The future reputation of public relations starts with you
I caught up with Ian Burrell, the Independent’s Assistant Editor and Media Editor this week.
CIPR board member Eva Maclaine invited us to meet after she heard him speak out at a recent conference about the public relations industry.
Ian claimed that public perception of the public relations business was at an all-time low as a result of the behaviour of Max Clifford and Andy Coulson.
“You’ll tell me that Clifford was a publicist and not a public relations practitioner but he always topped PRWeek lists and was frequently cited in the media,” he said.
We had a conversation about what the profession could do to improve its reputation.
Ian's view was that we needed to firmly set out the standards of a profession and publicly kick out those that fail to make the grade.
The reputation of the public relations profession is an issue we’ve chewed over during the two decades that I have been in the business. It’s one of the few constants.
In fact if two people working in public relations in the UK meet for a drink there are two topics that they’ll talk about, namely PRWeek and the lousy reputation of the profession.
The questions on everyone’s lips are why Haymarket hasn't renamed PRWeek now it’s a monthly title, and second why the business that helps organisations manage their reputation is so poor at sharpening up its own image.
It is one on the issues that I’m most frequently asked about by practitioners when I speak at events on behalf of the CIPR. It's been raised again this week at events in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“What is the CIPR doing about the reputation of the profession,” is the common demand.
As we’d tell any organisation that we work with there are no shortcuts.
We could create a public engagement campaign about some of the incredible work that our profession delivers but it would be in vain when there are fundamental issues that we need to tackle first.
It would be like someone with a body odour problem talking about the importance of smelling fresh without taking the time to wash or buy deodorant. You stink because you're not doing something about it.
Back to Ian Burrell. He and other journalists aren’t going to write about our profession raising its game until we start to make significant progress.
My view is straightforward. The route to public relations improving its reputation starts with it getting its own house in order.
That starts with education and qualifications.
Next practitioners need to sign up to a Code of Conduct that can be publicy tested as a foundation for practice and commit to continuous learning and development.
The future of the reputation of the public relations profession starts with you signing up to these basic tenets of professionalism.
The CIPR has 10,000 members of which around a fifth have made a commitment to Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
This year the CIPR has become increasingly assertive about the need to address the issues that Burrell cites.
I hope in future years we’ll be able to have another conversation about the progress that we’ve made. Only then will we start to address the reputation of our business.
Your profession needs you. The future reputation of public relations starts with you.