It is time for one strong voice on industry values

We need to deliver a clear message that will resonate across the industry

Sue Wolstenholme: CIPR president
Sue Wolstenholme: CIPR president

The year in the chair at the CIPR has gone quickly, and as I’ve just been advising on a couple of excellent papers, one entitled Public Relations is an Organisation’s Ethical Guardian and the other Public Relations is Inherently Evil, I wondered what to write.

Of course, PR is just a tool and its complexion is only determined by the way that it is used, as many have reflected on these pages and in numerous blogs and comments. Clearly, if we are to gain credibility, we have to earn it.

I started the year on a couch with my colleague Francis Ingham, across the page, and we agreed to look into building one code of conduct for everyone working in PR in the country, rather than having separate rules and panels in each institute.

We have met again and reinforced our agreement, and I hope we will take the idea forward so that we can move towards answering any questions regarding ethical behaviour with one strong voice.

Also, to underline our value, we are working on a project with accountancy colleagues to understand the balance-sheet value of reputation, which I believe to be our USP. With this in mind, something that we need to keep an eye on next year is the growth of reputation insurance. The October issue of Governance & Compliance, the magazine of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries, rightly proclaimed that reputation is "your most valued asset" but the article went on to recommend reputation insurance as the answer. It is being advised about its mistake.

Research to give us the right data to underpin our decisions, using all manner of measures, is also vital to our credibility. In a society where Delia influences the nation to put aside custard powder and our politicians still want to persuade us that we need the nuclear offspring of gunpowder, we need to define the moment to deliver a message that will resonate and deliver effective change with knowledge and great care.

The BIS/CIPR research study into the communication of science will undoubtedly help us to improve our methods too.

Finally, thank you to the many who have contacted me about the science project and made recommendations for medal winners. It has been humbling to hear from so many with a real passion to make things better and it’s great to see many more coming forward to really stand out and be chartered too.

Sue Wolstenholme is CIPR president

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