FOUR REASONS: Why I’m not in the CIPR


There are four reasons why I’m not in the CIPR which is progress, I suppose, as there used to be five.

Of course, the optimist in me calls this a 20 per cent improvement year-on-year.

But the realist in me still thinks there’s an 80 per cent reason for me not to join. Just yet. Although there’s much I greatly admire.

The CIPR – the Chartered Institute for Public Relations – is an organisation based in London and represents PR people from across the broad sweep of the industry from the newest student to the most experienced agency chief. It costs £260 to join as a member with £50 of that being a joining fee.

They do good things

It’s also an organisation I do have time for. Their excellent CIPR conversation aggregates blogs from people across the industry and pulls them into one place. They’ll also be tweeted. Disclaimer: my blog gets syndicated there from time to time and Andrew Ross does a fine job in pulling all of this together. I learn things there.

I’m also quietly rooting for Stephen Waddington to become president in the current elections. Why? Because he’s from Northumberland. But mainly because he understands digital communications and sees its growing place of importance. Besides, he tweets pictures of lambs on his farm.

It was a Twitter exchange with Stephen and then with CIPR member Stuart Bruce a couple of days ago that prompted me to think just why I wasn’t a member. So, here are the reasons:

Four reasons why I’m not a member

1. I’m local government. I spend a lot of time in the trenches with my sleeves rolled up doing day-to-day comms that doesn’t easily fit into extensive comms plans. There’s definitely the ability to draw-up one page of A4 as a comms plan in 20 minutes that is a skill that draws on local knowledge.

It also means that having a budget to carry out strategy is largely a thing of the past.

8186649265_7dcd664b15_b2. I’m West Midlands. There’s no question that if I was in London with the events on offer this would be a different proposition. But a trip to the capital makes even a free event cost £50 and the activities in the middle of the country are scarce.

3. I’m public sector. With budgets cut it means that paying £200 to attend a day of conference isn’t ever going to happen anytime in the next 20 years.

4. There’s too many PR people. Stick with me on this. When we were getting our head around social media in 2008 case studies were rare and the CIPR seemed to be living in the past. A group unhealthily centred on print and talking a 20th century language of channels and key messages. The ideas that formed the bedrock of our use of social came from coders, bloggers, police officers and geeks who were busy inventing new envelopes to push to care too much about comms plans. They inspired us at events like localgovcamp and every day still do. As social tools become easier to access the role of comms is changing. It’s often those at the frontline who are doing amazing work and it’s the role of comms to inspire, train and give the green light.

I’m sure there are some hugely talented PR people who are re-writing the rule book. But there are many more rule books being invented on the web by others outside the traditional comms job description. These are the geeks that are inheriting the world that are taking code, messing about with and building things.

The fifth?

There was of course a fifth which isn’t always the case these days. The CIPR is not just understanding digital but doing some great pioneering work with it too.

No comms organisation can exist in 2013 without both eyes firmly on 2023 and not with it’s heart hankering for 1983.

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  1. Thank you for this, Dan. I’m on your wavelength. I’ve become involved in local government digital communications (and by extension citizen and third sector use) sort of by accident because I’m keen and definitely not because I’m a degree holding CIPR registered officer. In fact at a recent gathering of council comms bods (largely CIPR members) oor Carolyn Mitchell brought up the fact that a lot of us working in/with councils in digital and web probably wouldn’t be qualified (on paper) to apply for our own jobs as most of us cropped up from front line and are largely not formally trained. I didn’t become aware of CIPR for quite some time and I was surprised at the slow pace with which it embraced multi-platform communication and I see this reluctance all the time in their actual members. But I agree they are doing great digital stuff as an organisation. At the same gathering mentioned above a CIPR rep for Scotland was asked to explain the benefits of being a member and she did a good job of explaining the code of conduct and integrity that is expected of members but, as a DIY digi-nerd, I didn’t see what is in it for me. There was also an indication that CIPR is having a difficult time engaging young people and I think this will be interesting to watch. There are waves of young digital natives coming into the workforce- how do you entice them to join a professional membership body when they’re likely miles ahead of it and, arguably, not switched on or even attracted to the traditional PR way of approaching communications?

  2. Sounds like you should be a member, Dan. Best wishes from someone who grew up in the West Midlands. Jon White

  3. So it appears we’re one down and four to go, that’s a good start, but how do we tackle these four points!?

    Firstly location – I acknowledge that from the outside we can seem as a London-centric organisation, but only 33% of our members are based inside the M25 – so tackling the perception that CIPR members get more in London is a big priority.

    We’ve recently put in place a new member group development team to take a focus on offering greater support to our regional volunteers to deliver the same quality of low-cost events that we’re currently offering in London. You’ll see the results of that already happening in Wales, Scotland and the North-East with groups rolling out Social Summer evenings and Fresh breakfast events for just a tenner – this is something we plan to push out further into this year and next. The same also goes for sector groups – and in your case, supporting the CIPR LPS group to deliver similar free or low-cost events nationwide is a must.

    The other way we can tackle location is through tech investment. We have a growing back catalogue of ‘how-to’ style webinars free for members, whilst the live streaming of London events is definitely on the cards. As and when this will happen, again, sometime in the next 12 months. But I acknowledge that we can’t just spout about digital leadership and encourage live social events – we need to practice what we preach.

    On cost of membership – I appreciate that in the public sector your employer can’t always foot the bill. However I’d hope that by developing the above offering alongside showcasing to you how CIPR membership can benefit your career -you’d consider the £260 an investment in yourself.

    I see three main CIPR membership benefits that exclude the discounts on training, events and qualifications:
    1. Accountability to both your employer and the public by signing our code of conduct
    2. Developing through access to industry-leading best practice tools, resources, skills guides and case studies
    3. Access to our CPD system, so you can conveniently and practically plan your own professional development and work toward achieving Accredited Practitioner status.

    Point four is a toughie– and one that in principle I agree with – but I hope we’ve taken significant steps forward from where we were in 2008. We openly welcome specialists in coding, bloggers, and yes, geeks, into membership. Embracing the digi-nerd is part of PR’s present and future. You can see that in the output of our Share This handbook, the imminent follow up – and the leadership from our Social Media Panel.

    To further back this up, and to give you insight as to where the leadership of the CIPR is heading – look at the debate going on between Jon White and Stephen Waddington for the 2014 CIPR President at the moment, you’ll see that the conversation is very much focusing on what the CIPR’s role should be… and you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. I see our role is as supporting, developing, inspiring, training and leading the communicators of today, and tomorrow, to embrace the future the challenges that will affect the way in which we work and deliver what we do.

    Anyway, thanks for your input Dan, and the guys above, appreciated as ever! 20% year-on-year isn’t the worst of starts; I’ll backdate a membership form to be sent out in April 2017 🙂

    Andy Ross (@AJMROSS)
    CIPR Comms Team

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment on this, Andy.

      Think you see this is not a table thumping rant but more of a boiling down for the reasons that stop me. I’m really pleased you’ve identified embracing the digi-nerd as a key thing. The digi-nerds I take my hat off too. They’re the ones experimenting and doing brilliant things. It’s a good point that Leah raises about how to engage with them.

      If it were me I’d be going to digi-nerd events (God, I love that phrase, thank you Leah) to see what shapes them, how they work and what makes the people who go tick. Unconferences are great but I accept that they’re not for everyone.

      We came quite close to securing some CIPR support for commscamp in Brum in February. That’s encouraging and it would be good to see some CIPR people at the very, very least at the commscampLDN event that Ann Kempster from Cabinet Office is taking a lead on.

      To be honest, with my £260 it’s travel to events like UK Govcamp that’s getting my vote. But I do appreciate you trying, Andy and a 2017 membership card if you tackle all those would be something worth thinking about ; )

  4. You can’t but respect someone who’s thoughtful enough to reflect on the issue and share his clearly well-founded reasoning. We’ve never met Dan – just circled each other on the net over the years. @al_osaur raves about you though, which is high praise in my book.

    If CIPR didn’t include both the regional set ups and the Local Public Services sectoral group (disclaimer: I’m it’s vice-chair) then I’d have made the same judgments, and save my £200-odd quid a year too. But our group gets the cost issue – our two day conf (in Bristol) was under £200 (including awards dinner) and we have/are soon to run cheap/free (to our members) day events in Wales, the South West, London, Essex and East Anglia. We want to do more on digital too – we’re not in denial about change.

    I won’t disrespect the thought you’ve give it by trying to persuade you to join – but why not work with us to run a cheap/free event on digital in the West Mids focused on local govt, and be part of the solution to our shared issues? Consider it a first date. I’ll buy you dinner, and promise not to get you tipsy.

    1. Hi Peter. Ha! You’ve a way with words. Al Smith talks about you very highly and that’s a solid gold recommendation in my eyes.

      For me, £200 for a two day event would still be out of my and my employer’s price bracket but I do appreciate that the CIPR is aware of the issues and is heading in the right direction.

      There’s often events in the West Midlands that would have an interest to CIPR people and often they’re unconferences. HyperWM has been staged three times, brewcamp is a regular ideas catch-up and commscamp in Brum in February shows that there’s a need for events where people can learn. Drop me a note. I’m daniel.slee19723 @at@

  5. The London thing is a bug-bear for me. However, I understand the reasons and the regions have improved things.

    I think there’s a perception around the CIPR being very private sector and it’s something that’s put me off attending local meet-ups. I think this perception needs to be looked at.

    More positively, I’ve found being a member useful for highlighting CPD materials/courses and I always enjoy a flick through PR Week.

    Remember that you can get the cost of your membership added to your non-taxable income.

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