out?

It has become a sport whenever public relations practitioners get together for the profession to beat itself up.

We’re concerned about progress in areas such as planning, new forms of media, and measurement. We’re also – and without irony – concerned about the reputation of our so-called profession.

We lack confidence. We need to get over it because the solution lies firmly within our grasp.

Public relations is polarising between those practitioners that are cracking on and using new forms of media to engage publics in a two-way dialogue and those that continue to spam journalists.

The former have a great future in the business. The latter will be out of job within a generation.

Your profession needs you

Agencies, in-house teams, organisations, and third-party initiatives all have a part to play but ultimately the future of the professional is down to you.

You need to ask yourself what professionalism means to you and how you plan to future proof your career.

Professionalism is not accepting the lack of diversity – look around you – we’re mainly white and middle class.

Professionalism is not accepting the gender pay gap across the profession of £12,000. As my eldest daughter says, “Dad that’s plainly nonsense.”

Professionalism is having a job that is understood and respected by your daughter.

The answer for me is Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and being accountable to a Code of Conduct that can be publicly tested.

Here’s the challenge facing the CIPR. It has 10,000 members from a possible community in the UK of around 60,000. Less than 20 per cent have made a commitment to CPD. That’s woeful.

The journey to professionalism

At every stage of my career there has been an absolute link between professional development, career development and remuneration.

In 2012 I set myself the goal of becoming a Chartered PR Practitioner.

Achieving it signifies to my employers, my clients and my peers that I am skilled and qualified in public relations, accountable to a Code of Conduct, and committed to continuous learning. It puts me on equal footing with other Chartered professionals.

I also wanted to understand why so few people – around 50 to date – have applied for the status and so blogged about the process along the way.

As President of the CIPR this year we’ve worked hard to refocus the CIPR around a core vision and purpose. We’ve started to set out a clear value proposition and journey for practitioners. This remains a works in progress and the focus of incoming President Sarah Pinch.

New Year’s resolution

I’d urge you in the New Year to challenge your own commitment to the future of the public relations profession and set yourself on the journey to becoming a Chartered professional.

I’ve just signed off the final proofs for a collection of the essays submitted by Chartered Practitioners as part of their assessment. The book called Chartered Public Relations: Lessons from Expert Practitioners will be published in February.

But you don’t need to wait until then. I’d like to challenge you to make it a New Year’s resolution for 2015 to work toward becoming a Chartered PR Practitioner.

The future of the profession needs you. Are you in, or are you out?

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Stephen Waddington

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


  1. I’m in as well, Mr. Waddington.
    If I have one valuable lesson to share is that of constant and continuous learning.
    We cannot possibly expect to be seated at the boardroom table without having a very solid understanding of the business principles, ethics, strategy and deliverables – we need to understand, as much as possible, the area we are specialised in and constantly further our knowledge either via CPD or academic education.
    Media relations is just a small part of the communication sciences and the ‘public’ in the ‘public relations’ includes all those publics we communicate with and relate to. We need to understand change management (internal communications) principles and be very familiar with the business notions of it, as well as stakeholder engagement (external communications), and position ourselves in such a way that we bring real added value to all our clients.
    It’s exactly like you said – the biggest challenges that we have are ourselves and the manner in which the PR practitioners are committed to change the narrative of the profession. For me, it has been and it will always be a ‘profession’.

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