Monday, February 02, 2009

Freezing out CIPR slackers

February 2nd 2009. Overnight the long forecast snow fell over London and the South East of England

There was disruption to roads railways and airports.

Websites vital to travelers ground to a halt.

The reputation of these organisations is harmed

As I write, members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations face hearings in front of the Institute's disciplinary committee.

They are the Public Relations managers in The Highways Agency (

Other organisations that do not have professionally recognised members in their PR office, like South West Trains ( whose web sites are down, will get what they deserve. Employing monkeys has its own rewards, I guess.

There are those whose organisations which have web sites that are very slow and in imminent threat of stopping all together.

This displays a wanton and flagrant abuse of the first clause of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Code of Conduct.

It says: Maintain the highest standards of professional endeavour, integrity, confidentiality, financial propriety and personal conduct.

It shows lack of "Encouragement of professional training and development among members of the profession" which is clause six.

Worse, these people are failing to be "...aware of the limitations of professional competence: without limiting realistic scope for development, being willing to accept or delegate only that work for which practitioners are suitably skilled and experienced."

For a number of years and in each of the three books I have written on the subject (two for the Chartered Institute) I have made it quite clear that a slow or crashed website is a reputation issue more than anything else. UK PR bloggers (and others in other countries) have also made the same point.

To put an organisation in a position where its principle form for communicating with its publics is not available shows complete lack of professional competence.

I just hope that the CIPR is monitoring the situation and will make its position quite clear in the next few hours.

As a professional organisation, it is time to make a stand or loose more credibility in representing the interests of people claiming some form of expertise in client communication.


  1. Anonymous11:25 am

    I really don't think that failing to predict the snow, and as a result of this failure, failing to talk to your web host and arrange more capacity for your website represents a "a wanton and flagrant abuse of the first clause of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Code of Conduct".

    I do agree that it has an impact on the reputation of a company and I think it needs solving, but I think you're being too harsh to say that it shows a "complete lack of professional competence".

  2. We will disagree. I believe that sustaining the reputation of an organisation is a key task for the PR manager.

    One role of the manager is contingency planning.

    For a decade I and others (in books, blogs, podcasts and conferences) have made it clear that a slow or down web site affects reputation. For a public utility which is expected to prepare and rehearse contingency plans the most important source of information for the public and customers, namely the web site, must be ready for the extra load it will get at times like last week.

    If that capability is not in place the public is disadvantaged and corporate reputation takes a hit.

    Waiting until the snow arrives or the floods appear or the power fails (and we all know this is going to happen) is naive. One might expect a second year PR student to miss this part of PR planning but not a paid PR manager.

    The highest standards of professional endeavour surely includes contingency planning. In fact mediocre standards will include contingency planning if these practitioners have read any of the PR text books.

    I am completely unrepentant.