The Pursuit of PR Accolades: Vanity or Value?

This blog first appeared on the CommsCymru website – after I was asked to write a piece about getting CIPR Chartered Status.

Award trophies on a shelf

Photo credit: Trophies, by Brad K. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence

 

I love working in comms – always have and always will.

But the last 6 months have been extra special for me, thanks to one shiny little trophy and a framed certificate, taking pride of place in my home.

That little trophy was a CIPR PRide Cymru Award – for ‘Best Public Sector Team of the Year’. And, the certificate confirmed that I’d made it as a Chartered PR professional.

Of course I’m biased, but I happen to think my Wales Audit Office comms colleagues are pretty hot at what they do – making public sector accountancy and audit less boring and more meaningful to the people of Wales.

We exist to tell taxpayers’ whether their money is being spent wisely – or not. And, we’re charged with letting the public sector community know what’s working well, what isn’t and how they can improve.

Comms is key to all this. But, making audit accessible can be a challenge. We don’t always get it right. But we try to be innovative and to engage as much as we can.

So, getting recognition like a PRide Award makes it all worthwhile. It’s a nod from the professional institute that we’re doing a good job, adopting the right tools and techniques, putting PR excellence theory into practice (where we can) and demonstrating continuous improvement.

But awards and accolades don’t always sit comfortably with the public sector communicator. After all, we’re here to promote noble causes, statutory responsibility, public service – all against a backdrop of austerity and economic squeeze.

Not surprising then that waving a flag of PR righteousness, a cloak of self-aggrandisement can all seem a bit uncomfortable. Why do so many of us get embarrassed by a bit of self-glory?

But it’s SO important.

Because going for the odd award here or there; working towards that qualification or certificate shapes us – and strengthens the profession. We don’t always win. We don’t always pass. But, it’s the pursuit of success, of demonstrating impact that makes us strive for improvement and to be the best we can be.

Championing professionalism, discipline, and strategic thinking should be encouraged. It’s about establishing our credentials and proving our value to our organisations and, to some extent, the outside world.

So, a few months after the PRide Awards, I decided to go for Chartered PR Practitioner status. The CIPR are actively encouraging eligible members to apply, in a bid to drive up standards and shift PR from a craft to a profession.

In September 2015, only 50 PR professionals had made it to Chartered status since it was introduced in 2008. Shocking when you think there are around 10,000 CIPR members. But the scheme only allowed a small minority to go for it. So they changed the criteria.

Now, if you’re a full Member, Fellow or Honorary Fellow you can attend a Chartership Assessment Day if:

  • you have three consecutive years of CIPR CPD (or five non-consecutive), or
  • if you have two years of CIPR CPD (or four non-consecutive) and hold a Masters degree or the CIPR Diploma.

 

So, in January 2016, I travelled down to CIPR HQ in London for the assessment day, which was a rigorous exercise. Beforehand, I’d been sent reading materials, questions to think about and an overview of what to expect on the day. When I arrived, I was placed in a small discussion group and assessed on my contribution to debates on leadership, strategy and ethics.

Some didn’t make it through the day, so it’s certainly no whitewash. It was a tough but enjoyable experience – and I passed. My reward was a certificate, glass of wine and new letters after my name. But it’s so much more than that.

For me, it was about wanting to get better, to keep moving along the journey of professionalism and to encourage others to do the same – for the cause, for the industry.

At the time of writing this, there are now 89 Chartered PR’s and the CIPR want to increase it to a total of 250 over the next two years.

That’s why I’d really urge other public sector communicators to go for it.

Go for Chartered status.

Go for new qualifications.

Be a bit proud.

There may be a teeny bit of vanity in it – but the value is much greater still.