Specialist skills and knowledge are vital for long-lasting relationships

Careful choices are needed for challenging times because reputation is much more than a red-top issue.

Sue Wolstenholme: CIPR president
Sue Wolstenholme: CIPR president

As public and private sector bodies and firms face increasing scrutiny from ever more clever critics, they are demanding greater assurances from their senior teams and advisers.

To be more certain about the ability of those they hire, to build and safeguard their reputations, they need to develop the criteria they are applying. Looking for wide experience and an impressive media contacts file is not nearly enough.

Even prime ministers and police chiefs, who have lived in fear of being torn down by ruthless red-top editors, have hired these editors in the hope of turning the poachers into gamekeepers. But those well-honed skills of destroying reputations in a day are clearly at odds with what is needed to know how to build and manage a sustainable standing in society.

Deep-rooted and enduring relationships need nurturing carefully and it all takes specialist skills and knowledge, in which a background in journalism can only play a small part.

So after securing a shortlist of professionally qualified PR practitioners, recruiters should also be asking what candidates are doing for their continuous professional development (CPD) at the moment.

Those looking to improve their own knowledge and practice all the time, aspiring to be better at what they do, are more likely to succeed in finding the best ways to improve their organisation or clients' reputations.

More people are focused on becoming professional as they become aware of the need for increased accountability within PR.

Skills and experience, qualifications, commitment to CPD and accountability to a code need to be validated in ways the public can understand.

This is the purpose of the CIPR's Accredited and Chartered Practitioner processes. They signify these professional standards.

CEOs and recruiters need to pay attention to these developments in an industry where communication and PR can mean anything from doing a piece of publicity to creating strategies to develop a company's ability to earn an enduringly good reputation.

This is how we will assure the future of PR.

Sue Wolstenholme is CIPR president

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