Qualifications key to improving status of public relations

Qualifications key to improving status of public relations


The debate about skills in the UK public relations industry took another turn this week. Chameleon’s managing director Steve Loynes called out the PRCA for hiring PR Week hack Matt Cartmell as director of communications. Surely Loynes asked in an article on Huffington Post there are more suitable professionally qualified candidates?

An obsession with traditional media The path from journalism to public relations is a well-trodden one. I made the switch almost 20-years ago.

The shift back and forth between journalism and public relations is indicative of the relative immaturity of the public relations industry, and an obsession with media relations as a proxy to reach audiences.

But that’s slowly changing.

I return to the assertion that there is little that separates public relations practitioners from car salesmen and women, estate agents, journalists or lap dancers. All are respectable occupations to varying degrees but none require a professional qualification or any form of formal training to operate.

Like spoilt toddlers public relations practitioners demand a place at the boardroom table alongside other professions. There are notable individuals that operate at the highest levels within organisations but they are the exception rather than a rule.

The public relations industry isn't going to make progress in building its own professional reputation until it sets a threshold for skills and mandates Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

I’ve made some personal progress towards this goal this week by getting the green light on the first stage of my Chartered Practitioner qualification.

Chartered Practitioner: Stage two The Chartered Practitioner qualification is pitched by the CIPR as “a benchmark for those working at a senior level and a ‘gold standard’ to which all PR practitioners should strive to reach.”

I’ve been critical about the qualification in the past but after a recent debate with colleagues on the CIPR Council I’m putting myself through the process in a bid to experience the process and earn the right to comment.

I’m also blogging about the process and my progress.

In my view Chartered status and Continual Professional Development (CPD) are the best opportunity that the public relations industry in the UK has of shifting from a craft to a profession as measured by other occupations.

Stage two of the qualification is a 3,000 to 4,000 word paper. The paper “must be an original piece of work and should demonstrate the attributes defined as essential to Chartered Practitioner status.”

I’m going back to basics and exploring whether Grunig's Excellence Model and Four Models of Public Relations remain relevant in an era of networked communication.

It’d be interesting to hear the views of both Cartmell and Loynes on qualifications and continuous development in the public relations industry – as well as your own.

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