Is it worth joining a PR industry body?
13th June 2013
Those who are members, and those who aren’t, discuss their reasons for joining and leaving today’s PR industry bodies, while the CIPR and PRCA present the case for being members
Why we aren’t members?
Because it does not bring in enough business
Sara Render ran PR agency Kinross & Render for many years and is now a director at agency Four Communications: "Membership is expensive for smaller agencies and most are run by people who watch their bottom lines carefully.
“The focus for most people, but particularly the smaller members and start ups, is on whether membership of the PRCA brings in more business. My experience at Kinross & Render suggests that The PRCA's business referral service does not generate enough high-quality referrals to justify membership, and the reduction in public sector work means fewer agencies have to join because they need the Consultancy Management Standard to be on public-sector rosters.
“The PRCA was never a major source of new business, but we used to get a lot of value out of its support materials; however, it feels like a long time since it invested in updates.”
Because the CIPR and PRCA are not accountable
Heather Baker, managing director of agency TopLine Communications and editor of B2B PR Blog: “The UK industry bodies are not really accountable to anyone. Technically they are owned by their members, but there are no formal checks and balances, which means they never have to answer to anyone.
“We left the PRCA as an agency at the start of this year and the only impact we felt was an extra £5,000 in the bank. Some of our employees have joined as individual members for £120 which is great as they get access to many of the same benefits, but as a small agency it’s not worth the fees at this stage.”
Why we are members
For information, networking and the CMS process
Jeremy Merckel, PR director at WAA: "We joined the PRCA mainly to give us quick access to current PR thinking and training, and also for the CMS process. Standards might not be sexy, but they are important and they provide the structure needed to ensure we're delivering a consistent and quality service, and clients do value the reassurance a recognisable quality standard provides. Membership also provides useful networking and new business opportunities, and is a valuable recruitment tool."
To put something back
Stuart Bruce, independent PR trainer and consultant and CIPR national council member: “I’m a CIPR member because I believe in the future of our profession and know that I’ve got an obligation to put something back into it. If you join the CIPR asking what you can contribute then you find out that the benefits you gain are even greater than what you put in. Membership is a sign that you take the profession seriously and are committed to the highest standards of both work and ethics.”
For professional development
Rachel Miller, director at consultancy All Things IC: “I see the value in continuing to be a CIPR member because it not only adds to my network of contacts and knowledge, but provides me with the opportunity to continue to develop professionally. I’m half way through the CIPR’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme.”
For the codes of conduct
Sarah Hall, managing director of Sarah Hall Consulting: “The code of conduct sets out best practice guidelines and is useful in building trust with clients, especially at the early business development stage. Also the free legal helpline that comes with membership is worth its weight in gold. There are all sorts of member benefits but this one has been incredibly helpful to me in developing a small and growing business.”
The Industry bodies have their say
Andy Ross, senior policy and public relations officer, CIPR: “First and foremost, the primary purpose of any professional body or professional organisation is to promote and support the professionals within that industry.
“Our biggest provision for members is providing a clear and structured route for professional development thanks to our continuous professional development (CPD) system through to the potential to achieve accredited and chartered practitioner status for more senior practitioners.
When you join an industry body, you have access to an unparalleled amount of experts in your field; our members have a wealth of multi-faceted experience from years in the profession at all levels and all disciplines that new members can benefit from.”
Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA: “There are many benefits of joining a membership body such as the PRCA. We help to show the professionalism of our members with our codes of conduct and communications management standard audit. We provide our members with industry-leading benchmarking statistics, alongside thought-leadership events and publications. We provide low-cost training, and we fight for the major issues affecting the PR industry. We’ve saved the industry millions in paying the NLA for online news clippings.
“We advise our membership to not view us as just a new business service, but the full industry body package. If Sara Render had stayed a member she would have benefited from the new employment contracts and job descriptions we have produced.
“While our individual membership offering is competitive, corporate members receive a wider range of benefits, including our benchmarking. We appreciate that smaller agencies have to watch cash flow, but our agency membership is tiered to make it cost effective for the smaller firms. We would warmly welcome back both Baker and Render to the PRCA.”