Why CIPR members have some tough decisions to make, from CIPR Candidate for President-Elect Rachel Royall

The PR, media and creative industries are booming in the UK and abroad. In the UK we have somewhere in the region of 86,000 practitioners and it’s worth £13.6bn. For those of us who are passionate about professionalising our industry we have a harsh reality to face.

In 2018 we, the CIPR lost over 20 percent of our members, our cash reserves are low and membership overall is falling. We levelled on 9,131 members at the end of 2018.

I want to represent an institute that is growing, that’s relevant to the organisations and clients we serve. Where the CIPR label means we’re expert, qualified, professional and ethical in what we do – regardless of the specialism, region or nation in which we work.

As PR leaders we need to be role models in our conduct at work and on social media. We need to be more outward facing, reverse the numbers and grow our community to invest in developing PR for the future. To course-correct this isn’t a one year job for a President, it’s a team effort with the Board and volunteers who give so much for the greater good. As CIPR President there are three areas I’ve committed to focus on; leadership, education and community.

Now more than ever, public relations has a role to play in our society – we can add real economic and social value. Not only will I be an ambassador for our profession, I’ll help to give our membership the confidence and tools to be ambassadors too. Almost 50 percent of practitioners said they did not feel confident and have the tools to run board level sessions on the value of PR - let’s change that.

To be more outward facing and to maintain our relevance, we will listen to business, government, recruiters and academia so we can understand and influence their priorities.

We’ll launch a PR Business Value Forum with representatives from these sectors to better understand their needs and to prioritise our research to impact where it needs to.

Education is at heart of tackling our diversity issues. As an industry we need to recognise our responsibility to the next generation, growing up surrounded by fake news, a rapidly changing media environment and digital technologies. We’ll help them navigate, understand and enhance our industry. We’ll promote PR as an exciting career choice, open to all and bring PR industry awareness and education into schools to develop a professional community that better reflects our diverse and socially mobile society.

Once people are in our profession we need to help them get educated and stay educated. Qualifications and training will focus on both strategic and tactical skills for future leaders and practitioners at all levels. We need to be excellent at strategy and tactics, developing and delivering communication plans that have clear outcomes. Chartered practitioners earn on average £18k more than those who are not chartered. But there are only 267 of us – less than 0.3 percent of our total industry. Currently there are not enough chartered practitioners for it to be relevant or significant enough for recruiters to mandate or for Chief Executives and boards to make a real distinction between those who are chartered and those who are not. Chartership needs to mean something more.

And finally there has been lots of debate about our PR community - the regions, nations, and the membership offer. Don’t vote for me if you think the CIPR membership rate should be reduced because I don’t agree. If we cut our membership fees now in the current financial picture we will damage the long term viability of the CIPR and we will have less money to invest in the future. Absolutely we need to review our membership strategy, incentivise student members, promote corporate affiliate membership and ensure access and promote diversity – but overall we need to grow our membership in the UK and abroad to invest in projects and activities that add real value to each and everyone of us.

If you’re a CIPR member voting closes on Monday so dig out your email and please vote. You can find out more about me at rachelroyall.co.uk.

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