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President Sally Sykes on what makes CIPR lead the charge for accountability and professionalism in UK public relations and communication management

October 30, 2012


Leading the charge for accountability and professionalism in UK public relations and communication management,  President Sally Sykes provides some insight in this edition into what makes CIPR tick.



CIPR has a long history as the lead professional body in the UK. What do you consider will be role of CIPR in the future?


To continue to lead the profession by strong example and through strong leadership. The profession continues to change at pace; the integration of social media, the reduction of public sector spending, an increased desire for transparency, all are having an effect on the profession and its practitioners. The CIPR’s role in this is to lead the charge for greater accountability and professionalism across the sector. Continued emphasis on the CIPR code of conduct, as well as strengthening capabilities through training, resources and qualifications will be where CIPR will continue to lead for its members in the future.



Besides serving the professional world, what relationship does CIPR have with academia and students? Do you support PR graduates entering the PR industry and beginning their own professional career?


Our relationship with students and academia is very important to us. The CIPR currently recognises university courses across 32 institutions in the UK, this means that the course or module content has been assessed to provide relevant skills and knowledge development towards a career in public relations or communications. For every student enrolled on a CIPR recognized course, they are eligible for free membership, entitling them to all of the CIPR membership benefits including free practitioner advice, a work placement finder and excellent opportunities to network with other CIPR members. We strongly support graduates entering the PR industry, and we hope that our extensive student resources prepare them for a successful career.



What professional development is available for those already in the PR? Do you offer any special service to enhance their competences?


Development is an essential part of being a professional, which is why continuing professional development continues to be central to the CIPR’s services. None of us can afford to stand still. There's always something to learn – particularly in a fast-moving profession like ours. CIPR offers a number of workshops, training courses, webinars and qualifications for practitioners of all levels, across a variety of topics. These are excellent opportunities to hear from industry experts, and pick up new skills and tips to enhance one’s practical knowledge. We also offer CIPR CPD, a free, convenient and practical way for all of our members to plan, track and record everything they are doing to enhance their professional knowledge.



CIPR supports the activity of Iprovision, a charity which helps PR people and their families who have hit hard times. How does CIPR contribute to this institution’s activities and how is this related to CIPR’s mission?


iprovision was set up by the Institute back in 1965 and continues to provide vital support for those who need it. Iprovision operates independently from the CIPR but all of its Trustees are Members or Fellows of the Institute with a wealth of experience at hand, and a desire to continue the fabulous work the charity does.


The CIPR mission statement clearly states that we are the advocate and voice of the public relations profession; a champion of professional interests, working in the public interest, for and with our members. We want all of our members to be supported completely in aspects that extend beyond their professional life – and this is reflected across the Institute and its work.



This year London hosted what have been defined “the first social media Olympics”. In your opinion, what role did social media and the new technologies play in the event? More generally, how do they impact on the United Kingdom media landscape?


Social media was incredibly central to London 2012 and its success. It was the first time such a global sporting event of this kind had put social media at the heart of its communications plan, and I think it showed how incredibly successful that move can be. Fans were able to interact with one another, relaying news of race wins in an instant. They were also able to interact with athletes via Twitter in a way that could never be done before. Finally, organizers were able to push out messages and listen to public response through their social media channels, allowing them to be well informed and pro-active with external communications.


More generally, social media is changing the face of public relations, there's no doubt about that. The best thing about it is that is measurable and so PR professionals are able to collect and analyse data to understand how to better engage with consumers and the public. Social media also has a vital role to play across the public sector. As communications budgets are reduced greater emphasis will be placed on utilising non-paid for communication channels. The public sector has an opportunity with this to engage the public like never before.



The “newsroom” and “the conversation” sections of the CIPR website show how well integrated social media are in CIPR strategy, and the “Social Media Guidelines” are a good example of your commitment to raise professional standards in this area. What are the guidelines and how can they be useful for PR practitioners?


The CIPR Social Media guidelines document was developed and written by the CIPR social media advisory panel who designed them to help practitioners stay ahead of the game. The guidelines highlight core principles, best practice advice and legal considerations to take into account when using social media. They are useful because social media is now an everyday part of work in the PR industry. It offers great opportunity, but it should not be taken lightly. We have seen many examples of where poor practice across social media platforms has led to problems for big brands and famous faces. At the same time effective utilization of social media can bring unexpected success, you just need to know how to go about things in the right way. The CIPR social media guidelines offer a succinct, easy to read guide for practitioners who want to understand how they should be using social media in a responsible, considered and ethical manner.



We all know that Wikipedia is the most-read online encyclopaedia, with editions in 285 languages, and at the beginning of 2012 CIPR announced its work with it on “the definition of a clear guidance for PR profession”. What are the main challenges for PR professionals when dealing with Wikipedia entries? What is the main focus of this project?


Wikipedia is a really interesting tool. We all know and love it, yet it is often disparaged. CIPR has worked with a number of PR professionals and Wikipedians to develop and publish best practice guidance for using Wikipedia; a truly valuable resource for those in the industry. The main challenges when engaging with Wikipedia are quite apparent; source verification is vital, so too is ethical contribution. There is much debate about the use of Wikipedia by PR professionals who manipulate entries to favour an organisation or individual that may be one of their clients. CIPR is very clear on this. Intentional deceit is in breach of our professional code of conduct and as such is the antithesis of best practice public relations. We are continuing to work with a number of professionals to further develop our Wikipedia guidance as we want to encourage the ethical use of Wikipedia. We also want to encourage the PR profession and the Wikipedia community to interact and engage with one another to collectively enhance resources at our disposal.



November is going to be a busy month for CIPR with the Social Media Conference (London, November 1, 2012) and the Internal Communications Conference (London, November 7, 2012). What themes will be the main focus of these two events?


November is a very busy month for CIPR, and we have some exciting events taking place, none more so than our Social Media and Internal Communications conferences. I think the overwhelming theme of those two days will be engagement. Whether this is engaging internally with employees or externally with consumers, it is vital that professionals are using the tools available to listen and respond in a responsible and well thought out manner. I think another focus will be on the future. Looking ahead to the possibilities for the PR profession is very exciting and I hope that CIPR can continue to lead on events, guidance, services, professional development and industry leadership, all of which will continue to drive us forward and improve the profession for all.