Professional, strategic, evidence-based – strong foundations for PR in 2015

One of the measures of the value of belonging to an organisation that represents and promotes your profession is the focus they put on professional development.

I’m pleased to say that the Chartered Institute of Public Relations meets and exceeds my expectations and requirements.

In the run-up to Christmas they’ve been making available tools and resources that should help all CIPR members make the most of the slower moments of the festive season and boost our professional development.

Today’s offering is #PR2015, a downloadable guide to the biggest trends and issues affecting public relations, as seen through the lenses of the CIPR’s various regional, national and sector groups.

There are, of course, sector-specific insights. But key themes do stand out. As I’m now making my way as a consultant and trainer in the use of numbers, data and statistics in communications, I did a word and phrase count to quantify what stood out.

word or phrase aggregate mentions
professionals; professional development; CPD; professionalism 37
measurement; evaluation; value; evidence 31
social media 22
strategy; strategic; strategies; strategically 18
ethical; ethics 12

It is unsurprising that the top theme is the professional aspects of what we do. For those of us in public relations – taking that in its broadest and most inclusive sense – we know ours is a profession. Overwhelmingly we are not the practitioners of dark arts of spin, half-truth and manipulation – though we may be portrayed otherwise.

That is reflected in three of the other high-mentioned themes – the focus on demonstrating the value of public relations, that it has (or at least should have!) a key role in strategy, and that as practitioners we have a strong ethical basis to our work. Having worked for nearly nine years for the Royal Statistical Society, it was great to see the discussion of impact, and especially the explicit reference to evidence-based PR by Adam Riddell, chair of the Channel Islands regional group.

Ours is a profession of communication. So it’s no surprise that social media gets great attention. Who has not been seduced by the never-ending tickover of their Twitter stream, or agonised at the loss of a ‘follower’?

But, as CIPR Marcomms member, Eugene Bacot, warns: “A shortage of basic PR skills such as media relations is beginning to be highlighted. This includes writing ability and presentation skills which are being overshadowed by an almost obsessive focus on social media.” He points out that: “In fact, these basic skills are essential to an effective use of social media.”

Beyond the themes in the table above, two others stand out for me.

The first is the opportunities that arise from sporting fixtures – particularly the big events like the Tour de France and The Ashes.

The second is the General Election.

It seems likely that, again, no party will have a majority; and possibly no two parties, other than a grand coalition of Conservatives and Labour.

Sectors looking for changes in government direction or legislation may need to ensure commitments are secured not from one party or even two, but three or more. And, if it is a minority government by one party sustained by confidence-and-supply agreements with others, this may need intense ongoing efforts to build soft-coalitions of support for particular measures.

So, 2015 is going to be another challenging and hopefully rewarding year for PR professionals. A focused plan and commitment to continuous professional development will help. Thanks to the CIPR this is made much easier. On which note I’m off to re-read #PR2015 and then log my CPD points!

Is your use of numbers, data and statistics ready for the General Election?

Will the candidates and parties understand the stats you’re giving them?

If you’re unsure then my stats communication health check may help.

Get in touch to discuss your needs.

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