Thursday, January 22, 2015

Competence in Public Relations - is it more than experience?

Stephen Waddington is looking to see if the CIPR can develop a PR competency framework.

Such a big subject and one we have to take seriously.

Knowing the value of a great photographer and designer is an asset and working with the best conference organisers, advertising managers and agencies is a skill set all on its own.

Managing staff and managing the ever contesting senior managers requires a deft touch too.

Online PR adds to and changes the traditional assumptions (imagine, once upon a time there were people who really believed in 'market segmentation' and 'publics' - this was life before social media, of course).

Its evolution is near vertical requires a competency that includes social media knowledge, skills and practice. Competency beyond this summer, (when mobile social media and internet engagement will be bigger than desktop work) has yet to be developed and the CIPR initiative will be very important in this regard.

The power of Grid Computing is so huge that even I blanche at trying to get an idea of its consequences.

In my career, I worked in political PR. A knowledge of constitution, political campaign law and voluntary organisation development were essentials. So to was the nature of building media relations (oh! yes, and writing press briefings, press releases and the associated collateral was part of this activity).

In industrial PR, the relationship between business, investors, banks, suppliers and competitors broadened my experience. Then too, the companies we acquired, and transitional internal HR public relations were critical too. Employment law and best practice requires a lot of reading on airplanes, I recall. Monitoring, measuring and evaluating opinion, action and re-action is part of the job from the six am news to endless minutes and reports and with constant walking through offices and factories to get a feel for what was important before reading and evaluating the top 'share of voice' press 'clips'.

Providing the advisory and collateral are 'always on' activities. Some of us still remember those brick sized mobile phones that were so essential.

Consumer research and campaign development with a close eye on the ethical values at play comes as an added interest and requirement for expertise and then there is the whole subject of issues and crisis management. My career had moved on.

Such capabilities are the realm of public relations; they have to be part of our graduate scheme; they have to form the basis for evaluating the capabilities of and accreditation of our university degrees.

This then is my agenda for 20th century PR competence. Instead of 30 years experience, much of it can be taught. It is the stuff of a first degree in PR.

But now there are bigger skills and capabilities that are needed by the PR profession. As the internet emerged it was imperative to get to grips with it. In my case it was simpler to write a couple of books (before the turn and two after the turn of the millenium) which made me explore this new dimension.

The nature of the new and emerging cyber-social revolution is hard to grasp. So far we have observed and enjoined only the smallest effects. The wearable, nay, nano and mobile-plus semantic form of living is a much bigger revolution which faces the CIPR in the next few years.