Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Excellent! At last the CIPR puts together a powerful digital team

"The CIPR has gathered together some of the UK’s foremost social media thinkers and contributors to provide input into the Institute’s policy guidance, education and training,"  says the Institute.

Headed by CIPR board member and Author of  "Public Relations and the Social Web" Rob Brown, the panel will look at issues including online reputation development, convergence in marketing communications and best practice social media measurement.

This is an excellent initiative and more about it is available at Profile Extra.

Some panellists stand out. For my money these folk will be interesting contributors:

  • Simon Collister - Head of Non-Profit and Public Sector, We Are Social (@simoncollister) 
  • Katy Howell – Managing Director, Immediate Future (@katyhowell)
  • Stephen Waddington MCIPR – Managing Director, Speed Communications (@wadds)

The make-weights are headed by Danny Rogers – Editor, PR Week, who leads in the 'I don't understand'  brigade and who hopefully will get a quick education to the extent of their abilities.

Whether Wadds and Simon are able to move this group out of the 'social media' rut is a mute point. We have to remember that social media is 28 years old this year and is only a tiny component in the effects of ubiquitous interactive communication. It is worth noting that the President of the Institute limits the remit of the panel to  “A core theme in our three-year strategic plan ... social media and the impact on the public relations profession."

This may be because she wants the Institute to look at the internet effect more fundamentally elsewhere. I hope so. Certainly it was a core part of  the CIPR/PRCA Internet Commission almost exactly 10 years ago which is recorded in  the Journal of Communication Management - vol 6 No 1.

Only this week, we have seen just one example of the extent of these influences. Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, dpa, the Press Association, and Thomson Reuters will support standards that will provide news agencies, PR agencies, CIPR, PRCA , IABC and  other vendors (and a minority of PR teachers in universities) with a uniform method of exchanging multimedia news content. Of course, under the old regime, the PR initiative that was part of this development, XPRL, died for lack of sympathy for anything more technical than closing an envelope with its invitation to another CIPR award party.

The alternative view is that the CIPR has mandated this committee to do no more than work out a recommendation for the application of Facebook for selling chocolate Easter eggs - and monitoring the number of 'fans'. My  issue is not that media channels do not affect behaviours as well as attitudes, emotions and more. They do. It is not that we do not need excellent technicians in media relations and notably beyond the press,radio, TV,  blogs, Facebook and Twitter. We do. We also need strategist who can work on the effective and affective application of these techniques. The solution is simple: get the craft teaching universities to turn out 22 year olds who can do that.

Much more significant for grown up Public Relations is the significance of the internet on communication; its influence in relationships and its capability to change reputation, which affects the value of what organisations are and do. For those who have read Shirky and Benkler there are the other issues about how quickly the nature of IP and corporate structure will morph into different forms of relationship dependent wealth development.

This does mean that XML, semantic web, values management, transparency, porosity and internet agency and other 21st century developments are core issues (not wholly ignored by many senior practitioners or all academics in the past, it should be noted) . However, it may be this is: too big for the CIPR; it wants to ignore past attempts to add some sense of digital influences or that it, in really, or wantonly, wants to cede the real issues to others.

Rob Brown's committee has to draw the line in the sand. Where might this be, I wonder.

As a CIPR Fellow, I am  agog.