PR practitioners rightly demand a seat at the boardroom table but lack the professional framework that defines colleagues from accounting and legal spheres.
The building blocks for professional practice are in place in the form of codes of conduct, qualifications, CPD and chartered status, but many practitioners are yet to be convinced.
The recently published CIPR State of the Profession survey, asked more than 2,500 practitioners for their definition of professionalism, with mixed results. More than three-quarters of all respondents believed that accountability to a code of conduct was important, but far less are signed up to any of the industry’s rigorous codes. Two-thirds believed that experience was the most important quality PR professionals could possess, but this was most prevalent among those at the start of their careers.
There is a contradiction between those who were satisfied that their skills met the challenges facing them now (93 per cent) and in the future (86 per cent), and the small majority who believed the biggest challenge to PR in the next five years was an expanding skills set. Dig beneath these numbers and you will uncover the opportunity for the future of our profession.
First, PR has a higher purpose. It is much more than tactical comms, with three-quarters involved in strategic planning, just under half directly briefing senior staff and more than a third helping shape organisational strategy.
Second, media convergence shows PR is increasingly responsible for tactical marketing disciplines, and that by taking the lead in managing social forms of media we are having a greater impact and presence in every operational area of an organisation from customer service to sales, and from HR to product development.
In all cases, CIPR members are ahead of non-members in responsibility, confidence in tackling future challenges and pay. It is an early indicator of a shift to professionalism and a benchmark for the value of CIPR membership.
We are about to begin a research project to draw together thinking on future skills to provide a strong, coherent and relevant expression of professional standards. It’s a work in progress, but the opportunity for us to shape the future of organisations has never been greater.
Stephen Waddington is CIPR president and digital and social media director, Ketchum Europe