News Analysis: Mixed response to IPR's new status

As the organisation formerly known as the IPR enters a new era as a chartered body seeking new members, Richard Cann asks a selection of non-members whether the news will encourage them to sign up.

The PR industry's individual membership body is set for an aggressive drive to boost its ranks after it was awarded chartered status by the Privy Council last week.

It marks a 'coming of age' for the renamed CIPR, which 57 years after it was formed boasts a membership of 8,121.

'People look for status, standards, recognition and third-party endorsement,' says CIPR director-general Colin Farrington. 'Chartered status will make people look afresh at the work we do.'

Membership has risen 50 per cent since 2000 and a target of 11,000 by 2009 was set before chartered status, Farrington says. 'The more members we have, the more funding we can build up and the more we can speak on behalf of the industry.'

ROLE REASSESSMENT NEEDED

NICKIE AIKEN, head of PR, Bradford & Bingley

'I suppose this gives the CIPR more kudos, but I don't see its relevance.

I was a member in Cardiff ten years ago, but it was more of a social thing.

I have never found it of professional use.

'PROs have copped a lot of bad press with Absolutely Fabulous and then the politicisation of PR under Labour. Chartered status could help but it needs to reassess what its fundamental role is.

'The CIPR should represent the industry better and play a bigger role educating the press and public. If you look at other trade bodies like the Royal College of Midwives or the National Association of Estate Agents, they are always the first port of call for the media.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? NO

POSITIVE FOR THE PROFESSION

LOUISE ANSARI, head of communications and consultation, London Borough of Lambeth

'Chartered status is good for any professional organisation because it adds clout and increases awareness. It can raise the respectability of PR as a profession.

'I feel very positive about joining. The Audit Commission no longer rates Lambeth Council as a poor authority and we're very interested in continuing professional development of staff. The CIPR could definitely help us with that.

'I don't believe it's any more relevant for the private sector than the public sector. It's important for communications to get to a level of prominence among the public and business community.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? YES

STANDARDS ARE SELF-FULFILLING

STEVE BRAMALL, director of public policy, Association of Train Operating Companies

'Chartered status? I've never been convinced by the value of trade bodies in the first place.

'There is always scope for improving standards, but it should be down to individual companies.

'Even for young people coming into the industry, the best training comes from on-the-job experience. They should learn the style and approach of their own company rather than have a third-party promulgate best practice.

'Clients quickly find out whether an agency is professional and applies proper standards and will get rid of those that don't, so it's a self-fulfilling issue.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? NO

DUPLICATING REGULATION

Jonathan Clare, chief executive, Citigate Dewe Rogerson

'It's great news for the CIPR and I would support any CIPR initiative to raise standards in the industry. But I don't think it's as relevant for the sort of business I am in.

'Financial PROs are already quite heavily regulated elsewhere. We have to pay strict attention to the requirements of the FSA and don't need another charter body like the CIPR to set communications standards.

'However, we do see ourselves as PR people - our fundamental job is to help companies communicate properly. So I support the CIPR and think chartered status is a positive step.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? NO

MORE RECOGNITION

KATE ELLWOOD, communications executive, VisitBritain

'I would definitely consider joining now, partly because I have been made more aware of the CIPR, but also because having it on my CV will give me more opportunities and recognition from the companies I work with.

'The press or tourist bodies I deal with are not always going to know I'm a member, but I think they would respect VisitBritain for supporting the official body in the industry.

'I've always seen the IPR as a leading player in the PR industry but just haven't got round to joining.

It's about balancing my time. I have a lot of evening functions, which can clash with the IPR courses that I'd like to do.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? YES

BENEFITS UNCLEAR

MATT NEALE, deputy MD consumer, Weber Shandwick

'Chartered status is definitely good for the profession. But the CIPR is largely about the individual and I'm still unclear as to what benefit there is for me to join. No client has ever asked me whether I'm a member.

'The industry needs to be more visible.

I only ever see Max Clifford and Mark Borkowski on the TV. Having a visible face is important and chartered status might help.

'CIPR training schemes are pretty impressive. If I were at a smaller agency with fewer internal resources for training then I probably would join. It's great for people trying to break into the industry, and a great forum for mixing at CEO level.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? NO

TRAINING GAP

CRAIG O'BOYLE, senior account executive, Firefly Communications

'Chartered status will increase recognition of PR, the prestige involved with the job and bring pride to the profession.

'In addition, it will help the PR industry's development as a recognised profession in the eyes of people outside PR, and should improve the overall accountability of our work.

'However, it would be better if there was a more tailored entry-scheme for agency staff and more specific training and networking programme at account executive level. At this stage of my career I can only join as an affiliate. This doesn't really add credibility to my biography - so it's not something I would choose to pursue until later.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? NO

ADDED PRESTIGE

JO SQUIRES, freelance press officer, voluntary sector

'As a freelance, a lot comes down to the cost of joining, but I'll certainly look at it again now.

'Most people in the industry are aware of the benefits of membership, but chartered status could give PR more prestige among people working outside the industry, which it needs.

'In-house and agency work are different but the same principles apply, and a chartered body sets some cohesion in standards that the PR industry needs.

'I was a member as a student before I graduated in 2000. I didn't really take advantage of it, and at the time didn't need to. They could offer more for recent graduates such as networking opportunities.'

LIKELY TO JOIN? YES.

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