What a day. A week ago (it already feels like a lifetime) I travelled to London to spend the day with some of the best PR practitioners around. We were all at CIPR headquarters in Russell Square to #getchartered – in other words to be assessed for our Chartered PR Practitioner status.
I was looking forward to it – a nice walk through my old stomping ground from the Euston Road down to Russell Square then a day spent chewing the fat about leadership, ethics and communications strategy – in other words my perfect Monday 🙂
The CIPR take their chartered status seriously. It was clear from the off that the process was meant to be a challenge. I had eagerly read up on all the case studies and done what I thought was a fair bit of research. But the assessors had other ideas. First up our group discussed leadership in PR. We discussed trust in our leaders, how to build relationships based on trust and how PR practitioners can gain access to the C-suite and board level discussions. The assessors constantly challenged – this was about our own practice, not just about the case study we had been sent.
We followed that up with a discussion on ethics, starting with the (now infamous) #sweatygate case. Chartered PR practitioners have to act ethically. We are trusted advisors for our clients and colleagues so being able to see the black and white lines of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a world where others see fifty shades of grey is a critical skill.
As employers we also have a duty of care to the people who work for us. In the case of Fuel PR, there was clearly not enough care taken over the wellbeing and reputation of the individual concerned, whose PR career has been jeopardised by actions they were expected to take.
Our final session was on ‘micro-strategies’, and Martin Turner’s outline model for how to frame communications strategies effectively.*
We discussed this with Martin himself, which was sufficiently unsettling, and were expected to show that we could adapt and evolve the strategy both to take account of how the social communications landscape has moved on since the paper was written but also to show that we understood how to apply the theories behind this strategy into our own practice. The model itself looks limited at first glance, but in fact I think this is a strength. It is a useful tool to use when the scope of a project feels overwhelming. It is a good tool for focusing discussions on the most critical aspect of a campaign; ensuring they are led by outcomes, not outputs or other woolly thinking.
A group discussion on our CPD plans wrapped up the day before the agonising wait to see if we had successfully passed – and I was only half joking when I said it was a bit like the Hunger Games…
Despite the challenging nature of the day (or perhaps because of it) I’d thoroughly recommend anyone who is serious about providing communications advice go through the process of getting chartered. It is a proper reflection of the professional status of our industry and a strong statement that professional standards, ethics and experience are the central point of reference for organisations looking to engage with PR professionals.
*Turner, M 2015. ‘Communications micro-strategies’. In: Waddington, S Ed. Chartered Public Relations. London: CIPR/Kogan Page, pp 141-155