CIPR Fellows' lunch: Rediscovering our vision and purpose, and a proposal for a College of Fellows

CIPR Fellows' lunch: Rediscovering our vision and purpose, and a proposal for a College of Fellows

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This is a speech that I gave today at the annual CIPR Fellows lunch at the House of Lords in my role as President of the CIPR. It spotlights the progress that the CIPR has made this year and a proposal to create a College of Fellows.

Under the new governance structure the CIPR will have opportunity to be more agile in responding to both market and member needs.

Engaging the community of Fellows, to help inform insight and develop intellectual property on behalf of the CIPR, is an excellent example of  I what I hope will become increasingly possible in the future.

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Welcome and thank you for joining us today.

As I look around the room it gives me great pleasure to see so many of the leading lights of our Institute here today.

We are joined on the top table by two of the CIPR’s leading academic brains in Dr Jon White and Dr Reginald Watts.

One of my personal objectives as I transition to Past President in 2015, following a keynote that I gave a BledCom this year at the invitation of Dr White, will be to explore how we develop a stronger community to better bridge academia and practice.

The CIPR’s future is also here today. I’m delighted to welcome my colleague and friend President-Elect Sarah Pinch who succeeds me as President in January. We’re also joined by Alastair McCapra, our Chief Executive since November.

Finally, I’m pleased to welcome Diana Hurrell, partner to the late Doug Smith, Past President, and a driving force behind the Institute, including so many of these lunches.

Work in progress

I hope 2014 will be characterised through my leadership as a year that the CIPR reasserted its vision and purpose as set out by the founders of the IPR in 1948, and committed to statute through our Charter in 2005.

That vision is very simply to promote professionalism in public relations for practitioners, and in the public interest.

I hope that the changes that Alastair continues to lead to bring rigour and discipline to the operational workings of the Institute are also recognised.

Most significantly, we have overhauled our governance structure. Subject to Privy Council approval, it will create a streamlined, business-like governance structure, reduce the CIPR Council to 30 individuals, and create a formal Board of Directors.

Critically, it will also embed the professionalism agenda at the heart of the CIPR’s governance, requiring Board and Council members to maintain professional development records, and Board members to hold Accredited or Chartered practitioner designation.

In my view these changes are long overdue and I want to thank Alastair and his team, the Board and the Council for working so hard to bring them about. They are critical to the CIPR asserting its position as a driving force behind professionalism in public relations globally.

Journey to professionalism

I’d like to turn to the Fellows survey that Phil Morgan and I led – as you can see from the booklet – we had a tremendous response from Fellows. Thank you for your engagement.

This content, along with the speeches from today will all be posted on the CIPR website this afternoon.

That transparency has been calked out as a defining feature of my Presidency. You’ll also find quarterly reports spotlighting areas of progress, and challenges, on the CIPR website.

Your comments in the survey reflect how far we have to go to build a professional public relations community but that is very firmly the goal that the founders of the IPR set out, and it is what we are aiming for.

I am very pleased to say that you, the Fellows, overwhelmingly approved the key proposition in our emerging policy.

Specifically, to claim the title of professional, a practitioner must be accountable to a meaningful Code of Conduct, skilled or qualified to do their job and validated in a manner the public can easily understand.

One of the central points of our policy is that we believe that professionals should participate in a formal structure of continuing professional development, or CPD.

On this, Fellows gave more mixed feedback and there was no clear majority for or against the idea.

However, three-quarters believed CPD is important and almost 70% believed wider uptake would be good for the reputation of public relations.

I’d challenge anyone to dispute the value of ongoing professional development.

Sir Stephen Tallents, our founding President said in the introduction to the Institute’s first Technical Weekend School for Local Government Public Relations in 1949, and I quote:

“Every member of our Institute, however experienced, realises that there is always something yet to be learned in pursuit of our many sided calling.”

I'd ask you to reflect on Sir Stephen#s comment over lunch.

Education: critical driver for professionalism

The CIPR has pioneered education in public relations and we provide the only formal CPD framework. That's a huge opportunity both in the UK and internationally.

We won’t be forcing Fellows to commit to CPD, but I would welcome your leadership in taking up the challenge, and helping to make it relevant to this important community.

But learning is only one part of the process.

CPD is a good way for you to share your experience with younger professionals and also with those who are leading organisations and departments. We have set up a mentoring scheme and there are many ways you can contribute your knowledge to develop best practice.

We want you to use the CPD system to pass on your knowledge – written down, spoken and taught – it  counts towards your own CPD and genuinely helps others.

Some excellent points emerged from the roundtable that followed the survey and I want to thank all those who attended, especially Kevin Taylor, Past President, for chairing it.

This group was of the opinion that we should adopt a twofold strategy: firstly target eligible younger members to be the next generation of Chartered Practitioners.

Second, target employers – including Government – through representative bodies such as the CBI and IoD, to build relationships with our peer professions through their Chartered institutions.

Both the survey and the roundtable will actively shape our policy in these areas.

You can see from the back of the booklet that Sarah Pinch is planning in 2015 to build on the progress made this year.

Sarah’s goal is to extend our conversations on professionalism to include clients and employers and will focus on CPD and the Code of Conduct, two of our strongest assets in building a self-confident community.

A proposal for a college of Fellows

I want to say a few words about CIPR Fellowship. You are a valuable group but it is clear you do not often feel valued.

I have learnt this year that in organisations such as the CIPR, limited resources can sometimes mean we are unable to provide the level of engagement that some groups deserve. We need to be creative and find new ways to unlock potential.

The National, Regional and Sector groups of the CIPR are all organised by committees of volunteers and have a role in the Institution providing high value networks, personal development opportunities and training.

We want the Fellows to consider taking on this role as well.

At the September Council meeting, subject to your agreement today, I would like to bring forward a proposal to create a College of Fellows based on the existing member grade, led by an elected committee and organised around some agreed objectives.

There is no shortage of work to be done, and I look forward to continuing this conversation over lunch.

Rediscovering our vision and purpose

I’d like to end where I began. I believe that the CIPR is firmly returning to the vision of our founders in creating a professional community in public relations.

In a speech to the History of Public Relations conference recently I included a quote by Tim Traverse-Healy, who was there at there at the outset of the IPR, and continues to make a significant contribution through his thinking and writing.

I want to close this speech with a quote from his Credo, published in January this year.

Tim says:

"I believe there exists extra dimensions to the practice of professional public relations which must be present in almost equal measure before an initiative can be so termed and which grant it societal meaning and community worth.”

These dimensions are: “truth, paramount concern for the public good and genuine dialogue.”

If the history, and the future, of the IPR, the CIPR and our profession has a golden thread, Tim wove it in those two sentences.

I put it to you that the CIPR Fellowship is the keeper of that golden thread – we want to bring those words to life through the College of Fellows and I hope you will give it your support.

Thank you very much for your attention, and have a wonderful lunch.

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