Chartered Practitioner qualification: the Grunig paper
Do not undertake the CIPR Chartered Practitioner qualification lightly. That’s my advice. 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.”
The first stage, a questionnaire that probes your career, expertise and knowledge, took two days to complete.
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’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.
In researching and writing my paper I’ve gone back to basics and am exploring whether Grunig’s Four Models of Public Relations and the Excellence Theory remain relevant in an era of digital networked communication.
I reckon that I’ve spent 60 hours on the project so far and I probably have another 10 hours or so to go. I’m beginning to wish I’d picked something that was more closely aligned to my day-to-day work.
My paper started life as a short article following a discussion with public relations consultant and author Andy Green about how messages from organisations are conveyed among communities and markets via digital networks.
It led me to question whether the Grunig Four Models of Public Relations and the Excellence Theory remain fit for purpose. These theories are taught as normative models and a cornerstone of public relations on courses throughout Europe and the US.
In a draft blog post I repeated Green’s assertion that the Four Models of Public Relations and the Excellence Theory were defined in an era of rigid organisational structures. The Internet has broken down these structures and has given rise to informal communication structures. I suggested that it was time to start over.
I read around the topic and shared my initial conclusions in September 2012 with several public relations thinkers and doers. They responded quickly and noisily with their points of view. All were critical and all had a different viewpoint.
My original blog post remained unpublished but I knew that it would make a worthwhile topic to explore for my Chartered Practitioner paper.
I’ve discover over the last four months that nothing divides public relations thinkers like Grunig. The tweets below from Paul Holmes of the Holmes Report and Professor Tom Watson of Bournemouth University neatly illustrate the counterpoint.
I cheekily tweeted after an umpteenth read through that only a public relations person could develop a model and call it the Excellence Theory.
@wadds There's a term I haven't heard in 20 years. Still never had an actual practitioner tell me he/she does "2-way symmetrical" comms.
— Paul Holmes (@sabreawards) December 15, 2012
@wadds That's a cheap crack. It was first used in 1992 and is the main normative theory of PR, taught widely and updated in recent times.
— Tom Watson (@twatson1709) December 15, 2012
My paper examines the Four Models of Public Relations and Excellence Theory. It reviews historical criticism and instances where the theories are being challenged by modern public relations practice as a result of digital communication.
I’ve read widely and learnt a huge amount about public relations theory in preparing the paper but it’s been hard work. But I guess that’s the point.
I’m about to share the paper with several public relations thinkers and doers for comment and I’m hoping to submit it before the end of the year.