(This post originally appeared on my other blog, Don’t Believe the Hyphen)
I’ve taken the plunge. After six years as a comms professional, I’ve gone and got Chartered. I’ve joined the CIPR.
It wasn’t an easy decision. To start with, it’s expensive. The investment has to at least feel like it’s going to be worth it – and I wasn’t previously convinced that it would be.
For some PR people, having the letters MCIPR (Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations) after their name is a big deal.
For me, that kind of ‘look at me’ vanity is a turn off. If you catch me tagging the initials on the end of my email signature, I permit you to cuff me about the ear.
The fact the credibility that comes with the badge is bought always struck me as a little shallow and even fake.
So what changed my mind?
In essence, I suppose, it has been a kind of coming of age as a comms professional, with that second word taking on a weightier meaning, loaded with responsibility. I have felt increasingly strongly that what have been called public relations practitioners truly are ‘professionals’, the same as accountants, legal advisors and engineers.
As a comms person, especially one within an organisation, you are often confronted by someone, often senior to you, who thinks they can ‘do’ comms. Or worse, thinks anyone can do comms. That it’s ‘just PR’.
Of course, we know it’s not just PR. Communications is much more than that. It’s both art and science. To do it well, add value and get real results you need wordcraft, empathy, strategic thinking and a well-attuned gut. These skills and even the instinct are learned over time and through experience, hard work and dedicated development.
This is why the idea of credibility is important. I know that doesn’t come from five letters after your name purchased by annual subscription.
For me, it’s more about signing up to a code of conduct for what it means to be a professional in your field of expertise.
It’s about learning from others and sharing ideas and best practice. It’s about earning the right to be trusted as someone whose advice and contributions will make that vital difference that only a professional can.
I don’t yet know what I am going to get out of being ‘Chartered’. What I do know is that it will only ever be relative to what I put into it.