A date has also been proposed for the merger: 1 November 2018.
The details are included in a new Memorandum of Understanding between the APPC and the PRCA that relates to the plan, which must be agreed by a majority vote of APPC members on 8 October.
Under the proposals, there will be:
- One Public Affairs Code for the industry, based on the current APPC Code
- One Register, containing all existing information provided by both current ones
- A pledge that no current APPC or PRCA member pays more post-merger than they do at the current time. Current members of both organisations will pay one amount, either the current PRCA or APPC fee, whichever is greater. Those who are members of the APPC but not the PRCA will have their initial fee set at the current APPC level, rising by no more than RPI for three years. For PRCA members who aren’t members of the APPC, their initial fee will be set at the current PRCA level. New prospective public affairs members can join the merged body at the current APPC level
- The Board of the merged entity will be governed by the Public Affairs Executive Committee composed of the current APPC and PRCA Group Committees. The existing chair of the APPC will become chair of the Public Affairs Board, and of the Executive Committee
- The current reserves of the APPC transferred to the PRCA, "but ringfenced in a separate account, for expenditure solely on public affairs, as directed by the Executive Committee"
- An extension to APPC secretary Mary Shearer’s current contract under its present terms and conditions
- One unified programme of events, as directed by the Executive Committee. At least two events per year for public affairs members in each of the four nations
- The continuation of the Public Affairs Awards programme
A merger between PRCA and APPC has been informally discussed on several occasions for many years, but the PRCA formalised this earlier this year by taking a proposal to its counterpart. Around two-fifths of the nearly 77 firms holding APPC membership are also PRCA members.
In a comment piece for PRWeek, Emily Wallace, former vice chair of the APPC and ex-chair of the PRCA PA Group, criticised the handling of the merger discussions. She argued that the views of many APPC members weren’t represented, claims later rebuffed by APPC vice chair George McGregor, who outlined the "significant gains" he expects from the merger.
APPC chairman Paul Bristow told PRWeek he is "looking forward to a healthy debate" around the proposals.
"I think there are strong arguments ahead with the merger but I’m going to try and remain detached from the discussion to try and ensure that we can all come together for the benefit of the industry."
He added: "I’m confident that, should the merger go ahead, the APPC is going into this from a position of strength. The PRCA has accepted that our code of conduct is the gold standard and our independent processes our preferable."
Regarding the new merger proposals, PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: "We spent a considerable time getting the detail right but actually it’s been a very straightforward negotiation process. We do have genuinely common goals that drive us. It’s all about lobbying as a force for good and a unified voice, single code, less bureaucracy, less cost. I’m really hopeful and confident it will achieve APPC membership backing."
This article was updated on Tuesday morning with comment from Paul Bristow of the APPC