Public relations professionals must keep their knowledge and skills up to date

Professional development and measurement are key to being taken seriously.

Stephen Waddington, CIPR president; digital and social media director, Ketchum Europe
Stephen Waddington, CIPR president; digital and social media director, Ketchum Europe

Public relations is the conscience and voice of an org­anisation. Our actions have a significant impact on society. This is the higher calling of our profession.

With such a vital part to play, public confidence about the competence of professionals is critical.

In my view tackling this single issue is vital to improving the value of public relations and the reputation of the industry.

The CIPR provides practitioners with a clear roadmap for pursuing this journey through to accredited and chartered practitioner status, thanks to Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

In 2013 we saw a 29 per cent increase in CPD completions by members, and our State of the Profession research showed CIPR members who have a positive attitude to self-improvement and proactively manage their careers are ahead when it comes to confidence, responsibility and pay. It’s a good start.

This month we’re also partnering with NIACE, the team behind Adult Learners’ Week (14-20 June), to put on a series of free webinars to showcase the lifelong learning opportunities available in public relations and a structured professional development path that will support and sustain future careers.

Most practitioners attend regular networking and briefings events and we consume new content day-in day-out. This activity needs to be co-ordinated in a more planned and sustained manner.

In an open and connected world, any function that believes excellence can be measured, tested or acknowledged on the length and breadth of a contact book is soon to be dead.

Keeping a record of how you keep your knowledge and skills up to date through professional development and how you seek to broa­den and deepen that knowledge throughout your working life, all with a focus on self-reflection and analysis, is vital to stay relevant.

The reputation of this business will also reap the rewards. To be recognised as a professional function we are the ones who need to deliver change first, nobody and nothing else.

Complaining, moaning or theorising from a distance about our status or the industry’s perception is not enough. We need to be responsible for ourselves, our colleagues, and our future leaders, and invoke the positive change we desire.

Learn, develop, evolve. The tools are there for you to use. There’s no excuse.

Stephen Waddington is CIPR president; digital and social media director, Ketchum Europe

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