Industry bodies: a call for commonsense

3 Sep

It's a question that baffles undergraduates and even young PR practitioners. What's the difference between the CIPR and the PRCA? Because the question begs another: why does a small national industry/profession of some 50,000 practitioners need more than one professional body?

Historically, the PRCA (founded in 1969) split from the CIPR (the then IPR was founded in 1948) in order to represent the interests of public relations consultancies.

So for several decades, the difference was easily stated:

  • The CIPR is a professional body representing individual members (up to 10,000 of them)
  • The PRCA is a trade association for large PR consultancies (over 100 of them, employing some 5,000 people)

The distinction was a real one. This left the CIPR responsible for professional qualifications (such as the CIPR Diploma) while the PRCA focused on its Consultancy Management Standard.

Yet while understandable, it was not entirely satisfactory for an ambitious PR consultant whose employer pays one membership to the PRCA, but who still faces the individual choice of paying extra to join the CIPR. Nor was it necessarily in the wider interest of the professionalisation of public relations.

It's time to ask the question again: what's the difference between the CIPR and the PRCA because the distinction between consultancies and individuals no longer remains. Here's how the PRCA describes itself in its latest press release: 'the PRCA is the professional body that represents UK PR consultancies, in-house communications teams and PR freelancers'.

That includes individual members; that extends that definition of a consultancy to include in-house teams. So who does it exclude? Individuals working in-house in the public sector? Public relations lecturers?

Let's be clear. What's going on is a turf war. The CIPR has a Diploma; and so does the PRCA. One offers special interest groups; so does the other. There's a struggle to become the dominant professional body in our industry.

In this age of austerity, while it's fashionable to crush quangos, how much longer can we accept our money being spent on two London headquarters, two sets of management salaries, two overlapping initiatives in every aspect of the business?

In terms of free market competition, the winner is likely to absorb the loser. In terms of the wider public interest, it's a nonsense to have two competing bodies doing one thing (it weakens representation).

I call for a banging of heads together (except that the CIPR lacks a permanent head at present).

4 Responses to “Industry bodies: a call for commonsense”

  1. Si_francis 03/09/2010 at 9:24 am #

    And without an authoritative voice and clear remit, these bodies fail to stand up for the industry (as seen in recent COI cuts debate, http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/1022888/PR-agencies-rocked-Governments-public-sector-spending-crackdown/).
    It’s shocking that for a communications industry, the industry seems unable to communicate.

  2. Simon 03/09/2010 at 8:58 pm #

    Hi Richard,
    Great post. I’ve been thinking along the same lines over the past few months. PRCA seems to be leading the thinking on a lot of different areas, and appears to be far more proactive and, to be honest, representative of the industry than CIPR.
    I do of course see that from my position as a CIPR member, sectoral group committee member and in-house/consultant practitioner.
    I echo your call for some reasoned, sensible discussions between the two bodies. The marketer in me says that the two bodies need to clearly differentiate themselves from each other to be able to survive, yet the member in me questions the need for two such similar professional bodies.
    Good luck with the new job!
    cheers
    sw

  3. Paul Seaman 04/09/2010 at 2:57 pm #

    Richard, never mind the age of austerity, come boom or more recession your proposal makes sense and should be acted on.

  4. Soyini 05/09/2010 at 11:54 am #

    It is a situation that requires serious thought, because the industry needs an association that can truly address the needs of the industry. Matters such as ethics, accountability and real competition from our peers on advertising and marketing needs real decisions, inside of the head in the sand situation we’re in at the moment.

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