Opinion: Leader - IPR Charter status is only the beginning

It's been a long time coming - five decades in fact - but this week the IPR was finally granted Charter status.

The development is official recognition from the Government that public relations plays an important and influential role in business and society.

But before the industry gets too carried away, it is worth noting that there are around 400 chartered professional bodies in the UK. While the development is welcome, the challenge of gaining real and widespread recognition for the profession from the business community begins now - charter status is a means to that end rather than an accomplishment of that end in itself.

The game plan of the new Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is, according to director-general Colin Farrington, to 'get to a situation where the market will demand membership'. Extra membership funds would enable the body to advance its roles of providing leadership for the industry, developing policy and raising standards through training and education.

If the majority of practitioners become members of the CIPR, this will aid its efforts to improve the standing (and understanding) of PR in all its variants. Among the key perceptions the industry needs to dispel is the media's disdainful conflation of PR and its practitioners with 'spin' and 'spinners'.

But at 8,000, the IPR's current membership cannot be said to be representative of the entire industry.

The CIPR's task is to make membership desirable to the thousands of PROs who have never considered it. This includes the more renegade consumer PROs at the edgier end of the industry to whom the term 'Charter' is likely to seem elitist and alien to their instincts.

While official recognition is undeniably good news, the CIPR will need to convince non-members that its new status will affect their day-to-day existence.

This is the real challenge.

Daniel Rogers is on holiday.

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