THURSDAY 15 FEB 2018 11:32 AM


Professional public relations is primed to take centre stage in 2018, says Jason MacKenzie, at the end of his year as president of the CIPR

2017 represented a year of change in the political and economic world. Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States ignited a period of instability, which shows no sign of waning. Change was a prevailing theme closer to home too. In March, prime minister Theresa May triggered article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, beginning the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. According to the CIPR’s latest research, 76% of PR professionals see Brexit as a chance for public relations to demonstrate leadership.

If there’s one thing PR professionals should be comfortable with, it’s change. Our ability to anticipate and navigate change is what sets us apart. Whether it’s a shift in behaviour, opinion or attitude, public relations professionals are accustomed to change. But that change must always be ethical.

The Bell Pottinger crisis last year was a stark reminder that business can no longer afford to leave ethics in the back seat. No CIPR members were involved in the scandal, but championing ethical conduct – through education and regulation – has never been more important to the CIPR and our profession.

Over the course of my year as president, almost 2,000 new members joined the CIPR. The institute continues to have broad appeal across the career spectrum, from media relations and content creation to public affairs and internal communications. As well as attracting more members, I’m pleased to report that our member retention rate last year was higher than ever.

As the only chartered body for PR professionals, and the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America, we have a responsibility to continue the drive to professionalism.

When I became a chartered public relations practitioner in 2015, there were just 50 of us. In less than two years, that number has more than quadrupled, and chartered status is beginning to gain momentum as we move towards becoming a predominantly chartered profession within the next decade.

We have also reached an agreement with the Government Communication Service to help its members become chartered. Chartered Assessment Days are rigorous and robust, but they are now accessible for anyone committed to a career in PR who can demonstrate good judgement, an ethical orientation, and distinct skills in leadership and strategy. The emphasis on professionalism is also evidenced through more of us than ever committing to our own CPD, and hundreds of students completing a CIPR qualification, resulting in our largest graduation ceremony for many years.

Without lifelong learning, the skilled practitioner of today will become the dinosaur of tomorrow. Our PRide and Excellence Awards continue to be strong celebrations of outstanding practice. Our magazine, Influence, continues to win accolades – and our national conference is proving increasingly popular. In 2017, we held hundreds of events around the country, campaigned on the gender pay gap and started to engage in a more meaningful way with our members around the world.

The CIPR has much to offer the developing world, and, with members in 85 countries, we should be increasing our impact and influence globally in the years ahead. Change promises to accelerate in 2018. Backed by an increasingly professional workforce, public relations is primed to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the current climate.

I’ve no doubt that the stock of strategic public relations will continue to rise in 2018. Our skills are at a premium and we are perfectly placed to deliver the clarity that businesses crave in these uncertain times.  
Jason MacKenzie is the president of the CIPR

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