Fifty years ago the PR industry was in its infancy. However, a
number of local government and government information service officers
saw the need to create a formal industry body.
The resulting inaugural meeting of the IPR was held on 10 February, 1948
at St Bride’s Institute, Fleet Street. Some 76 PR people attended to
hear founder president Sir Stephen Tallents, then head of PR at the BBC,
say the body would provide ’a useful ’who’s who’ of those who are
working, and those who are equipping themselves to work, in this
Half a century on and the size and influence of the IPR has grown in
line with the industry. It now boasts 5,550 members and has expanded its
reach to all industry sectors and disciplines.
Speciality and interest groups such as the City and Financial Group and
Government Affairs Group reflect the IPR’s diverse following.
According to John Lavelle, the state of the IPR’s finances have improved
vastly since he arrived as its first executive director 14 years
’The two most obvious signs of the IPR’s success are the increased
membership and the fact that we’ve improved its financial position from
a bankrupt institution to one with reserves of pounds 500,000,’ he
Previous IPR president Simon Lewis feels that the institute is now more
relevant to all PR professionals than it has been at any time in the
’When I joined the profession ten or 15 years ago the IPR was a rather
august body for very senior people. That has changed and it’s now in
closer touch with its members and reflects the youth and diversity in
Evidence of this is the IPR’s flourishing Student Group, which has
existed since the 1960s, but whose numbers have grown dramatically to
some 700 current members.
Education has become a major priority for the IPR over the years. In the
early 1970s it introduced its own examination, followed by a series of
training workshops in 1984, while the late 1980s saw the birth of the
first IPR-approved first and post-graduate degrees.
Now the IPR is launching an Industry Diploma, which will train and test
the strategic and implementational skills of future IPR members. The new
initiative is scheduled to be up and running in time for the next
Peter Walker, the current IPR president, says the new diploma is the
IPR’s most important challenge. He says: ’PR companies are inhibited by
thinking that if they train somebody another company will get the
benefit of that training when the employee moves on. If we introduce
common standards then everybody can buy-in.’
The IPR’s value can also be felt in campaigns which have united the
It is currently fighting the Newspaper Licensing Agency’s copyright
charges and addressing the growing issue of charges for editorial
Perhaps most importantly it is representing the industry in discussions
with regulatory bodies on the introduction of increased regulation in
the City and in lobbying.
The IPR is in close consultation with the Financial Services Authority,
the Takeover Panel and Bank of England over proposed FSA standards which
will control more tightly the information which is put out by PR people
during large mergers or flotations.
A government relations taskforce, led by Simon Lewis, is liaising with
the UK and European authorities on standards for lobbyists. The group is
preparing a set of guidelines but has yet to put them before Ann Taylor,
the Leader of the House of Commons.
Despite the IPR’s growing influence, members concede that there are
improvements that can be made to the way in which the institute
Lewis says: ’I would like to see a greater number of consultancy people
as members.’ Current membership is 60/40 in favour of in-house
Lewis’ views are echoed by agency heads. Peter Hehir, chairman of
Countrywide Porter Novelli supports many IPR initiatives but adds: ’The
IPR should lead the industry on training. This would require them to
listen more to the opinion of the consultancies.’
There are concerns that the larger agencies view the IPR as marginal to
their interests because they already have large training programmes.
Some agencies also question whether the IPR has a genuine mandate to
speak for the industry on government and investor relations issues.
Paul Philpotts, UK managing director of Burson-Marsteller, says: ’They
have done a lot but the world is moving on. They don’t speak for
everybody, only 15 of the 250 people in this building are members.’
The IPR is addressing this by attempting to attract more members across
the industry and is forging closer links with the PRCA on issues such as
standards and education. It is also embarking on a three-year programme
of research which will focus on its members’ needs and concerns in an
attempt to make its efforts more relevant and accountable.
As the industry has become more established it has had to be
increasingly active in defending the interests of its members. If it is
to survive another 50 years it is vital that the IPR continues to
represent its members to Government and the City at the highest
1948: IPR formed in London
1969: Breakaway group of IPR members forms PRCA
1984: IPR appoints John Lavelle as first executive director. Sword of
Excellence Awards launched
1998: IPR membership reaches 5,550 and search begins for first director
general to replace retiring Lavelle