Today's news that the PRCA now welcomes individual members is not a surprise. The PRCA's competitive moves onto the CIPR's territory have been clear for some time.
The CIPR has responded with a statement:
"We support healthy competition and we believe – as we have said repeatedly – that there is a role for a trade body representing consultancies and a Chartered body representing individual members. We have consistently maintained that it is in the interest of the profession to work together to promote professionalism, standards and public understanding of what we do. It is for this reason that we believe the PRCA’s announcement does not represent a step taken in the best interests of the profession."
I also support competition, but recognise that in some fields representation is better served by a single voice. Would workers be better served by joining two trades unions claiming to represent their interests, or one? Would one or two be a more powerful lobbying/negotiating force?
There are some 60,000 people in UK public relations roles. Scarcely a quarter of these are members of either the CIPR or the PRCA today. The professional project demands more members and a clear voice for the profession.
We had one body from the late 1940s to the late 1960s (the then Institute of Public Relations). The PRCA broke away in 1969 when consultancies felt they needed stronger representation. For four decades we have had a professional body representing individual practitioners (now the CIPR) and a trade association representing PR consultancies (the PRCA).
Equally, there used to be trades unions representing boilermakers among many other specialist trades. Now there are general unions like GMB and Unison.
I would prefer to see one PR representative body in the UK – and still predict it will have to happen by negotiation. If need be, it will happen by the choices of thousands of members.
I already pay my subscription to the CIPR. I'm publicly supportive (but willing to air my criticisms of the body in private). I'm going to keep this membership, so the question for me is should I pay an additional £100 to join the PRCA. My answer today is no. If everyone makes a positive decision one way or another, the outcome will be one of these bodies emerging stronger than the other.
It will take longer than a negotated outcome – and will be more expensive – but it will lead to the same result. Vote with your wallet.